THIS weekend a series of events are being held to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Salvation Army’s return to Whitby.
The Salvation Army had initially closed down in Whitby in 1946, but returned after two Salvation Army volunteers were led by visions, which they believed were sent by God.
Major Pat Charlesworth, of St Andrew’s Road, had been working with her colleague, Major Norma Richardson, in Notting Hill, when Norma began to have a series of visions.
Norma passed away in 1998 but Pat, who at the age of 66 has been retired for six years, recalled the story.
She said: “We both felt we should start the Salvation Army up where it had closed and it looked as though we were going to Manchester, to Moss Side.
“Then Major Norma had three specific dreams. In the first we were in a field with cows and sheep and as we watched they became people. I said, in the dream, ‘we need to find a place for them to worship’. Then we walked along the harbourside, where there were houses and shops, cobbled streets, then we stopped halfway up some steps. We were looking down and we found this building and renovated it. Below us again were these cows and sheep.”
When Norma awoke the next day she described the vision to Pat, who recognised the landmarks as some of those she had seen as a child on holidays to Whitby.
“We didn’t even know if there was an Army in Whitby, but then we found out it had closed in 1946,” explained Pat. “The lady we contacted, she sent us a poster from 1933 and on this poster it was all about the Salvation Army using the hall above the market place. Down below there were sheep and cattle.”
A second vision saw the two ladies fighting their way up a long set of steps against a number of increasingly-difficult barriers. However, they eventually subsided when they reached the top and the women realised they would be alright.
In the third dream the women were sat at the bottom of the steps talking over the idea when, in the dream, Pat said: “We have never looked in the Bible” and the pair were instructed to look at Isiah chapter 58 verse 12.
When Norma awoke she again told Pat and the pair looked up the scripture, which read “You will be the rebuilder of broken down things”.
“This was something bigger than a whim or a strange dream,” said Pat. “We just felt it was from God.”
The pair were given permission by the Salvation Army to relocate to Whitby, where they reestablished the group.
With no hall at first they resorted to giving outdoor services and Sunday School, until the council granted them permission to use St Peter’s Court, where they are still based today.
Pat said: “It was so thrilling, it had actually happened and the dream had been fulfilled.”
This Saturday at 2pm the 20th anniversary of Majors Pat and Norma’s journey to Whitby will be remembered with a performance by the Salvation Army’s 30-strong Stockton band.
Then at 6pm at the church’s St Peter’s Court headquarters the same band will be giving a music evening.
At 2pm on Sunday the band will be again in attendance at a St Peter’s Court service led by Colonel Ray Kirby, the former divisional leader of this area. The events are open to anyone who would like to attend and there is no admission charge.