Salvation Army closes

By John Dowling MORE than 114 years of work for the Bexhill community will come to an end when the town's Salvation Army Citadel closes for the last time.

Falling income rather than just falling numbers - services have averaged just 16 people - are forcing closure of the Bexhill Corps.

A valedictory and thanksgiving service at the London Road citadel at 3.30pm on Sunday, September 24 will bring to a close a story which began when the Bexhill Corps was established on May 5, 1892 by Captain Masters and Lieutenant Godman.

Officially, Major Retta Gray "retired" last year after being in charge of the Bexhill Corps for three and a half years. In reality, because a replacement could not be found she has been returning from her new home in Dorking in Surrey twice a week to lead meetings at Bexhill and care for the welfare of the vulnerable.

As two tables of regular Monday morning attendees sat with their coffee at the Citadel, Major Gray spoke of her sadness at a move by the movement's headquarters many believe was inevitable.

"It is not altogether surprising. I think that more than anything it is financial.

"The Salvation Army is trying to insist that we are all independent and self-financing. I think that is right.

"The people finance the social work - but not the evangelical work, we don't ask them to support that."

Major Gray said the bulk of her work at Bexhill had been with people with learning disabilities and mental health problems and her concern now is not for the future of the building - about which no announcement has yet been made - but for the people's welfare.

She said these members had been generous in their financial support but within the constraints of their own limited means and their understanding of money.

A fund has been established which will pay for a limited time for taxis to take them to meetings at Hastings.

However, Major Gray is concerned that many have a poor understanding of time and may not be able to make use of this service.

She is hoping that arrangements can be made for them to be taken under the care of other town centre churches. But these will have to be equally understanding of their problems.

"Some of them cannot tell the time, so they wander in at any time during the service and sometimes wander out before it is finished."

"One wonders now whether they will fit in elsewhere."

Other members of the Corps will be making their own way to services at Eastbourne.

"I am very sad - principally because of these people. If it had been a normal and healthy Corps and people were able to make their way elsewhere then fair enough, let them drift one way or the other."

Major Gray will conduct the final valedictory and thanksgiving service in conjunction with divisional leaders Major Anthony Cotterill and Major Gillian Cotterill.