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07 February 2014

Wales building initiative honours 15-year-old.

Wales building initiative honours 15-year-old.

Evangelical Alliance Wales has welcomed the news that work has started to turn a deconsecrated church in North Wales into a new one million pound visitor centre. Named in honour of a 15-year-old, Mary Jones World will be based at St Beuno's Church, at Llanycil, Bala

"We are delighted to hear about this new centre in Llanycil," says Elfed Godding, national director for Evangelical Alliance Wales. "The Bible's impact on Welsh language and culture has been immense and Mary Jones World will inspire a new generation of visitors to make the connection between the ancient stories of the Bible and modern day Wales."

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 Rev Thomas Charles. Mary saved for six years to purchase one and Thomas Charles was so moved 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 site has been a place of Christian worship for more than 1,500 years and has strong links with Bible Society which bought the redundant Grade 2-listed building in 2007 and the adjoining field in 2009.

For the last six years Bible Society has developed this project, secured funding and gained planning permission to enable the scheme to proceed. Funds have been raised through donations from Bible societies around the world, supporters and the sale of some assets.

Mary Thomas is the secretary of the Bible Society Action Group in Bala and author of a guidebook to the Mary Jones Walk, encouraging walkers to follow in her footsteps.

She said: "This church is where Thomas Charles was married and is buried and lots of people do the Mary Jones walk as a pilgrimage. They walk into Bala and it's a shame there's nowhere to celebrate after arriving. I think the visitors centre will be ideal for that."

Speaking before work commenced, Bible Society's group chief executive James Catford said: "This project is hugely significant for Bible Society in Wales. The Bible's impact in Wales and, through Wales, to the rest of the world has been immense. The centre will tell this story to tourists, school children and international visitors. We are very grateful to the people of Llanycil and Bala for their support and encouragement."

The new centre will be officially opened in the autumn to coincide with the bicentenary of Thomas Charles' death.