“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it,” Proverbs 22:6 (KJV) asserts. But how that outcome manifests can be complex and complicated. Take for example the family of William and Catherine Booth, founders of The Salvation Army. This Methodist couple had eight children. Each became involved in life–changing ministry, but also endured great struggles. Two of the children grew up to be international leaders of this historic church, yet three other children eventually left the movement to establish their own heartfelt ministries.
William Booth was a passionate fighter for the poor and disenfranchised. He once said, “While women weep, as they do now, I’ll fight; while little children go hungry, I’ll fight; while men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I’ll fight—while there is a drunkard left, while there is a poor lost girl upon the streets, where there remains one dark soul without the light of God—I’ll fight! I’ll fight to the very end!” However, his passion for fighting frequently made for rather spirited interpersonal relationships.
Emma Booth–Tucker, one of the eight children, died tragically in October 1903. She was killed in a major train disaster near Dean Lake, Missouri. Several passengers were injured, but Emma, 43, was the only fatality. At the time, Emma and her husband, Frederick Tucker, served as the Army’s national leaders in the United States.
Another layer of pain came when Herbert Booth, a close brother to Emma, was denied a role in her funeral. That was because, just a year earlier, he had had a bitter disagreement with his father and brother Bramwell. As a result, Herbert, and his wife Cornelie, sent a “broken–hearted” resignation and officially left the work.
Herbert’s exclusion from his sister’s funeral further broke his heart and stayed with him for the rest of his life.
Herbert Booth’s ingenious offerings were many. In 1896, he developed an interest in motion pictures. On September 13, 1900, Booth premiered “Soldiers of the Cross,” the Army’s first ministry in multimedia. It combined slides, movies, music, and narration and was seen by an audience of 4,000. As a result, Army media bureaus sprung up around the world. As a prolific songwriter, he composed more than 187 songs, was credited for having started the Army’s brass band culture of the 1890s, and for establishing successful business models for trade and financial departments.
Booth spent his later years as an evangelist. He traveled to many nations and presented the gospel in word, music, and pictures. He also founded the Confederacy of Christians, a non–denominational evangelical group.
When Booth was laid to rest in 1926, his gravestone in Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla, N.Y., was intentionally placed away from the Army’s burial section, and faced the opposite direction. This was done to mark his turbulent resignation from The Salvation Army amid the family dispute that could not be reconciled.
On Memorial Day, May 27, 2002, resolution finally came. Surviving members of the Booth Family attended the service in Valhalla to celebrate their forefather’s life.
Together with Salvation Army leaders, and soldiers, they gazed upon a symbolic act—the Army had turned Herbert Booth’s gravestone around so that it now faced the same direction as all others in the Army’s famous burial section.
“This is an historic Day of Reconciliation for The Salvation Army,” said Colonel William W. Francis. “Herbert Booth’s contribution to the Army’s worldwide mission must not be diminished, even symbolically.”
Colonel Marilyn D. Francis delivered a powerful message from 1 Peter 2:1–12, “Let us never forget” and pointed to the gravestones of others. Francis spoke passionately about how Christians should be “living stones,” those that are functional, active, and designed to fit into a larger structure.
She alluded to Christ Himself when she quoted verse 6 and said, “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and purchased cornerstone and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”