Sunday, 23 October 2011

Nine million bicycles and 60 million Bibles

Dr Margaret Daly Denton signs the ‘visitors’ book’ for the 60 millionth Bible from China in Christ Church Cathedral this morning (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

There are nine million bicycles in Beijing
That’s a fact,
It's a thing we can’t deny
Like the fact that I will love you till I die.

We are twelve billion light years from the edge,
That’s a guess,
No-one can ever say it’s true
But I know that I will always be with you.
– Katie Melua

As Katie Melua sings, there are nine million bicycles in Beijing, that’s a fact, and we are 12 billion light years from the edge.

But they have also printed 60 million Bibles in China ... and that’s a fact rather than a guess.

Recently, the Amity Printing Company in Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu province, north of Shanghai, announced that it has printed 60 million Bibles for China. And the 60 millionth Chinese Bible, printed in November 2008, is now on tour, visiting churches in Ireland and Britain.

The Amity Printing Company now prints one million Bibles a month, and since its founding in 1988 the company has grown to become one of the largest Bible publishers in the world.

Since the 60 millionth Bible went on tour in Ireland and Britain in May 2010, the number of Bibles printed in China has grown to 80 million Bibles.

But the 60 millionth Bible was in Dublin over the past few days, visiting the Church of Ireland Theological Institute last week and Christ Church Cathedral today. The Dublin leg of the visit was organised by the Dublin University Far Eastern Mission, which I chaired for some years.

There are nine million bicycles in Beijing and there are more than 60 million Bibles in China today (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

People lined up to sign the Bible’s “visitors’ book” in both places, and in Christ Church Cathedral this morning, the Bishop of Harare, the Right Revd Chad Gandiya, led the signing after he had preached at the Cathedral Sung Eucharist.

Those who signed included the Dean of the Cathedral, the Very Revd Dermot Dunne; a former chair of the Dublin University Far Eastern Mission, the Revd Canon Dr John Bartlett, who visited China with DUFEM; Professor Eric Finch, a former treasurer of DUFEM; the Biblical scholar, Dr Margaret Daly-Denton; and Linda Chambers de Bruijn of USPG Ireland.

About a quarter of the Bibles printed in the world today are produced in China, according to Xiaohong Xu, secretary-general of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), which provides a network for Protestant churches in China along with the China Christian Council.

In addition to Bibles in Chinese, Amity also publishes Scripture in English, French, Spanish, and Braille. It has exported more than 26 million Bibles to over 60 countries, or nearly a third of its total publication, according to Qiu Zhonghui, chair of the board of Amity Printing.

Some reports say there are more than 100 million Christians in China, including members of house churches that are not affiliated to TSPM or CCC churches.

During its tour, China’s 60 millionth Bible has visited Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, and its China Forum, the General Synod of the Church of England, the conference of the Methodist Conference in Britain, the conference of the Methodist Church in Ireland. Those who have signed the Bible’s “visitors’ book” include:

The Bishop of Meath and Kildare, the Most Revd Richard Clarke; Mary Tanner, a president of the World Council of Churches; the Revd Paul Kingston, President of the Methodist Church in Ireland; and the Revd Bob Fyffe, general secretary, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland.

From the cathedral, six of us went to lunch with Bishop Chad, before he left for the airport and a flight to London.

Storm clouds and choppy waves on the shore at Donabate this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

By this afternoon, the storm in Dublin had gathered strength. Two of us continued on the Donabate for a family evening. But we stopped for a while at the edge of the sea to watch the waves being whipped up off the coast before breaking on the shoreline beneath the Martello Tower.

It was a grey sky, and a grey sea. There could have been 60 million waves tumbling into the shore at Donabate this afternoon. And t was yet another image of the majesty and glory of God. As the Irish hymn writers Nahum Tate (1652-1715) and Nicholas Brady (1659-1726) wrote:

Through all the changing scenes of life,
in trouble and in joy,
the praises of my God shall still
my heart and tongue employ.