Saturday, June 25, 2016

A TICKET TO YESTERDAY Part Two

Captain Kathleen Ljungholm researched the location of that first Moscow Salvation Army meeting in 1918 (the Polytechnic Museum) and was able to rent the very same hall in the same building for the historic re-opening meeting. 

Captain Ljungholm camouflaged the large Lenin bust behind the podium with the SA flag and preached from his grandfather’s well-preserved sermon notes. Many came forward when the invitation was issued; “Come and meet Jesus and be saved and be reconciled with your heavenly Father.”

Soldiership recruit classes were begun the very next day, and soon several hundred people were attending the many weekly meetings conducted in Moscow’s Central Corps. To accommodate the ever-burgeoning congregation worship services were moved to a state-of-the-art (Russian version) 1,000-seat theatre in the Russian foreign ministry complex. The tri-coloured SA banner would replace the Soviet Union’s red flag with its hammer and sickle whenever the Army meetings took place. (The SU flag was seen throughout Russia well beyond 1991when the Russian flag was deemed the only official flag for use in public and government buildings.) The Ljungholms opened two more corps in Moscow within the next twelve months. The passion for evangelistic expansion was their sustenance.

The great bulk of those worshipping were working people, with some 30 per cent from professional backgrounds or academics. There was some resistance expressed in various forms about the Army’s public outdoor activities.  However, other newly arrived religious groups found it far more difficult time in establishing themselves.  There is no question that, even with an Army consisting of just two persons in Moscow, the Army enjoyed special favour due to its immediate heavy commitment in providing social service provision and social work education and training at the highest academic levels. While never without sympathy for the material plight of the masses, Booth adopted a more holistic doctrine of redemption in the late 1880s. In a leading article on the subject, published in January 1889, he stressed that salvation ‘meant not only [being] saved from the miseries of the future world, but from the miseries of this [world] also.’[1]
We’d been reminded that our ministry would flourish if we sought to embed and maintain the culture and introduce the certain Russian Orthodox church elements into the context of our worship service. We could not be both an Army entrenched in a mix of traditional Booth era antics and the Praise and Worship movement in the ‘west’ today. We wanted the dynamic enthusiasm of our 135-year tradition but with it a respectful acknowledgement of the thousand-year-old Russian people’s religion.

Among other plans, it involved new procedures for expediting the processing of applications for service in Russia; a program for a short training period to be set in place for the first intake of Russian cadets in January 1993; and a coordinated publications and literature program, including a national War Cry. A weekly edition of ‘The War Cry’ had been published in Russian in Moscow from the time of the arrival of Captains Ljungholm and the re-establishment of the Salvation Army in the capital. A recently enrolled professional correspondent, Svetlana Ivanova, was the first editor assigned to this key expansion role.

The publication was initially questioned and frowned on by the Ljungholm’s immediate superiors but was later recognized as a necessary and very practical initiative.  It was the Army’s key method of communication with the hundreds of worshippers, the many visiting our offices weekly, the Orthodox and other churches, hospitals and other institutions, embassies and government bodies. And, there were no other Salvationists in the city of nine million. No advance teams had been successful in reaching or signing agreements with city, state or the federal government institutions.


The Army’s monthly tabloid the Vjestnik Spasenija served as a great missional tool crossing borders and boundaries of every sort, geographical, cultural, societal, religious and national, communicating the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was found presenting the Gospel in a way that was understood by all.

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