Chalk it up under the “You learn something new every day category:” you can visit the every Sunday and attend a religious service there.
I found this out last year, while putting together listings for the site. In gathering information for the Salvation Army building on Governor Winthrop Boulevard, I expected—and found—the usual run of food and housing assistance, youth programs, and other charitable work. But there was also a sign for worship and Sunday school.
“We do service motivated by the love of God, so the religious aspect is very central, even though we’re known for human services,” said Lt. Herb Rader, the corps commander of the Salvation Army of New London.
Indeed, the Salvation Army chapel takes up a significant portion of the first floor of the Salvation Army building. It’s a study in blue: walls, chairs, projection screen are all done in the soothing color. There’s also a few pieces of musical equipment, including a piano and drum set, and a trio of freestanding crosses off to one side.
The service I attended started with a sing-along to a Christian rock DVD projected on the screen. It’s a practice I’ve encountered in a few churches, and I’ve never been a big fan of it. Thankfully, the instruments were put to use soon after that, as some members of the congregation took them up for the musical program. One went a chorus or two long, as Rader joked that the drummer was getting into the spirit of things and he wanted to keep it going.
The method of prayer is perhaps the most striking thing about the service. At one point, Rader invited people up to kneel at the altar to offer a silent prayer. Later in the service, he solicited the prayer requests. This in itself is not unusual, and is a staple of every religious site I’ve visited. The Salvation Army, however, is the first place I’ve encountered where some of the prayers are selected to be immediately addressed. Rader assigned concerns to members of the congregation, asking them to say a prayer aloud on the issue.
Rader’s sermon focused on the mission of the church as it relates to the prophecy of Jesus Christ’s return. He compared the faith of Christians waiting for return to a guard at a bank, prepared for the unforeseeable such as a robbery but not knowing when it will arrive.
“Waiting can make us anxious,” said Rader. “It can make us discouraged, and perhaps it can bring doubt into our lives.”
He said rather than wait idly by, people should be celebrating the joys of life and preparing for such a return. He said this can include loving your neighbors, spreading the word of God, and fighting injustice.
Barri Vazquez-Brandon, a youth leader with the Salvation Army of New London, said she has been with the New London corps since September but grew up with the organization.
“I love the Salvation Army. It doesn’t matter what corps it is,” she said. “Everyone’s very inviting.”
Rader said the origins of the Salvation Army’s religious aspect were tied with the Methodist church, and that the founder split off a new denomination because those helped by the Salvation Army were not considered welcome in the church. He said the corps has always been welcoming since it was founded.
“We’re a mainstream denomination that’s fairly informal, and if someone lives here we’d welcome them into the family,” he said. “Visitors are always welcome.”
Sunday services at the Salvation Army begin at 10 a.m. They are followed by Sunday school and Bible study at about 11:15 a.m.