10 August 2022

Selling the Army papers: 'You get to really know your community'

Emily Bright

'Kids Alive!' lined up and ready to give out
Lieutenants Emily and Joel Watson tell Emily Bright why the Army papers are a handy tool for evangelism and help them connect with their community.

Starting up a ministry during a pandemic is no mean feat. But that’s exactly what Lieutenants Emily and Joel Watson did when they arrived at their first corps.

Emily was commissioned and appointed to Teddington in July 2020. After Joel’s commissioning in 2021, they became the corps officers at Teddington and Twickenham.

When Emily arrived in Teddington she decided to connect with the community through selling the War Cry and Kids Alive! on the high street.

‘We were limited in a lot of the things we could do,’ she says. ‘But I felt really passionate about being out in the community, so I decided to become a herald.

‘I set up a station outside Marks & Spencer, which is where people from the corps had sold the papers in the past. I wanted to be present and have conversations with people, to listen to their concerns and talk a bit about what we do at The Salvation Army.

‘It’s now at the point where some people expect to see me every Wednesday. I’ve built relationships with them, while continuing to meet new people all the time.’

Lieutenant Emily Watson heralding
When you’re visible and present, people notice.
Lieutenant Joel Watson

Emily thinks that this has helped her build links with the people in the area. 

‘When you’re out on the streets, that’s when you get to really know your community,’ she explains. ‘As people walk past, you make yourself available in that moment to listen to them, have a conversation or invite them to something that’s happening at the corps.’

Being a herald enables conversations that perhaps wouldn’t otherwise take place, she says: ‘Sometimes – when you’re in uniform or simply wearing something that says “The Salvation Army” – people feel safe offloading things in conversation. It’s such a privilege to be able to be present, listen to people and potentially pray with them.’

About a year later, Joel joined her in heralding, selling papers in Twickenham and sometimes Teddington. 

‘I think it’s a brilliant opportunity to meet people,’ he says. ‘When you’re visible and present, people notice. It’s also a great opportunity to raise funds for the corps.

‘When I’m in Teddington on Wednesdays, there’s a man who almost always rides past me on his bicycle. He’s a really smiley chap and he’ll always wave and do a little salute-type gesture. He looks out for me and I look out for him.’

Joel explains that the presence of heralds past and present has made a real impression on people: ‘We so often get asked about older members of the corps who were there for so long. They were the stalwart heralds.’

While many Salvationists are familiar with the War Cry and Kids Alive!, others may not have encountered the papers before. Emily takes a moment to outline their appeal:

‘The War Cry is such a good tool for evangelism. There are lots of really good articles in there, perhaps about things that are on the TV, things that are going on in the world at the moment, recipes and much more. A number of people say: “Oh yeah, I really like getting it. We take them every time.”

‘People also love Kids Alive! – the children who walk by are often drawn to the colours or pictures on the front and back. Some of the older kids love the jokes, if they’re old enough to grasp them, while others will be fixated by the cartoons on the back.’

The papers have also proved to be useful as part of Emily and Joel’s other ministries at Teddington and Twickenham.

‘We used copies of Kids Alive! when we did a Messy Church recently,’ Emily says. ‘We also give them out at our toddler groups to some of the parents who may have older children. 

‘We also give out the War Cry at our corps lunch club. Then, sometimes, if we’ve got papers left over, we make sure that we put them through the doors of our neighbours and the houses neighbouring the corps building.’

Lieutenant Emily Watson collecting
You never know where some of these encounters with people might lead. We just make ourselves available and leave the rest up to God.
Lieutenant Emily Watson

Many corps already have heralds and subscribe to the papers. But for those that don’t, having someone stand for just an hour on the high street each week, holding papers packed with accessible faith content, could have a huge impact on the communities in which they work. 

Emily sees heralding as part of her mission to be ‘more innovative and creative about meeting people where they’re at, rather than expecting them to walk into a church on Sunday at 10am’.

She continues: ‘We need to be bold, to speak to people we’ve never met before about faith and to be part of our community. You never know where some of these encounters with people might lead. We just make ourselves available and leave the rest up to God.’ 

To find out more about being a herald, speak to your corps officer or go to salvationist.org.uk/herald.

Written by

Emily Bright

Emily Bright

Promotions and Marketing Co-ordinator, Publishing Department, THQ


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War Cry

Features, comments and reviews with a faith focus.

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Kids Alive!

The UK's only weekly Christian comic.

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