Salvation Army majors set for big move from Letchworth and Stevenage to Catterick

Salvation Army officers Major Maria Sampson and Major Barrie Sampson.

Salvation Army officers Major Maria Sampson and Major Barrie Sampson. - Credit: Archant

The Letchworth division of the Salvation Army is set for a changing of the guard after seven years, and the outgoing officers are excited about their new posting at the British Army’s largest garrison.

Major Barrie Sampson working in Haiti with the Salvation Army in 2010.

Major Barrie Sampson working in Haiti with the Salvation Army in 2010. - Credit: Archant

Barrie and Maria Sampson, who both have the rank of major, will be leaving next month to take up a new appointment in the Yorkshire garrison town of Catterick.

The married couple, who are originally from Essex, arrived in North Herts in 2009 and have also had responsibility for Stevenage since 2014.

“We didn’t know Letchworth at all when we first came but we’ve really loved living here,” said Maria, 58.

“I think people in the congregation would agree that we’ve raised the profile of the Salvation Army in the district.

“We’re sad to leave, but we’re happy with our new appointment. People have all said they can just see us there. We’re hoping we’ll stay there until Barrie retires.”

The pair were based on the Essex coast at Harwich in 2009 when a Salvation Army superior proposed to move them to the garden city. While mulling the idea over they came to visit.

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“One of the places we went into was the Christian Bookshop, which was in Station Road at the time,” said Maria.

“In Harwich we’d been learning to sail – and in the shop they had these boats hung up with quotes on the sails, one of which was: ‘God will not send you where his grace will not sustain you’.

“I called Barrie round and said: ‘Well, now what are we going to do?’”

Barrie and Maria duly took up the Letchworth post in July 2009 and over the next seven years worked tirelessly across the district. Among other things, they have played an important role in the emergence of Churches Together in Letchworth – the ecumenical council through which Christian denominations in the town collaborate.

“One of the things we’ve been trying to do is to raise awareness of the Salvation Army in the district – sharing some of our experience coming from no faith to becoming Salvation Army officers,” said Barrie, 59.

“We’ve enjoyed working with all the other churches here and all the events we’ve been able to run, like our carol concerts, that have raised plenty of money for local charities.”

During his time in North Herts, Barrie has given pastoral support to firefighters, police officers and ambulance personnel as the Salvation Army’s divisional emergency services officer.

He also spent three months in Haiti following the earthquake there in 2010, and worked with Syrian refugees in Jordan for a month in late 2013.

No stranger to military matters – he is a veteran of eight years in the Territorial Army – Barrie is looking forward to falling in at Catterick.

“In Salvation Army terms there isn’t another appointment like it,” he said.

“This is completely brand new. It’s under the banner of Fresh Expressions, which is an existing programme in the garrison that serves the British Army, but we’re going up there to look at what we can do outside in the district of Catterick as well.”

Replacing Barrie and Maria in Letchworth and Stevenage will be Major Wendy Goodman, who is arriving from Ipswich.

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