Durham Cathedral Bookshop: One door closes…

Durham Cathedral Shop: Due to some necessary archaeological works, as we explore ways to improve physical access to The Cathedral Shop, this entrance is temporarily closed...

Durham Cathedral Shop - this entrance is temporarily closed...

Phil Groom writes:

One door closes — but will another one open? Christians love to talk about God’s provision and guidance, don’t they? About how one door may close but another one will always open, yadda yadda yadda… but the reality that we must all face is that by and large, God has entrusted that provision to us, his people. It’s God’s people who close doors and it’s God’s people who open them. It’s God’s people who shut people out, let people in or, sometimes, lock people up and forget where they left the key…

This notice, which appeared towards the end of January at the shop entrance in Durham Cathedral, begins:

Due to some necessary archaeological works, as we explore ways to improve physical access to The Cathedral Shop, this entrance is temporarily closed. Entry to The Cathedral Shop is through the easy access off The College which can be found by following the disabled signage…

That’s no bad thing and I’m not for one moment suggesting that it is: improving access to the shop is good news, especially if it means that disabled people don’t have to take that longwinded route to get there. Bravo, those planners! Nor am I suggesting that there are plans afoot to close the shop, although one little bird (not a member of your staff, please note, O Most Venerable Dean, should you happen to read this) tells me that there are plans to reduce the size of the shop, which might well impact upon staffing requirements — and that, given all the uncertainty and door-slamming that the shop staff have faced over the past few years, is most definitely not good news for anyone.

Let’s look back briefly: first the bookshop staff were, not to put too fine a point on it, betrayed by SPCK when the shop was handed over to the Brewers without adequate diligence (please don’t anyone try to tell me that the “due diligence procedure” SPCK went through in that disastrous handover was adequate). Then when it all went pear-shaped what, pray, did the Dean and Chapter do to help and support the staff? Ah yes: they prayed; no doubt about that, I’m sure. Prayed and panicked and prevaricated because God had put the means to answer those prayers in their own hands; but terminating the lease apparently proved too hot a potato: instead, they dropped it, leaving the bookshop staff to resist the bullying and abuse by themselves…

Eventually, of course, the Brewers’ mismanagement backfired as the Charity Commission moved in on the other shops to leave Durham as the last bastion of the Brewers’ bastardised British empire; and finally that, too, came tumbling down…

Enough of the history lesson, however: where are we today? This former SPCK bookshop — once described by no less a scholar than Professor James D G Dunn as “the best theological bookshop in the world” — appears destined to become little more than yet another Cathedral tat and gift shop, books sidelined to leave the City of Durham, home to the world-renowned Shrine of St Cuthbert, without a Christian bookshop worthy of the name. The Cathedral’s own description of the shop seems to say it all:

The Durham Cathedral Shop stocks a range of guide books, gifts and souvenirs, as well as a selection of religious and theological books.

Screenshot, 10/2/2011: The Cathedral Book and Gift Shop: Books sidelined?

The Cathedral Book and Gift Shop: Books sidelined?

And what of the staff? Where does this leave them after the years of abuse and neglect? In today’s world no job is secure, of course, but one would hope that having at last secured the shop for the Cathedral’s own use, the Cathedral authorities would set out to support, reassure and — dare I suggest such a radical idea? — perhaps even reward the staff for their loyalty and commitment to the Cathedral. Because that is assuredly what has kept them there: personal dedication to the cause.

Durham Cathedral Shop staff: I salute you!

May those who have been entrusted with power to open and close doors before you always do so with the fairness, integrity and respect that becomes a renowned Christian institution; may charlatans such as the Brewers never darken your doorways again; and when your closed door reopens, may it open the way to good things and happier times for all.

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41 responses to “Durham Cathedral Bookshop: One door closes…

  1. Wouldnt it be wonderful if the Cathedral Authorities could be seen as having excellent management and pastoral skills – showing other employers by example?
    However, since it’s not happened before I doubt things will suddenly change. I feel so desperately sad for the poor staff. My thoughts and prayers, as ever, are with you.

