Two heritage plaques have been placed at the site of James Hudson Taylor’s birthplace in Barnsley.
Taylor is revered the world over as the founder of the China Inland Mission, today called OMF International.
By the mid-1800s, mission stations had been established in the Chinese port cities but Taylor was agonised by the knowledge that there were millions of Chinese souls perishing in the unpioneered interior.
He founded the CIM in 1865 with the aim of pushing further into the inland and setting up churches that were to be not only led by Chinese, but thoroughly Chinese in style and character.
It was a priority of Taylor’s to become as Chinese as possible, speaking the local dialect, wearing Chinese dress, and even a queue – the pigtail worn by Chinese men.
His methods were shocking to some Christians at the time, but he would be later remembered as one of the great pioneers of contextual mission.
The CIM went on to establish 300 mission stations across 18 provinces and brought thousands of Chinese to faith in Jesus Christ.
There are Chinese Christians today who trace their spiritual roots back to Hudson Taylor and the mission work of the CIM.
The blue plaques were dedicated during a service held on Monday at Salem Church, in Barnsley, where Taylor’s parents had attended and where he had spoken from the pulpit about his work in China during visits home.
The service was attended by the Mayor of Barnsley, Cllr Dorothy Higginbottom, local Chinese Christians, and present and past OMF workers.
Mark Reasbeck, pastor of Gateway Church, in Barnsley, said: “The secret to James Hudson Taylor was his faith in God.”
Paul Bedford, Pastor of Hope House Church, in Barnsley said: “He was a man from Barnsley.
“Does anything good come from Barnsley?! Yes … The world will continue to be touched by this man from Barnsley.”
Bedford noted that Taylor did not allow convention, nor his appearance to hinder him in the mission field.
“He threw these off and became Chinese,” he said. “The Gospel remained the same although he became intensely relevant.”
Following the service, the Chinese Christians led a procession through Barnsley town centre to where Taylor’s birthplace once stood at 21 Cheapside, now a Boots chemist.
One plaque commemorates his birth in English, the other in Chinese, something Hudson would no doubt have approved of.
The plaques were provided by the Barnsley Civic Trust after months of campaigning by the Hudson Taylor Society, which preserves his legacy.
Speaking at the unveiling of the plaques, the Mayor noted that Taylor seemed to be “known everywhere except in Barnsley”.
“We are pleased to be able to address this today. It gives us the opportunity to say, whether Christian or non-Christian, welcome to Barnsley.”
Rev Pong Lai, of Leeds Chinese Christian Association, offered thanks for the plaques on behalf of Chinese Christians around the world.
“This is a very emotional day,” he said.
"We love you Barnsley. Through one of you we came to know Jesus."
The group is currently planning a Hudson Taylor heritage trail that will point visitors to local sites connected to the great missionary.
New plaques commemorate Hudson Taylor
Published 22 May 2012