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When Hallelujah Wind-ups were all the rage!

Cartoon by Lindsay Cox

If you were a Salvation Army soldier anytime last century, you’d recall a colourful ritual that sometimes accompanied the conclusion of an evening Salvation Meeting




It’s a warm evening, and the corps hall is packed. It’s the late 1970s, I’m 12 years old and sitting in a row of about a dozen fellow junior soldiers at the 6pm Salvation Meeting.


Our legs are swinging and twitching under our chairs as we anticipate what’s building.


The service has been a good one, and we can all feel a carnival atmosphere brewing. The band and timbrels have been in great form, the songs and choruses have been lively, and there’s been a hearty round of spontaneous personal testimonies.


The corps officer has just nailed his sermon, and the Mercy Seat has had a good workout. The Holy Spirit is on the move.


I smile – all the ingredients are there, but ... the final song needs to be a good one – will it be Onward Christian Soldiers? Always a solid choice. Joy in The Salvation Army? Another favourite. Send the Fire? Ok, we’re getting warm now.


The corps officer opens his songbook and bellows: “Song 509!”


Yes! O Boundless Salvation. Perfect.


All it will take now is one bold individual (full of the spirit) to step up.


“It will happen in the second verse,” I whisper to my junior soldier mate beside me. “Nah, third or fourth verse,” he replies.


The band strikes up, the congregation stands up, and we all sing up: “O Bound-less Sal-vation, deep o-ocean of love ...”


Halfway through the second verse, it happens. A bold individual (full of the spirit) rises, moves forward and grabs The Salvation Army flag from the platform.


Here we go ... it’s on. HALLELUJAH WIND-UP!


The following 20 minutes is something that you would only see in a Salvation Army meeting. I experienced about a dozen ‘Hallelujah Wind-ups’ in my youth, and every one of them – the energy, the enthusiasm, the colour and the sheer chaos – is etched into my mind.


The bold individual, with a tight grip on the flag, now parades up the aisle, across the back of the hall and down the other aisle, collecting other individuals until there is a long line of people marching in single file behind him.


Many elderly people – who wisely stay seated for fear of either being knocked over or left behind in the procession – reach into their handbags or pockets and retrieve little Salvation Army handkerchiefs to wave with a skilful flick of the wrist.


The Hallelujah Wind-up is now in full swing. On this particular occasion, probably because O Boundless Salvation has seven verses, the flagbearer gets tired of tramping the same route and ducks out a side door. One hundred people in a single file follow him, including me ... and all the junior soldiers ... and the timbrellists (junior and senior brigades) ... and even some of the band, including the entire percussion section!


The procession now proceeds down the street while the remaining band members on the platform raise the volume to a resounding triple forte.


We march around the corner, up a side street and back into the hall. Interestingly, we’ve picked up several members of the public along the way who must have thought the circus had come to town.


They all join us in chaotic scenes of final celebration as we holler through a third rendition of the Founder’s song. I glance up at the band on the platform and wonder if some require oxygen after belting through 21 verses. The double-bass player, in particular, looks in bad shape.


Things finally settle as the corps officer raises his arms to recite the benediction.


The Hallelujah Wind-up has wound down.


Or has it?


“Fire a volley!” someone in the congregation yells.


And we all cry out: “Hallelujah!!!

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