Promoted to Glory: Major Joy Webb (OF)
Word has been received from the United Kingdom and Ireland Territory of the Promotion to Glory on Sunday October 1, 2023 of Major Joy Webb (OF) from Glebe Court, where she had been a resident for several years. She was 91 years old.
Born on August 27, 1932, Joy grew up in a Christian and active Salvation Army family, her parents being Salvation Army officers. In her childhood, she was also surrounded by musical influence, which was to bear much fruit later in her life and ministry.
Joy Webb entered the International Training College in London from her home corps of Leyton Citadel in August 1954, as a cadet in the Shepherds session. She was appointed as a Cadet-Sergeant in May 1955 and commissioned as a Salvation Army officer on May 4, 1956. It was whilst she was a cadet that her own musical gifts, both as a pianist and as a singer, were recognized and noted.
The first year of Joy’s officership service was spent in corps ministry, firstly at Darwen and then at Blackburn Furthergate, before she was appointed back to the training college in May 1957 where she served as a House Officer and later also as a typist.
As the training college staff remembered her musical gifts, she was also invited to take responsibility for the women cadets’ singing brigade, and during this time, she, along with some of the cadets, began to experiment with the use of guitars as an alternative way of presenting the gospel through music. Recognizing that this new and exciting method of evangelism had the potential to reach areas and people that the more traditional ways did not, the then General Frederick Coutts publicly stated that “if the Salvation Army has to take up electric guitars and play in coffee-bars then that’s what we will do!”
Following this commitment from the General, Commissioner Clarence Wiseman, who was the Training Principal, challenged the now Captain Joy Webb to get together a group of cadets with guitars and appear on national television! This challenge led to a metamorphosis of Christian music in the Salvation Army, and indeed the church in the UK, and the Joystrings group was born. Their first single record “It’s an Open Secret” was released on February 14, 1964, and for Captain (later Major) Joy Webb, this was the beginning of a lifetime of writing, performing, teaching and influencing, which causes her even now to be regarded as a true hero of the faith by many salvationists who were young people in those early days of change.
The early days for the group were not always easy, as they faced challenges both from some within the church, who did not appreciate the radical change of style, and some from outside who did not appreciate their nightclub of choice being invaded by the Christian gospel. But through their ministry, under Joy Webb’s leadership and influence, many were reached with the gospel who would otherwise not have heard.
Later, transferring to the then National Headquarters of the British Territory, Major Joy Webb was appointed Officer for Modern Music and Drama, and her influence continued through summer music schools and through her work with the Marylebone Arts Centre, where she and her drama team encouraged many young people to share the gospel through music and drama. Through it all, she acknowledged that all of this was possible only through the leading and power of the Holy Spirit.
Major Webb retired from active officership service on September 1, 1992, but continued throughout her retirement to add to the incredible legacy of words and music which have become a treasure-chest for The Salvation Army, not only in the UK, but throughout the world. Songs such as “There will be God”, “Come into our World”, “The Candle of the Lord”, and many others remain timeless in their truth and their appeal.
Major Joy Webb was admitted to the Order of the Founder on July 3, 2004. The citation which accompanied her award reads as follows: “Throughout her officership Major Joy Webb has demonstrated outstanding commitment to the creative and innovative use of poetry, music and drama in evangelism and worship, achieving unparalleled success in expressing the gospel in the popular idioms of the day while constantly reflecting the standards of the gospel in her personal life. She is admitted to the Order of the Founder on July 3, 2004.”
We give thanks to God for the life and legacy of Major Joy Webb, acknowledging the gifts which He gave to her, and which she shared with the world. Even in her latter days, which were far from easy, she was able to recognize the truths and music which had come from her own mind and heart, and she continued to encourage the hearts of her visitors with this recognition.