On 19 December 2013 at the House of Blackheads (currently used by the Chancery of State President) took place international scientific conference on the Bible translation. It was organized by the State Language Commission in cooperation with the Latvian Bible Society and Faculty of Theology and Faculty of Humanities of University of Latvia. The symposium was opened by the Chairperson of the State Language Commission Andrejs Veisbergs and General Secretary of the Latvian Bible Society Valdis Tēraudkalns. V. Tēraudkalns pointed to the fact that in the context of bicentenary of the Bible Society movement in Latvia it is symbolic that the conference is organized at the premises of the building once so important to Balt-German culture in Latvia. Balt-German nobility took active part in the organization of first Bible Societies in Riga and Jelgava in 1813. During the conference scholars from universities and university colleges in all three Baltic countries talked about history of Bible translations in their native languages, about paratexts, about role of the Bible in literature, as well gave first academic comments on the new Bible translation in Latvian launched in 2012.
Jānis Rudzītis-Neimanis (Faculty of Theology, University of Latvia) presents the paper on Jerusalem temple cult and new Bible translation in Latvian.
Doctoral student from the Faculty of Humanities (University of Latvia) Ilona Miezīte and docent of the Faculty of Theology Juris Cālītis, former Chair of the Bible Translation Committee.
Valdas Mackela from the Faculty of Catholic Theology (Kaunas University) presents the paper on Bible translations in Lithuanian.
On 14 December at the new parish center of the Luther's Church in Riga took place the first Bible drama seminar organized by the Bible Society and led by Dr. Theol. Astra Dannenfelte. Here are some of responses of its participants: “I experienced the Bible text in various ways. It raised associations with my own life and brought in deeper understanding of the text”, “Now I am enabled to see so far unrecognized or less known angles of my personality”, “Bible drama helps to open up to the presence of God”, “I got new knowledge of my being, other participants helped me in that.” Participants of the seminar were interested in having this kind of seminar again, maybe even regularly once a month. Many thanks to all supporters who during the fundraising campaign “Open the Bible!” supported organization of these seminars!
On 5 December 2013 at the premises of the Riga Dome took place special meeting of the Latvian Academy of Sciences. This is the first time when main theme of such a meeting was related to religion. At the centre this time was the new Bible translation. V. Tēraudkalns, General Secretary of the Latvian Bible Society, talked about the new Bible translation as a sign of times – sign of new level of ecumenical cooperation, sign of globalisation (in biblical studies, in the Bible Society work), sign of maturity of theological education in Latvia. Maija Baltiņa, former linguistic consultant of the Bible Translation Committee, in her address talked about changing character of language that inevitably leads to floating attitude towards words and phrases that at the beginning seems not acceptable. ‘The most truthful ally of language is time.’ The Dean of the Faculty of Theology, University of Latvia Ralfs Kokins in his speech talked about role and successes of theology and religious studies as academic disciplines. In debates main speaker was the Roman Catholic archbishop Z. Stankevičs.
Generalsecretary of the Latvian Bible Society Valdis Tēraudkalns
The Roman Catholic archbishop Z. Stankevičs.
Maija Baltiņa, former linguistic consultant of the Bible Translation Committe.
On 2 December organization “Teen Challenge” received 72 Bibles that were donated because of kind help of 114 Bible Society supporters. “Teen Challenge” is a Christian rehabilitation program that offers to people in various regions of Latvia opportunity to have a new start in their lives. Its centre for people with dependences is situated in Vārme (near Saldus). Currently there are 11 men living in this rural estate. At the centre of the program are Christ and Bible. Part of their day is dedicated to the Bible reading, another part – to the physical work. They really appreciated donation because their Bibles have been well worn.
The “Teen Challenge” center and its inhabitants.
Nauris himself has graduated the program. Now he is working at the center as its employee. He said: 'The Bible speaks not only to mind but also to the whole human life. If before that my life was dominated by circumstances, the program helped to attain a totally different perspective. These are incomparable things – spiritual life and worldly life. I have a feeling that God's power can overcome all obstacles. I also gained great joy of life.'
Normunds (from left), Aldis and Zigmunds with their Bibles.
Here the Bible is really being read regularly.
On 12 November the Bible Society staff together with Rihards Mencis visited the Children Hospital. Thanks to his personal initiative and generosity children were able to receive in total 184 books – two types of Children Bibles. This year it’s already the second time the Children Hospital receives books donated because of regular support of his company “Karjeru izstrāde.” In January little patients received in total 186 books. Chaplain of the hospital Linards Rozentāls said that these are ‘life changing books.’
Chaplains of the hospital Linards Rozentals and Inta Morica
Businessman and sponsor Rihards Mencis.
On 7 and 8 of June the Synod of the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church took place. The synod is the highest decision-making body in the Lutheran Church in Latvia. This time 395 voting members - clergy and lay persons from local parishes - participated in it. It decided that the new Bible translation can be used alongside previous Bible editions. This decision formally opens up ways for the new Bible translation to be used not only for private reading but also in the liturgical life of the church.
In June the Estonian Bible Society celebrated bicentenary. But the same number of years of existence celebrates also the Latvian Bible Society or, more precisely, its predecessors the Bible Societies of Courland and Riga established in summer 1813. It was possible because of liberal policies of tsar Alexander I and his close friends. When tsar asked Count Alexander Golicin, Minister of Education and Religious Affairs, where he finds inner strength, he showed him the Bible.
Besides temperance societies Bible Societies are first nongovernmental organizations at the territory of Latvia that accepted in its ranks also Latvians. Of course, one can refer to medieval guilds of Latvian craftsmen however these were very different type of organizations. Thus the Bible Societies since 19th century under various names and with some discontinuities was always present at the territory of Latvia. Even during the Soviet period their presence was felt because people read illegally imported Bibles that had printed in ascetic title pages simply “Bible Society”. Only few people would recognize what hides behind abbreviation BFBS – the British and Foreign Bible Society that was a publisher of Bibles and New Testaments in Latvian during the Soviet period.
On 10 May the Latvian Bible Society participated in the annual Book Festival organized by the Society for Supporting Rural Libraries. The event took place at the premises of Lādezers Elementary School. These were two lessons taught by the Old Testament translator Laila Čakare who lead children through the history of the biblical text – from stone plates to Gutenberg. Adults together with Laila had to struggle with problems of the Bible translation process. Debates showed that at least one generation should pass before the new translation will be widely accepted as part of the liturgical texts.
Short questionnaire showed that from 26 children who participated in the event (from first three grades) 23 have a copy of Scriptures at home, 20 of them have also the Children Bible but only 5 children never read the Bible.
The Bible Society presented as a gift to the school some children books.
On 29 April the Latvian Bible Society had official opening of its new office at the centre of Riga. Board members and members of the Auditing Committee, some of main partners of the Bible Society – publishers, the Latvian Publishers' Association, the Faculty of Theology of University of Latvia were present. Board Chair O. Incenbergs started evening with a prayer of dedication. “It feels like returning back where we belong because before the war the Bible Society had an office at the centre of Riga. At the beginning of 90-ies when it restarted its work the Bible Society also was located not far from its present location”, said General Secretary V. Tēraudkalns. “Bible invites us to look ahead, to the future leaving the past behind,” thus E. Godiņš Director of the publishing house “Amnis.”