The Salvation Army celebrates 130th anniversary in Northeast Florida

Oct 28, 2021 | by Brad Rowland

The Salvation Army celebrates 130th anniversary in Northeast Florida

By: Brad Rowland

From Oct. 15-17, The Salvation Army celebrated 130 years of service in Northeast Florida with an anniversary celebration in Jacksonville and Ponta Vedra Beach, accompanied by the USA Southern Territorial Band and Songsters. The commemoration featured public events in a festive, COVID-safe atmosphere, and The Salvation Army's mission and praise for God were the centerpieces of the weekend's ministry.

"The 130-year history of The Salvation Army in Jacksonville was celebrated throughout Northeast Florida with 54 members of the territorial band and songsters," said Major Keath Biggers, area command for The Salvation Army in Northeast Florida. "They came from all over the southeast to join in our celebration, providing wonderful ministry through their God-given talents to all those who came together over the weekend."

The Salvation Army's Northeast Florida Area Command includes the three corps and community centers in Jacksonville, St. Augustine and Clay County, as well as a social service operation in Jacksonville. In addition, The Salvation Army operates the Nassau County Hope House, assistance programs in Baker and Putnam Counties, and the Towers Center of Hope, which includes a shelter for women and families, low-cost housing for men, a meal ministry serving hot food to the hungry each evening, and a community pantry.

On Friday, Oct. 15, a small ensemble from the band ministered through an open-air concert at the site of The Salvation Army's first work in Jacksonville in 1891. Shortly thereafter, the band held a concert at James Weldon Park, providing a musical backdrop and mission-driven focus to onlookers on a beautiful afternoon. The evening centered on an outdoor center at the Towers Center of Hope, with ministry to residents and visitors.

In addition to the musical ministry, the concert featured a powerful testimony of hope and perseverance from Darryl Crossland, The Salvation Army's assistant divisional music director in Florida and the band's soprano cornet player. Crossland cited passages from James 1:2 and Romans 15:13, encouraging observers to place their trust in Jesus Christ and testifying to the transformational work of The Salvation Army and the Lord in his family.

"Let me tell you something. If you hope and trust in the Lord, he will provide for your needs and wants," Crossland said. "I promise you that. I am a living example of that. He has done that for me and my family."

Saturday, Oct. 16 featured a concert by the band and songsters at Christ Episcopal Church in Ponte Vedra Beach, which was marked by musical ministry and a devotional message from Major Pete Costas. Finally, the morning's worship on Sunday, Oct. 17 included the band and songsters joining with the congregation at First United Methodist Church in Jacksonville for a time of poignant community worship. Lt. Chris Raymer, corps officer in Greensboro, N.C., inspired with an uplifting and dynamic message, with worship enhanced by the musical offerings of the band and songsters. 

"It was a pleasure to be in sunny Jacksonville to celebrate the 130th anniversary of The Salvation Army's work in Northeast Florida," said Nick Simmons-Smith, territorial music secretary for The Salvation Army. "One of the highlights of the visit was a beautiful Sunday morning worship service at the First United Methodist Church. Lt. Chris Raymer brought the word of God in a powerful way, and the band and songsters ushered in a spirit of worship and praise in a way only outstanding Salvation Army musicians can."

In addition to the accompaniment of the 130th anniversary celebration, the weekend served as a refreshing and invigorating time for all in attendance, with the name of Jesus lifted up in myriad ways. While musical ministry is pleasing to the ear and entertaining to observers, the central focus of mission pervaded the weekend's events, and the work of The Salvation Army continues in Jacksonville and across Northeast Florida.

"We thank God for having such a blessed opportunity as this! We also thank our wonderful donors, friends, and partners who have enabled The Salvation Army to ‘do the most good, to the most people, in the most need' these past 130 years,” Major Biggers said. “It is our commitment to continue serving the hungry, the homeless, and the whosoever in need, without discrimination, in the days, months and years to come."

Photo Credits: Laura Dake and Sarah Munoz

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