James Labbe, captain of the Salvation Army located at 213 Main St. in Malden, talked with Neighborhood View‘s Richard Umbro on February 12, 2016.
Here’s the interview:
Our meeting was impromptu and rather brief. His handshake was firm and his demeanor was informal, yet sincere. My first question was a bit clumsy due to my inexperience and limited expertise in this type of venue. However, his presence had a calming quality and effect.
UMBRO: The title, “captain,” before your name conjures up a military countenance. How was the name derived?
LABBE: The term “captain” originates from the “Army of Salvationists.” It’s not to be construed as militaristic, only symbolic. The purpose and intent of the “army” was and still is the salvation of the poor, the destitute, the homeless, the hungry and those who have chosen the wrong path.
The Salvation Army was founded in 1865, in the East End of London, England by an itinerant Methodist minister. He embraced a ministry for the salvation of thieves, gamblers, prostitutes and street people. His name was William Booth, who was married to Catherine and they had a son named Bramwell. His son persuaded his father to the change the name of the ministry from “volunteer army,” to Salvation Army as it is known today.
It was not until 1881 that the first “Salvationists” came to America and at first they were discriminated against, were harassed, pelted with eggs and stones and were referred as the “hallelujah disciples.”
Q: How and when did you become motivated?
A: I am now 48 years of age. However, I became interested and involved as a teenager when I attended the Salvation Army camps and meet up groups with the same interests. It was at one of those outings that I met my wife, Allison, who by the way is now a “major” in our ministry.
Q: I see that you have a beautiful little chapel. Not many in the community are aware of it.
A: Yes, it is small, yet it exudes a warmth and invites prayer, meditation and quiet solemnity. At times there are many who fill the pews and other times only a few. Perhaps you will visit now that you know it is here?
After the interview, I thanked the captain. “Call me Jim, if you prefer,” he said. As I was leaving, I assured him that I will visit again sometime. “We can talk again in that beautiful chapel,” I said. –Richard Umbro