Party for Army's 125th

About 120 people are expected this weekend to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the arrival of the Salvation Army in Oamaru.

The celebrations include a "Through the Ages" performance this afternoon at the Citadel in Thames St, as well as an anniversary dinner tonight.

The Salvation Army has become a major part of the Oamaru community.

However, its arrival in the town in September 1883, when it was trying to clean up disorderly behaviour generated by a proliferation of bars and brothels, was less than welcome.

Its crusade against drunkenness and immorality using unconventional methods attracted some ridicule and persecution, but it survived to establish itself on a site in Thames St it still occupies today and from which it provides extensive services to the community.

Organising committee chairman Steve Wicks said yesterday that planning for the 125th celebrations had taken about a year.

The celebrations started last night with registrations and a get together at the Citadel where there were displays tracing the church's history in Oamaru.

Registrations continue between 10am and noon today, with the "Through the Ages" performance starting at 2pm.

It includes a narration of the church's history and entertainment with a historical theme.

Tonight is the anniversary dinner at The Homestead, followed by a church service tomorrow at the Citadel from 10.30am.

The celebrations conclude with lunch.

The Salvation Army launched what it called its "opening attack" in Oamaru on September 2, 1883, but its methods of visiting bars, street preaching, singing and band-playing were not well received by hotel and bar owners.

In 1889, some of its members were arrested for disorderly conduct, one even refusing to pay the fine and going to jail.

However, it won respect and when the army's founder, General William Booth, visited Oamaru in 1891 he was received with honour.

Initially, the church met in a public hall in Steward St, before moving to an existing building on its present site.

In 1920 it built its first Citadel on the site and in 2001 constructed a new one.

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