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In June 1867 Josiah Spiers spoke to fifteen children in a drawing room in Islington, London, pioneering a new approach to sharing Christ with children. These meetings grew rapidly and soon the Children’s Special Service Mission, or CSSM, was formed, later becoming Scripture Union.
Tom Bishop, a civil servant was involved in a similar meeting in South London and met Spiers in Spring 1868. They were to work together for the next forty years, establishing a ministry which by 1893 had distributed 13 million children’s leaflets in fifty languages all around the world, and today operates in more than 130 countries.
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.
In 1879 CSSM introduced a system of daily Bible reading, the Children’s Scripture Union. Initially members received an annual membership card with a list of daily readings and suggestions for prayer. Later, children’s magazines were produced with explanatory notes. Booklets of notes were published for troops in the trenches during the Great War from 1914-18, and led to the first issue of Daily Notes for adults in 1923.
The first Boys’ Camp was held in 1892 in Littlehampton, led by Major Leibenrood, a veteran from the Zulu War. The following year, the Caravan Mission to Village Children (CMVC) was started, using a baker’s cart to travel from village to village. The CMVC became part of CSSM, but both names were dropped in the 1960s when Scripture Union became the name of the movement as a whole.
After the second world war, SU developed a new kind of ministry in state schools, the Inter School Christian Fellowship (ISCF), paving the way for the schools ministry which is so significant today.
Pioneering and developing ministry has always been a feature of Scripture Union’s ministry, and it continues today, not least in our websites and related digital ministries such as WordLive, LightLive and SchoolsLive. The context may change but the need of children and young people remains the same.
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