I MUST admit to being quite impressed with the attractive new Salvation Army building which came as a happy surprise in the rough-looking neighborhood we had entered. Free Sunday Municipal parking across the street also gave us some positive first impressions.
However, it was not until we had entered the building, hung up our coats and walked towards the sanctuary that we were actually greeted. At this time we were handed programs and given a simple "good morning." The hall was quite full - about 200 people were present - and someone (probably the corps sergeant-major) came to welcome us and ask us our names. Then in the preliminaries to the meeting, this person welcomed us publicly - a nice gesture!
Perhaps it was natural that we felt slightly uneasy, walking in as strangers - the gap is not easily bridged with "regulars." Most of the people ignored us, but some displayed what was more a formal politeness than a warm welcome. Maybe this has something to do with the size of the congregation.
There was some humor injected into the Bible message which I thought was a good way to gain attention and keep it. I found myself listening (even though I could not see the speaker) and my mind was nor wandering elsewhere.
As I watched other members of the congregation it seemed that their attention was also captivated by the speaker. The message did not inspire or challenge me so much as instruct me, helping me to see a relationship between an Old Testament incident and my own need.
I can't say I felt special spiritual excitement in the meeting or among the people. It was more like a series of rituals, one following the other. Probably listening to the band benefited me most because I found the music so positive sounding - it gave me a happy feeling.
Apparently the officers conducting the meeting were former corps officers, so at the end of the meeting there were many people eager to get reacquainted. We simply bade our goodbyes and departed.
To the question, "Could you easily become part of a corps fellowship like this?" I would have to say that it would take considerable effort. I do not fault the Salvationists there, but simply feel there was nothing special enough for us to want to go out of our way again to attend. We do not live in the area. No one contacted us following the visit, but then they didn't have our phone number or address, anyway. And frankly, we would have felt uneasy, had a visitor been too pushy.