The Salvation Army is like no other church on the planet, so unique, in fact, that few people realize it’s a church. No other church covers their amazing breadth of action; no other organization performs without regard to public acclaim or reward; and no other church makes such a huge, no-strings-attached effort for non-members
A Salvationist’s faith is, above all, practical. It’s Christianity with skin and shoes on. This is not a Kum Ba Yah kind of crowd.
Bette Dowdell grew up in The Salvation Army, her mother and father both officers, as the Army calls their clergy. Her loving, laugh-out-loud memoir describes how her family conquered obstacle after obstacle, and it introduces a cast of characters you’ll want to meet.
“I did not grow up in a vanilla family. Vanilla is comfortable, fairly predictable and somewhat bland. That doesn’t describe us.
Some people believe the opposite of vanilla has to be dysfunctional, where anger, rage and lack of connection rule the roost. That doesn’t describe us, either. We had love to spare, with parents who gave us dreams to dream and a big leg-up on the future.
Our lack of vanilla predictability came from growing up in The Salvation Army, with constant moving, difficult circumstances and almost no money. But, here’s the key: None of us realized we had it hard; we each thought we were living a life of privilege.
At the hub of all this optimism was Daddy, a once-in-a-lifetime man, ably assisted by Mother, always ready to take whatever hill appeared on the horizon. This is their story.
To give you an idea, people who knew Daddy routinely refer to him as either Sir Charles or Saint Charles. That’s the kind of effect he had. To know him was to understand the meaning of awe. Brilliant, good looking, a gifted speaker, gifted musician, gifted athlete–heck, gifted pretty much everything–and yet with a firmly grounded ego that focused on others.
And Mother wasn’t exactly chopped liver. Together they raised their five children once described by a sister-in-law as “intimidating as” (I’m paraphrasing here) all get out.”
On We March: A memoir of growing up in The Salvation Army has the love and morality of Little House on the Prairie, but isn’t vanilla. And it has the energy of The Three Stooges, but isn’t wacky. It’s a great read.
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