  2. Valiant for Truth

    The official notice posted in the Cathedral about the proposed new shop (including a coffee shop – I wonder what the proprietors of the Cathedral Restaurant feel about that?) gives the impression of a big move and a lot of expense in view of the fact that presumably there will also be major renovations in the Great Kitchen when the shop has moved out. Why is this necessary? Everything seems to work well at present. In a time of austerity, should a major institution be so flamboyantly spending large amounts on non-essential building work, especially as essential spending has to be undertaken on repair of the Cathedral owned Prebends Bridge? The Church Commissioners justified the proposed sale of the Zurburan paintings in Auckland Castle on the basis that the money acquired could be spent on ten priests to further the work of the Church. The said notice also states that the shop will occupy what is presently the Friends of Durham Cathedral Visitor Centre. Will the Friends have a new venue? Their work in fundraising is vital for the kind of developments the Cathedral wishes to do. Lots of money about but no rational thought or care.

  3. It is possible to run a highly successful and profitable business AND treat your staff / volunteers well.
    Most successful businesses ( and let’s face it the Cathedral has to find revenue) have discovered this already.
    Without your people you have no business.
    I’m surprised that Durham hasn’t discovered this yet….

  4. That notice doesn’t quite go with the notice inside the Cathedral. It is quite clear that the bookshop will be moved. Nobody should be fooled. It will be a smaller shop with less space for books. I honestly fear for the future of a once proud bookshop. It’s now called a shop – see the e-mail address. It’s not going to be a bookshop. As for the staff – proud Booksellers – were seen at the Information Desk inside the Cathedral wearing a badge that said “cashier”. Says it all doesn’t it?

  5. Malcolm, that’s awful! Nothing wrong with being a cashier but it shows what the Cathedral think about the many years of expertise and experience many of their staff have. In Europe being a Bookseller is considered a profession .
    The Cathedral aren’t interested in theology, learning or education… They just want a coffee shop that also sells overpriced Cathedral ” tatt”, the type of which can be found in any tourist attraction in the country.
    SHAME on them.

  6. I offer up my thoughts and prayers for all those involved in this potentially very sad situation – most especially the staff that have undergone so much and yet maintained throughout, and for the leadership of those that effect such decisions as have impact on these lives.

    I think it is sad that durham cathedral, much like most others, is now moving over to the card/gift/tourist arena of sales and yet at the same time I do have to say I can appreciate why most cathedral shops do this. The sad, but telling, truth is that probably about 80% of those entering into the cathedral will not be readers of any note or even regular church goers – schools, tourists, visiting day parties etc are likely the main visitors and these want a souvenir not a book.

    Let’s be honest most regular christian bookshops have given over more space to non-book and/or card and gift product to make ends meet – the margin is higher and the items more consumerable as it were!
    However as most of us Christian Bookshop folk know this does not mean relegating the books to the least valuable item, they are still the most important item – after all are we not people of the book? Should not this the 400th year of the KJV be a celebration of the book both as the word of God but also as the outreach to the peoples??

    I am sad to see such as this happen at Durham Cathedral which once had such a fine and strong reputation – however perhaps the truth is that the respect is not there, the loyalty of the staff that remained and stood firm not warranted or perhaps even wanted, so perhaps then instead of wanting for what was but will not again be others should look to stepping out, to breaking away, to be true protestants and even dissenters perhaps and maybe now is the time for some to step out and open a truly wonderful fine and accessible Christian Bookshop of theological openess and breadth that is truly open to all – not just those as may visit the cathedral to gawp at it’s architecture – and reach into the heart of the city, the university, the place where people shop, meet and share floor space daily – go on someome do it, take an independent stance of faith!
    Open a place of worth and books, new and old, theological, spiritual and mayhap even evangelical or general, perhaps with a few cards and gifts, but most of all with a love of the subject and a belief in it’s worth and value – open a theological bookshop, a booksellers dream and a bookbuyers paradise, because lets face it the Cathedral is not now likely to be such a place sad as that statement may seem.

    I think this is the way forward because sad as it is the cathedral shop is never going to be what it was and it may well be that though one would hope and keeps hoping for things to get better for the dedicated staff this too may not be, things may have changed too much as sad and wrong as it may be and though one would think sanctuary should be found in a cathedral perhaps now sanctuary is to be found outside instead.

