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Do I belong here?


The Norwest Region Rouse Hill Corps, which recently underwent renovations, has set itself up to be a warm, welcoming place where newcomers feel a sense of belonging.

By CAPTAIN EMMA HOWAN*

When I find myself having to move house, getting art and photos on the walls is one of the important things to me. Once I can see myself in a new space, it starts to feel like home.


It’s a similar thing when I walk into any new environment; I’m curious to see what the space is saying about itself and whether this is a space that is right for me. Do I belong here?

I’m a regular customer of my local coffee shop. This coffee shop has a mismatch of retro chairs and tables. There is a community noticeboard with posters and flyers for a huge variety of events, support groups, health and fitness groups, religious activities and much more.


There is a growing tally of suspended coffees. This is where someone can pay for a coffee, and someone else who might not otherwise be able to afford one can collect it. There is a range of art, books and toys, and there is even a place to add a photo of your pet.


This coffee shop could appear at first glance to not really know what it is or who it is for, but to me, it shows that whatever walk of life you are from, you belong here.


One can feel at home as a regular customer at a local coffee shop.

I am a fourth-generation Salvationist on my mother’s side. When we have those generational links in The Salvation Army, it can, sometimes, be easier to find a sense of belonging. We know what to expect, have family and friend connections, some perhaps from children and youth camps, and so the list goes on.


However, I’m sure all of us have, at some point, wandered into a space where we felt that we just didn’t belong. We notice it quickly and could find ourselves not wanting to return there.

This causes me to question: what do our spaces say, and are they spaces for those outside the current fabric of The Salvation Army, and will they experience a sense of belonging? The Salvation Army was established to be that mismatch of chairs and tables.


People that, at first glance, might not fit together. As Salvationists, we sit very firmly in a calling to the whosoever. In one of our Salvation Army doctrines, we state: “We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ has by His suffering and death made an atonement for the whole world so that whosoever will may be saved” (doctrine six).


Our belief of this surely must see a passion within us for all people to find a sense of belonging within The Salvation Army and in God’s family. We would never want someone to leave one of our Salvation Army expressions because of a feeling that they don’t belong.

The sense of belonging that my local coffee shop provides reminds me to be mindful of the way we do things in our physical places and how we interact with each other, which might be a barrier to the whosoever trying to find a place to belong.

This challenge sits with me daily to be (re)creating Salvation Army spaces where whatever walk of life someone is from and whatever journey they are on up to this point, all people can find belonging in Christ here because all do belong here.


Captain Emma Howan is the Corps Officer at Blenheim Corps in New Zealand.


This article first appeared in The Officer magazine (April-June 2023 edition).


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