Hangzhou, China – The 2nd Sunday of December 2019 was celebrated by the Protestant Churches in China as “Bible Sunday”.
Organised by China Christian Council/TSPM, the 2019 Bible Sunday event was held in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province over two days on Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th December.
Bible Sunday is celebrated by Bible Societies and Churches with the intention to encourage Christians to put God’s Word in the centre of their lives so that they can live it out as a witness to the world.
“The year 2019 has been designated as the ‘Year of the Bible’ by the Protestant Churches in China,” said Rev Shan Weixiang, Vice President of China Christian Council, in his opening address at the Bible Sunday celebration in Hangzhou.
2019 is significant to Bible ministry in China: it is the centennial year since the first publication of the Chinese Union Version (CUV) Bible, the predominant Chinese Bible version in China; it is also the year China’s Amity Printing Company printed its 200 millionth Bible.
Christians from different parts of China gathered at Hangzhou’s Chongyi Church for its Bible Sunday event. The agenda for the two-day event included a competition for the best hand copied scripture, a panel discussion on Bible and Bible ministry in China, special Bible Sunday church services, and a free Bible distribution.
The Practice of Hand Copying the Bible
One of the highlights of this event is Saturday’s session where one hundred Christians congregated to copy by hand the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23.
Rev. Zhang Ling, who won the first prize for the “Best Hand Copied Scripture” during the competition, had travelled all the way from the north-western province of Xinjiang to this event. She described how she grew to revere the Word of God more whenever she sat down in front of the desk to handwrite the scriptures. This discipline reminded her of that of Chinese scribes from the ancient times.
“(In writing down the scriptural verses on paper), I experience a closer encounter with the Word of God than I’ve ever experienced before,” remarked one participant.
Indeed, hand copying Scriptures is no strange practice to the Chinese Church and Christians. For many Chinese Christians, hand copying Scripture reminded them of the difficult times the Church went through during the Cultural Revolution (1966 to 1976). During those turbulent years, very few Christians had access to the Bible. A lot of them had to secretly copy the Scriptures by hand, that is if they were fortunate enough to have access to a copy or part of the Bible. In a way, hand copying Scripture characterized the devotion and love of Chinese Christians for God and His Holy Word during this tempestuous time in China’s church history.
When the Church reopened after the Cultural Revolution, there was a great need for the Bible as Christians grew in numbers and churches mushroomed all over China. The Churches in China tried to make the Bible available to more believers by printing Bibles in simplified Chinese texts from the previous more complex traditional Chinese characters. However, due to limitations in printing technologies and equipment at that time, Christian volunteers were roped in to manually copy the whole Bible in simplified texts for typesetting before printing. That was another reminder of the significance of hand copying Bibles in Chinese Church history.
Bible Printing Ministry
Another important theme for Bible Sunday China was to raise awareness for the Bible printing ministry locally. A workshop was held comprising Christian leaders and interested parties to share about the significance of the Bible and its ministry in China.
Rev. Shan explained that many Christians in China may not have realized that they are blessed to have access to affordable Bibles. This is all thanks to the generous funding of Bible paper contributed by Bible Societies’ donors from all around the world.
In fact, the United Bible Societies (UBS) Fellowship has always played a central role in Bible ministry in China. Firstly, the translation of the Chinese Union Version Bible was spearheaded and funded by Bible Societies, a hundred years ago. Secondly, it was UBS who willingly offered help to the Church by bringing financial and technological support to meet the Bible needs of millions of Christians in China after the Cultural Revolution by establishing Amity Printing Company jointly with Amity Foundation. Today, UBS continues to make God’s Word available for Christians in and beyond China through Amity Printing Company.
At the close of the ceremony, Chinese church leaders emphasised that while Chinese Christians have been blessed throughout the years by the generosity of the international community, they also recognised that there are still many believers, especially those residing in rural China, who could not afford to get their own copy of the Bible. They include the many ethnic minority groups in China who have no Bible translations in their own heart languages.
The importance to have the Bible available in one’s own language is never something church leaders can overemphasis.
In the light of these solemn reminders, a fitting closure to this Bible Sunday celebration was a free Bible Distribution activity after services. Large-print Chinese Bibles, donated by UBS, were given out free to smiling church believers aged 70 and above (see photo above).
Story by: Marcus Xiao and Pamela Choo
Photos: UBS CP
2020 © United Bible Societies China Partnership