One of the most well-known names in the evangelical Christian world is marking its 150th anniversary today.
Scripture Union began on 2 June 1867 in Islington, North London.
From humble beginnings when Josiah Spiers invited a group of children to learn about God using Bible stories, SU now works in more than 130 countries worldwide.
Moving on from small meetings in homes, Scripture Union began printing literature aimed at children – and engaging them with Biblical stories.
That wasn't the only model of engagement Spiers used, though. As the SU website explains, 'later on in 1868, Spiers went on holiday to Llandudno in North Wales and spontaneously held a children's meeting on the beach. He drew the text 'God is Love' in the sand, invited children to decorate it, and then told them a Bible story. The beach mission was born.'
Over the decades, the way in which Scripture Union has spread the message has changed but the core has remained. In the UK, schools work is a key part of the ongoing work. This involves producing resources for assemblies, religious studies lessons and churches which have close links with local schools. Another major strand of work is holidays and missions organised around the country.
The ending of the Cold War saw a rapid expansion of the world taking place in the former Soviet Union and other areas of the Eastern Bloc.
In many ways the world is very different to that into which Scripture Union was born, but arguably the space for it to work is as big as ever – with SU saying fewer than 5 per cent of children in the UK have regular contact with a church (according to researcher Peter Brierley).
The work around the world is now very varied, including radio broadcasts, sports ministry, apps, conference centres and bookshops. One of the latest initiatives has seen the development of an online game called Guardians Of Ancora, which incorporated Biblical stories into a format which will be familiar to game-playing children.
The 21st Century has presented challenges to many famous Christian institutions, but Scripture Union is looking to the future. Amidst the anniversary celebrations, the organisation is holding a day of prayer in London today which is being streamed live on its Facebook page, with people joining in from around the world.