Bible Society celebrates 175th

Bible Society NZ Invercargill-based action group chairman John Beckham with a range of Bibles from a 1910 King James version given to Stanley Burtenshaw in 1910 from the Nightcaps MS School to a contemporary special edition of the New Testament, Ice on Fire, which the Bible Society NZ published in the 1990s.

THE Bible Society NZ has a long history in Aotearoa.

Invercargill-based action group chairman John Beckham said it was thought to be the fourth oldest non-business organisation established in the country, behind the police, army and St John’s Theological College.

Established in 1846, only six years after the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi (The Treaty of Waitangi), the society will be celebrating its 175th birthday tomorrow in Invercargill.

This will be the first of 19 events held in 17 cities throughout New Zealand, and will be hosted at the Lindisfarne Methodist Community Centre on the corner of Miller and Lindisfarne Sts, from 7pm.

Mr Beckham said the evening would look back and reflect on what the Bible Society NZ, which had distributed millions of Bibles, New Testaments and Scripture portions in New Zealand, including to police, prison chaplains and children, as well as overseas, had achieved, as well as what plans the society had for the future.

“The money raised for the Bible Society goes to various projects, in particular to providing Bibles to people who can’t afford to buy their own,” he said.

“Thousands of Bibles annually are donated overseas and within New Zealand.”

The evening would also share the history of the Bible Mission and of te Paipera Tapu (the Holy Bible in Maori), its first full edition in 1889, and subsequent editions in 1889, 1925 and 1952, and its contribution to Aotearoa’s history and Te Reo Maori.

The evening would also give people the opportunity to fellowship, celebrate and share their experiences.

Mr Beckham shared his introduction to the Bible Society, remembering his mother collect donations door-to-door, which were recorded in a “little red book”.

“That was 50 years ago when we lived on Tweed St.”

The donations were used by the society to buy Bibles, he said.

As a teenager, Mr Beckham assisted the society financially and also by praying, he said.

About 40 years ago, as a young adult, he was asked to be a society representative at the Salvation Army in Invercargill where he fellowshipped, which grew into a role as a chairman in the local action group, then in the Otago/Southland action group.

His involvement in the society had grown throughout the years, with a number of fundraising activities including organising quizzes and bike rides.

A keen cyclist, he said although the longest fundraising bike ride was from Invercargill to Christchurch, the hardest one had been from Invercargill to Queenstown via Palmerston.

His most moving experience in connection with the Bible Society was some years ago, he said.

The Bible Society had sent Bibles to Rwanda in 1996, only a few years after the Rwanda genocide in 1994.

However, it was in Manchester in the United Kingdom in 2005 when he met a woman who had “come out of Rwanda” which had affected him deeply.

She had been given a Bible in Rwanda, and as a result had become a Christian, he said. “It was an amazing experience… to help provide a Bible and she became a Christian – right across the other side of the world.”

  • Bible Society NZ 175th celebrations, Lindisfarne Methodist Community Centre, corner of Miller and Lindisfarne Sts, Invercargill, Friday, April 9, 7pm. Free. Registrations: or on the night at the venue, or by phoning John Beckham on 0274 917 998.