    Whatever – I am praying for a positive resolution for all involved indeed, may God open all eyes to see the way to truth, rightness, justice and mercy – to reach beyond the change and catalyst a growth and blossoming both inside hearts of stone and lives of people.

  7. Valiant for Truth

    Well said, Melanie, but one of the concerns in Durham at present is that there are two bookshops in the city, both of them Waterstones, and we all know that the future of Waterstones is in doubt. Durham City could be left with no bookshop. The Waterstones University Bookshop has never been a Christian bookseller, and, indeed, never was able, being part of a chain, to meet the needs of ministerial students, let alone the Church.

  8. Tha Dean and Chapter of Durham Cathedral have never cared about the staff of the bookshop and never will.

  9. Valiant for Truth

    Fifty years of trading as Durham Cathedral SPCK Bookshop, then the Dean and Chapter wanted Jarrolds to take over the shop, but not all of the staff, then the Brewers who were not challenged by anyone except Bloggers, now Cathedral run but with a threat of redundancies hanging about. Is the Church the People or the building?

  10. The Church is the building. It’s sad but true. Nothing much has changed since the time of the Prince Bishops.

  11. Valiant for Truth

    Speaking of buildings, I was given to understand that in the late 1990’s when the Bookshop was to be moved from the Undercroft, SPCK wanted to move into the space presently occupied by the Treasures but was told this was not possible. Suddenly it’s now not only possible but going to happen!

  12. And all that money that was spent on refurbishment of the Treasures .
    The people of Durham our proud of there Bookshop and Cathedral do they have a say?

  13. Valiant for Truth

    And all of that money that was spent on the refurbishment of the Great Kitchen – but of course much of that was SPCK’s money leaving quite a nice space presently occupied by the Bookshop and to be taken over for whatever. And do the people who put money in the collection plate every Sunday have a say also?

  14. Hi
    My dealings with Durham Cathedral go back many year’s and they were always an atrocious employer – they called me a liar to my face and I mean the clergy – the Chapter were worse!
    I remember speaking to an old woman who lived in Sherburn who told me that in the 1930’s she was going to be evicted by the chapter as her rent was late and the only thing that saved her going on the streets was a young Michael Ramsey who paid it out of his own pocket.
    They also owned many coal mines before nationalisation and they had the worst safety record in the country!
    So therfore I am not surprised at the treatment of the staff in the shop.
    Sacristan 1349

  15. So, what are you doing, dear Chapter and Dean?
    Does the cart pull the horsie – or am I being mean?
    And should finance drive doctrine? (Perhaps I`m naive)
    Do InBiz system/antics help people believe?
    Hail the new cargo cult built on sheer tourist tat!
    Putting books into (books)hops – what profit`s in that?
    Why sack humble workers or trample them down
    while we hear new big salaries are doing the rounds.
    Times were bad with those Brewers, who made people frown
    by inventing new contracts to shoot shopgirls down.
    So where`s Michael Ramsey`s concern for the poor?
    Oh! Flown out of the Window?
    What is Durham`s Cure?

  16. Pingback: News Roundup: Bridge Books, Exeter, for sale; Christian Resources, Leicester, on the move; Durham Cathedral (Book)shop downsizing?;and Living Oasis, Aberdeen, closing down « The Christian Bookshops Blog

  17. Pingback: News Roundup: Bridge Books, Exeter, for sale; Christian Resources, Leicester, on the move; Durham Cathedral (Book)shop downsizing?;and Living Oasis, Aberdeen, closing down « The Christian Bookshops Blog

  18. Valiant for Truth

    Thinking of all this “development” taking place, one, I suppose, should consult the stated “Development Plan” at http://www.durhamcathedral.co.uk/support/development or the longer statement at http://www.durhamcathedral.co.uk/pdf/development_plan.pdf
    Trouble is that when reading these on is reminded that the Cathedral is part of a World Heritage Site along with the Castle (University College, Durham) and there is a World Heritage Site Management Group and a paid Co-ordinator. One wonders how much the importance of maintaining heritage and serving the local community and visitors, conflicts with the mission of the Church, including a division of spending eg staff salaries or a new “feature”? There must be concern that the removal of the Friends Centre could jeopardise their valuable work in fundraising. After all, the Friends made a large financial contribution to the new Michael Ramsey Transfiguration window.

