12 October 2022

William Booth College: Update from the principal

Lieut-Colonel Judith Payne

Principal Lieut-Colonel Judith Payne shares some of the background to leadership training ahead of exciting changes at William Booth College.

It was in 1877, more than a decade into The Salvation Army’s history, that the idea for a training college was first floated. The Salvation Army’s evangelistic work during the huge social changes of Victorian Britain was beginning to snowball rapidly, and swathes of ordinary people were keen to roll up their sleeves and get involved.

George Scott Railton, one of The Salvation Army’s leaders, wrote to William Booth and said: ‘Can we devise a plan for training folks? Could we not have a centre in London to which all hopeful young folks could be rallied and where they could be thoroughly looked through and trained?’

Three years later, that question was answered when William Booth’s second daughter, Emma, was given responsibility for training 30 cadets in a makeshift college at the Booth family home in Hackney. This training would continue to evolve, and perhaps the pinnacle of this evolution came in 1928, when General Bramwell Booth laid the foundation stone in Denmark Hill at what was then called the William Booth Memorial Training College, designed by the well-known architect Giles Gilbert Scott.

In the early days, cadets filed into the college in their blue uniforms with stand up collars. They lived in tiny single-bed rooms. They sat in rows for lectures in biblical studies, doctrine and practical ministry, before being dispatched to a variety of roles around the world.

Almost 100 years on and the world that we live in has changed dramatically. The way that the Army has played its part in God’s mission in the world has changed significantly too. The role of a Salvation Army officer has changed. The Salvation Army engages in a variety of innovative, creative and professional expressions of ministry in corps, centres and Lifehouses across the territory. The learning, training and development of the people who make all this happen, day in, day out, has changed as well.

In 1877, Railton asked the Founder for a place where the hopeful could come, to be equipped to participate in God’s mission in the world. William Booth College exists as the answer to this request, and it still seeks to train and develop those who engage in the Army’s mission of loving God and loving others in every generation.

We want to do all we can to resource local mission flourishing, and so we’re in the process of a new set of exciting changes, which will help us to do this more effectively, collaboratively and faithfully in this generation.

  • Next week: Changes that have already begun

Written by

Lieut-Colonel Judith Payne

Lieut-Colonel Judith Payne

Principal, William Booth College

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