Title: William Booth: Soup, Soap, and Salvation
Author: Janet & Geoff Benge
Series: Christian Heroes: Then and Now
Major Themes: Catherine Booth, Evangelism, Salvation Army, William Booth
Synopsis: This is a fascinating biography of the founder of the Salvation Army.
I had the opportunity recently to buy several more of the books in the Christian Heroes: Then and Now series, so we’re working on reading them as a family. Everyone seems to enjoy them, and this one about William Booth was especially interesting. I chose this one first because a few weeks ago a couple visited our church for the Sunday morning service who belong to the Salvation Army. They gave a short talk in the afternoon, telling us about the history of the Salvation Army and what it does today. I realized that day that my children had never heard any stories about the Army—time to remedy that!
William Booth: Soup, Soap, and Salvation is primarily about the life of William Booth and his wife Catherine, but of course it is also about the first half-century of the Salvation Army: the two subjects are inseparable! William Booth started his life as an apprentice to a pawnbroker. (Did you know pawnbrokers took apprentices? I didn’t!) While an apprentice, he began attending the Broad Street Chapel in Nottingham, and seeing people who really knew God. He became a Christian, and started preaching in the slums on Sunday afternoons. After his term as apprentice was over, he moved to London, where he worked in another pawnshop. Increasingly, however, he became uneasy about his job and wanted to spend his life preaching instead. When he met Catherine Mumford the day he quit his job to become a full-time preacher, he knew he had come across a very special person. She was the perfect wife for a man like him, unconventional and devoted to spreading the Gospel.
The Booth family was passionate about preaching the Gospel in ways that people would accept it. After they were kicked out of the Methodists, they ended up founding their own organization, which became known as the Salvation Army. At first they only preached, but soon they were doing social work, as well. By the time William died, after 53 years of leading the Army, there were outposts around the world.
We found this book to be very well-written. There is a lot of dialogue, which really keeps the story moving and makes it more interesting. We all learned quite a lot, and it was very challenging to read about the way the Booth family led their lives and ministered to people in such bold, innovative ways. We have enjoyed all of the Christian Heroes books we’ve read, but this one was among the most interesting.
WARNING: Chapter 6 mentions children being drunk. Chapters 7, 10, and 11 describe the harassment the young Salvation Army received.
Read Aloud—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 13, Family Read Alouds
Reading Independently—Ages 8 – 12, 10 – 12, 12 – 15, 15 and Above, Adults