British trade unions often attract international headlines with a strike or a “go-slow.” This spring, however, a different kind of British union made the news: Scripture Union (SU) celebrated its centenary on the first of April with a service of thanksgiving at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Chairman of the event was the bishop of Norwich, Maurice Wood; the archbishop of Canterbury, Donald Coggan, gave the main address.

Known as “the world’s oldest and largest Bible reading movement,” SU exerts a worldwide impact. Over 1.7 million people in eighty countries regularly receive SU Bible reading notes. More than one-third of all SU staff members live and work in Africa. On the South Pacific island of Tonga there is a branch in every town and village.

Connected with the centenary celebrations is an appeal for $300,000. The money would put more SU staff members into the field and give special assistance to inner-city ministries throughout Britain. Furthermore, additional Bible reading notes would be translated for Indian children and Arabic-speaking adults. (Before the actual anniversary day, more than half of the needed funds had been given or pledged.)

A further centennial event was a reception at the House of Commons. A Christian member of Parliament, Michael Alison, served as host, and leaders in education and community services were invited. The Lord Mayor of London, Sir Kenneth Cork, sponsored a reception at the Mansion House, ceremonial center for the city, and he told the SU representatives, “I have the Bible on cassette beside my bed” for easy access.

Such prominence and respectability is the legacy of a century—but was obviously not the case when SU was formed on “All Fools’ Day” 1879. A teen-age Sunday school teacher from ...

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