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Our Musical Heritage

William Booth's View

RYB William Booth.png

When planning to lead our congregations in worship, Scripture should be our first point of reference for best practices. The leaders and great examples of faith that have come before us provide us with blueprints that we can follow. As we launch Salvation Worship, I find it a fitting time to look back on William Booth’s view of musical worship and our heritage as worship leaders and musicians in the Salvation Army.


At first, Booth wasn’t too keen on it.

You can read various quotes that show William Booth was a bit wary of organized music groups in church. His priority was saving souls. The tools at his disposal were always pointed in that direction. The brass band was utilized in outdoor marches and open-air meetings with great success. Eventually, Booth begrudgingly allowed the use of the band indoors. He was particularly averse to choirs, and reportedly did not allow their official formation until 30 years after the movement had begun. 


However, William Booth did recognize the power of music to move the soul to a place where people could meet with God, be convicted, be inspired, and changed. No matter what style of music or what instrument is being played, the intention of our Founder was that Salvation Army music should be soul saving music. 

“You must sing good tunes. Let it be a good tune to begin with. I don’t care much whether you call it secular or sacred. I rather enjoy robbing the devil of his choicest tunes, and, after his subjects themselves, music is about the best commodity he possesses. It is like taking the enemy’s guns and turning them against him.


However, come it whence it may, let us have a real tune, that is, a melody with some distinct air in it, that one can take hold of, which people can learn, nay, which makes them learn it, which takes hold of them and goes on humming in the mind until they have mastered it. That is the sort of a tune to help you; it will preach to you and bring you believers and converts.”

This quote from William Booth shows his intention and attitude toward music that I think we should keep in mind. It’s a poignant statement. Our musical heritage is not about styles or types of instruments played. It is the authentic and life-changing power that is within the lyrics and melodies of our heritage; a heritage that directs our worship to God alone and allows Him to do amazing things in and through our lives.


This is our musical heritage. 

May we never forget it.

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