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Karen Estep explains a bit about the church that formed her: The Salvation Army. 

I was baptized in a Lutheran church in Hopkinsville, KY with water from the Jordan River that my grandfather snuck back into the United States after a trip to Israel. Apparently I screamed the whole time. About nine years later I met my best friend, Joye (we are still best friends, almost 30 years later!), after she and her family moved to my hometown late in the school year.  

When Joye and I met at recess I actually made fun of what she was wearing. The outfit she was wearing had to have been designed by a man and it was the uniform for a program in The Salvation Army called “Sunbeams,” basically their version of Girl Scouts. It was hideous and I told her as much. Joye promptly invited me to visit her church for Vacation Bible School: her parents were the pastors there, and I could learn all about Jesus. The church that they were pastors for was The Salvation Army. And thus begins the story of my relationship with Jesus.  

Growing up I had to explain, all of the time, that I was not going to church in a thrift store. Honestly, I still have to do this. The Salvation Army was founded by William Booth in 1865 under the name of The Christian Mission. The name was later changed to The Salvation Army in 1878. William Booth had been a pastor in the Methodist Church. In easy to explain terms, I like to say that The Salvation Army is an offshoot of the Methodist Church. In fact, because The Salvation Army has a marching band, my dad lovingly calls them “The Marching Methodists.” The mission of the church has been, and probably always will be, to help the most unfortunate in the world—a mission that is shared by the Catholic Church.  




To deny my first interactions with Christianity and Jesus would be entirely wrong of me. Although I have come home to the Catholic faith and have fully embraced it, I still refer to The Salvation Army in present tense terms. For example, I often find myself saying, “We have a hierarchy in The Salvation Army, much like the Catholic Church. We start off with cadets (seminarians), then those pastors can go on to be captains, majors, and we even have a general (who is kind of, not quite, like the Pope)! Our pastors wear uniforms too!” At first, I thought maybe I shouldn’t say “we” or “our” but now, after careful reflection, I have come to realize I cannot deny my first Christian home. I will always have a place in my heart for the love, joy, hope, and salvation I experienced in The Salvation Army.  

One thing I never experienced growing up is participating in any kind of Communion. The Salvation Army does not believe in any form of Communion due to their belief that people can experience the inward grace of the sacrament without having to receive an outward symbol. Until later on in life, I had no idea of the grace that I was missing by not receiving Communion.  

When my husband and I later joined a Methodist Church, we did receive Communion—only once a month though and only as a symbol. In fact, it still makes me giggle that the church we attended used Hawaiian bread for the bread. Even then, once a month was not enough for me. I began longing to take Communion every Sunday.  

After attending a few RCIA classes, reading multiple blogs, and books, I finally realized how much I was truly missing out on by not being able to receive the Eucharist. Jesus literally says in Matthew, chapter 26:26,

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, "Take and eat, this is my body." Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.”  


Taking the Eucharist is not just an inward grace, nor is it just a symbol. The Eucharist is everything. It is Jesus, for me, for you, for all of us.  




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Until later on in life, I had no idea of the grace that I was missing by not receiving Communion. #CatholicMom


I may not be a Salvationist anymore, for several reasons. I am grateful I grew up in a church that has taught me how to truly be the hands and feet of Jesus. I am thankful that the pastors I had growing up spent so much time showing me and others God’s love. I cannot deny my roots as a Salvationist. 

 I will, however, rejoice in receiving the Eucharist as often as I can now. When the bread and wine is consecrated for us, it is a true miracle. The grace that overflows from that is a true miracle. When I receive this miracle, I know my purpose from my Baptism in the Lutheran Church, to my upbringing in The Salvation Army Church, to my present in the Catholic Church, is to be the hands and feet for Jesus, to shine God’s love and salvation for the world!  

Copyright 2023 Karen Estep
Images: (top, center) Canva; (bottom) copyright 2023 Holy Cross Family Ministries, all rights reserved