Tuesday, July 7, 2009

200th Anniversary of the Massachusetts Bible Society

On July 6, 2009, a group of men and women assembled in the Senate Chamber of the Massachusetts State House to commemorate the 200th Anniversary of the founding of the Massachusetts Bible Society. Michael Paulson, religion reporter for the Boston Globe, has a nice account of that celebration on his Boston.com blog, Articles of Faith.

I want to share my own memories of the MBS. I first encountered the Society back in the ‘80’s. I was working in downtown Boston, and during my lunch breaks, I would be walking around looking for religious book stores (at one time, downtown had at least five such stores). Walking up Bromfield Street, I stumbled upon a little bookstore, belonging to the MBS. I went in, and I was in seventh heaven. The store carried spiritual and theology books you could never find in the commercial stores. Needless to say I spent a lot of time there.

Of course, spend enough time in the bookstore and you would hear about the MBS monthly luncheons, with very interesting speakers on biblical, and theological topics. One came away with both body and soul well fed. There were some interesting moments, like one time the speaker was a Protestant theologian from Mexico, and constantly during his talk, he was slamming the Catholic Church in his country. Of course at least two of persons listening were Catholic. The director of the MBS at the time, Don Wells, definitely had an uncomfortable look on his face. Then there was the time when the luncheon was being held in a church hall, whose garage was undergoing major reconstruction. The workers were suppose to be on break, but just as the speaker was making her presentation, the air was full with the sound of jackhammers! Overall, though, I found the talks inspiring and the fellowship very enjoyable.

It was through the luncheons that I learned about the Society’s Advent and Lent morning bible studies. There were mornings when it was a struggle to get to Bromfield St. on time, but the experience was worth it. These programs were lead by some clergypersons, but more often, it was intern students from Harvard Divinity School who put together the programs. Most were excellent, and a few, well.., they tried. I may have been still drowsy at the start, but the discussion, the give and take, was stimulating.

As the MBS begins its third century, the Bromfield St. store is gone (as are all the other religious book stores). The Society is exploring other ways of outreach, through e-mails, the Web, Facebook and Twitter, etc., that will encourage people to read and learn Sacred Scripture. Now, more than ever, the world needs to have the Good News proclaimed. But just as importantly, people must be guided on how to live the Gospel in their daily lives. The mission of the Society outlined two hundred years ago, still holds true today.

"For ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ" (St. Jerome)

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