I came across on my Facebook page the following share: “Weʼre raising £5,000 to help Southend Christian Bookshop through a lean time” followed by the blurb: “February was an unusually quiet month and the next few months are likely to be difficult because of the Coronovirus. If you wish the Christian Bookshop to continue to be a presence in the town please pray and donate”.
I checked with the shop owner as to whether the needs were as stated (they were and it is worse) and whether this was a put-up job (it wasn’t). Now we are getting used to self-isolation, and are become attuned to some of the health and social consequences, we should turn our thoughts to small and medium size business, who are going to suffer, despite noises from government that this will not be the case. While I wouldn’t normally be waving the flag for struggling businesses and mindful I am a lover of good Christian books, a patron of the shop and friends with the owner, I feel there are some special factors that should be borne in mind for folk who may / should be concerned, and not just use it or lose it!
The shop has struggled to turn over a profit for some years now, but the belligerent owner is of the view that it has bucked a trend because it was God’s will and provision to do so. Many Christian bookshops across the land have been in the same position and have had to close as a result. Some of the reasons are obvious: people don’t read and if they do they read online and many of the items that are sold are done online by the likes of Amazon. The economics are obvious – businesses cannot afford to trade at a loss. A particular consideration at this time is that the very people who are being forced to self-isolate, i.e. the elderly, form a significant part of the shop’s customer base and value to warm welcome they get.
While I believe passionately in the value of Christian books (although such establishments have seen the need to diversify with varying success) I recognize even among earnest Christians I may be among a minority. But our local shop does a lot more than sell books and be a helpful resource for the local Christian community and those wanting to be informed about matters of faith. As a homeless activist, who on my visit earlier today took away stuff I can give to those who are homeless, I am amazed how much they do. Two “problematic” homeless people I know regularly call in the shop and are treated with respect and helped, with nothing expected in return. The shop provides Bibles free to those who need a Bible and can’t afford to pay. The shop gives books free to prisons and in the past has donated to the local library, not otherwise blessed with good Christian books. The shop ships out books free of charge to missions working in third world countries. The shop is a balwark against the rise of the big guns and move toward globalism and encourages independent authors. The shop is a useful point of contact to find out what is going on in the town that may be of interest to those who visit the shop and provides a valuable service as a place to visit for the lonely and vulnerable.
I doubt any of these afore-mentioned activities are funded from revenue received from book sales etc., but if the shop were to close, our town will lose a valuable resource. It is why I am pleased to support and encourage those who want to give. You can give online using Just Giving – click here!