This year began with two encouraging school visits, one from a local primary school who brought along two classes, and the second a group of home school children from the West Midlands.
On Saturday 25 February an encouragingly large number attended our Spring Lectures, where Geoff Thomas gave an excellent afternoon of talks on the subject of ‘Evangelicalism in England and Wales, 1945–2015’. Our Autumn Lectures this year will take up the theme of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, and will be given in October by Jonathan Stobbs of Penzance.
Often visitors to the centre bring along items for inclusion in the exhibition. Three very interesting Bibles have been presented to us in recent weeks. The first is a late 17th-century Authorised Version from a friend on the south coast. Then a 1769 Birmingham Bible, the first Bible produced in the city of Birmingham.
This was presented together with a Bible of the same period inscribed by Thomas Babington. The flyleaf of this indicated that the Bible was a present to his nephew, who was entering a curacy in the Church of England. Thomas Babington was MP for Leicester, a member of the Clapham Sect and supporter of William Wilberforce in the fight to abolish slavery.
Also in the last few weeks we have received a sizeable collection of 19th-century theological works donated by the Birmingham City Mission. These and similar works are being catalogued by Miss Elizabeth Crump, a trained librarian and a member of the Baptist Church in Dudley.
Thanks to several donations received in the last year we have been able to make our first purchase of a significant addition to our collection since the work began five years ago. This is a three-volume facsimile of the Gutenberg Bible, 1455, the first major book printed using movable type. It marked the beginning of the age of printed books in the West.
Gutenberg himself said: ‘God’s cause suffers because there are such multitudes of souls to whom his sacred Word cannot be given. Religious truth is captive in a small number of little manuscripts, which guard the common treasures instead of expanding them.
‘Let us break the seal which binds these holy things; let us give wings to truth that it may fly with the Word, no longer prepared at vast expense, but multitudes everlastingly by a machine which never wearies — to every soul which enters life!’
By 1500 there were an estimated 9 million books in Europe, in contrast to just a few thousand manuscripts before that time. The printing press would make it possible for every person to have a Bible.
Please pray for the continuing work of the centre as we seek to make our Christian heritage more widely known and appreciated, not only to believers but to the general public. We are always ready to open the centre at times other than those advertised. (More from www.christianheritagecentre.org.uk).