Bible Society is to open a new £1 million Visitor Centre in a deconsecrated church in North Wales after receiving planning permission.
St Beuno’s Church, at Llanycil, Bala, will be transformed into a place that tells the story of the Bible’s impact on Wales and, through Wales, the rest of the world.
The site has strong links with Bible Society, which bought the church in 2007. It was in 1800 that Mary Jones, aged 15, walked 25 miles from Llanfihangel-y-Pennant, across the Welsh mountains, to Bala to get a Bible from Revd. Thomas Charles.
Legend has it that she had saved for six years to afford it. Thomas Charles was so touched by her determination that he helped establish Bible Society four years later. He is one of a number of notable figures buried in the churchyard at Llanycil.
The Friends of Llanycil Church, established after the closure of the building have welcomed the development.
Secretary and local resident Rhiannon Dafydd, said, ‘It's marvellous that Bible Society is literally returning to its roots, investing and developing in the exact location that it was formed. The Centre will be a great resource for the local community and we look forward to welcoming people from all over the world to Llanycil. There’s no doubt that this will also bring great benefits to the local economy.'
Funding for the Visitor Centre has been raised through the sale of some assets, and donations from Bible Societies around the world and supporters. The Centre, on the shore of Lake Bala, will have its own car park, picnic area and outdoor facilities with access to local footpaths.
Bible Society’s Group Chief Executive, James Catford said, ‘Since my student days at Aberystwyth University I have looked for opportunities to celebrate the Bible’s role in shaping the nation of Wales and the wider world. This work represents a significant part of Bible Society’s growth in Wales.
‘Bible Societies throughout the world are indebted to the nation and people of Wales for establishing what is now a global movement operating in 200 countries. We are deeply grateful and humbled by the generosity of some of these Societies who have given generously to this project out of their very limited resources.’
The new visitor centre will be officially opened in 2014 to coincide with the bicentenary of Thomas Charles’ death.