Bible Society – Scripture Union – Wycliffe Bible Translators
It is appropriate that Bible Sunday (25th October) falls during the month we focus on our three Missions for the Month. All three missions are concerned with people all round the world having access to God’s word, by translation, distribution and teaching but I would like to concentrate on the Bible Society this year.
Recently, a new state of the art visitor and education centre has opened in North Wales. It celebrates the life of Mary Jones and how her journey transformed the lives of millions of people and how the Bible Society was set up because of her.
Mary was born to a very poor family on 16th December 1784, in the Welsh village of Llanfihangel-y-Pennant, at the foot of Cader Idris. A school opened which was two hour round trip from Mary’s home, so she took the trip every day, determined to become a scholar. She progressed very well. Mary desperately wanted a Bible of her own, so she visited a neighbour, Mrs Evans who allowed her to read hers. Mary earned money by doing chores for neighbours so she could afford her own Bible.
After six years of careful saving, Mary had saved enough money for her Bible but they were not available in her village. The Reverend Thomas Charles sold them in Bala, over twenty five miles away.
So in the summer of 1800, Mary set out alone, clutching her money and carrying her shoes. (so as not to wear them out). On her arrival, the Revd. Charles told her that his last Bible was promised to someone else. Mary was so devastated and disappointed and the Revd. Charles was so greatly moved by Mary’s efforts to own a Bible that he gave her his last Bible.
In December 1802, the Revd. Charles went to London and told the committee of the Religious Tract Society about the desperate need for Bibles and cited Mary’s story. Fifteen months later, the British and Foreign Bible Society was formed for “the wider distribution of the scriptures”. The Clapham Sect, a group of Evangelicals, including William Wilberforce were important in its establishment.
The governing committee was interdenominational and included fifteen Anglicans, fifteen Free Church laymen and six representatives of foreign churches.
Local groups arose throughout Britain to raise funds and distribute Bibles in their localities. Similar Bible Societies were formed in Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Russia, France, Greece and the USA. They worked closely with the growing missionary endeavours to bring the Bible to people in many languages.
Mary died at the age of 82. In her town of Llanfihangel-y-Pennant, a monument has been erected with the following inscription in English and Welsh.
In memory of Mary Jones, who in the year 1800, at the age of 16 walked from here to Bala, to procure from the Revd Thomas Charles, B.A., a copy of the Welsh Bible, this incident was the occasion of the formation of the British and Foreign Bible Society. Erected by the Sunday Schools of Merioneth’ .
The new visitor centre tells the story of Mary Jones and Thomas Charles and the impact of the world’s best-selling book on Wales and the world. There are interactive displays, videos, exhibits and activities that bring Mary’s fascinating story to life from 1800 to the present day.
The centre is located on the A494 on the edge of Bala Lake. If you are visiting that area why not call in? (see www.bydmaryjonesworld.org.uk)