Church Army's heart has always been to reveal the love of God to the most vulnerable and marginalised in society. Wilson Carlile formed Church Army at a time of great poverty and he quickly found that the people he was trying to reach understood kindness and practical help far better than any preaching. What was historically known as "moral welfare" has always been at the centre of what Church Army does best. Over the years as times have changed and the needs within society have changed Church Army has adapted its work to meet those changing needs.
Throughout the first half of the 20th Century and beyond Church Army sisters were heavily involved in moral welfare in the various different forms it took over the years. At the turn of the century as people were living in dire poverty many women were forced to turn to prostitution to survive. Church Army sisters gave these women shelter and helped them find work and accommodation. Many went to stay in Church Army Labour Homes where they were employed to do laundry and in the workrooms at HQ or trained to go into domestic service. In these early years of the 20th Century Church Army ran homes for prostitutes, for alcoholics and drug addicts, and for those with venereal diseases.
After World War One the country was in a very different place and needs had shifted. It became clear to Church Army that there was a significant need to be met both in terms of mothers and their children and in particular unmarried mothers who were ostracized by society. More and more mother and baby homes were opened where they would take in the mother and her baby after they left hospital for up to a year, they would care for the baby allowing the mother the time to train for domestic service. There were also baby boarding houses where the babies were cared for whilst their mothers went to work – the mothers were expected to make a financial contribution to this care and to visit as regularly as they could.
In the interwar years there were homes for those who had suffered indecent assault or lived in immoral surroundings, for those who struggled with mental impairment or mental illness, for wild and undisciplined girls and for girls whose parents were unable or unwilling to care for them.
Whilst today we may live in a very different world to the one in which Wilson Carlile founded Church Army our nation remains full of many hurting people with very real needs. Church Army remains committed to reaching the vulnerable, marginalised and hurting in society, to helping them practically and showing them how much God loves them. Church Army's Marylebone Project in central London works with homeless women and is one of the largest projects of its kind in the British Isles. It provides 112 long and short term beds to homeless women and offers essential facilities and support to women who visit the rough sleeper drop-in. The Marylebone Centre also delivers education, employment and training opportunities and meaningful activities in order to support service users into independent living.
Church Army's Amber Project exists to support any young person (14-25 years old), in Cardiff and the surrounding areas, who has experience of self-harm, through theatre workshops, creative workshops, counselling and one to one support, helping them to work through issues, building their self-confidence and esteem, developing social skills and increasing their emotional resilience, equipping them with tools to take into the future.
Read Sister Betty Harrison's story