  19. Pingback: News Roundup: Bridge Books, Exeter, for sale; Christian Resources, Leicester, on the move; Durham Cathedral (Book)shop downsizing?;and Living Oasis, Aberdeen, closing down « The Christian Bookshops Blog

  20. Hi all — clearly a lot of anger and angst out there, and rightly so, but I do need to remind everyone to keep comments civil, please. We’ve already been through one hiatus with the Brewers issuing a Cease and Desist notice in an attempt to shut this blog down (see my 2009 report Cease and Desist: One Year On if you need a reminder) and I’d hate to have to go through that grief again with the D&C at Durham snapping at my ankles.

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  21. Valiant for Truth

    Just recalling that on 5th May 2010 we were all set for a grand re-opening of the Durham Cathedral Shop under its new management, then the said management pulled the plug on the event at the last minute with people wishing to attend being turned away in the Cloisters. Sort of sums it up, doesn’t it?

  22. Pingback: News Roundup: Bridge Books, Exeter, for sale; Christian Resources, Leicester, on the move; Durham Cathedral (Book)shop downsizing?; and Living Oasis, Aberdeen, closing down « The Christian Bookshops Blog

  23. Valiant for Truth

    Another Benedictine Day at Durham Cathedral to reflect its Benedictine heritage. I turned instead to “Doing Busines With Benedict” a book by Benedictines, lay and religious, described as “The Rule of Saint Benedict and Business Management”. Required reading. One quote of many which is appropriate to the current scenario. “Being a leader is a responsibility and this ‘inspires them (Abbots) to greater care of their own souls. By encouraging through their faithful ministry better standards for those in their care, they will develop higher ideals in their own lives’. (RB 2.39-40)” The writers also point out that “leaders are leading for the sake of service” and that the motto of the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst is “Serve to Lead”.

  24. Just been listening to “You and Yours” on Radio 4 – where they are now recommending that retailers ask the customers what they want.
    Alas, I suspect that those in control of the shop do not have a true understanding of the demographic, and greatly underestimate the discernment and needs of the local population and its churches.(including the stewards).
    Nor do they any longer provide a peaceful, well-stocked, theological bookshopfor the university. (An oasis to browse in).
    It looks as if only the third category of (predominantly seasonal) tourists is now being considered. And this, during a recession, is probably short-sighted – a putting of all the eggs into one basket. Are we to expect a great deal of expensive development and building only in order to attract what may well become an increasingly endangered species??

  25. Valiant for Truth

    Larry is so very right. On point three, much present work relates to the World Heritage Site and is being done in conjunction with the University. Ironic that today the University has announced its tuition fees will be £9K. Will students be impressed to see money being spent by the University on a new Visitor Centre, and equally, wouldn’t they appreciate good resources such as a bookshop, more than the gloss of heritage status?

  26. I offer up my thoughts and prayers for all those involved in this potentially very sad situation – most especially the staff that have undergone so much and yet maintained throughout, and for the leadership of those that effect such decisions as have impact on these lives.

  27. I’m with you Gramm.

  28. Valiant for Truth

    Keep wondering about the thought that the new shop in Durham Cathedral might be mainly gifts with the books flying out of the door. That would be so sad and so wrong. Durham is one of the cradles of Christianity and should give that message to locals and visitors alike because a Cathedral that does not want to promote the importance of the Word, but would rather have income, is not proclaiming the good news of the Gospel.

  29. Valiant for Truth

    Hear the staff have to work on 29th April – that speaks volumes. Mind you, they always have to work on Bank Holidays while the Chapter Office is closed.

  30. Valiant for Truth

    Any news about the Durham staff and whether a Tribunal will take place after the hearing before a Tribunal Judge a year ago now?

  31. Yes. What is the latest news on Durham?

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