A Letter to Mark Brewer

A few days ago — on the eve of Steve Jeyne’s memorial service — Mark Brewer wrote:

Now that SSG is in liquidation, you and your most of your readers must be elated . . . except whatever will you find to write about and who will you now slander?

Several people have responded. But this response from Pax Vobiscum perhaps sums up most effectively how most of us feel:

Dear Mark Brewer

The 600+ people who filled Worcester Cathedral on Monday for the Thanksgiving Service following the funeral of Steve Jeynes were not elated. They wanted to give thanks for a wonderful life of Christian witness, for a dedicated Christian Bookseller who had brought many to faith and for a husband, father, friend who meant so much to them. They were shocked, saddened, angry, but they were not elated.

The 100+ Christian Booksellers around the country who have had their careers, their ministries thrown in the gutter over the past year are not elated. They are upset, angry, struggling to rebuild their lives.

The myriad suppliers, who have not been paid are not elated. They are downhearted, some made financially unstable, others have lost an integral outlet for their goods.

The Christian communities which relied on their SPCK Bookshop as a resource centre for their mission and spiritual growth are not elated. Some, like Worcester, feel that one of their vital organs has been ripped out and stomped upon.

What has happened to the SPCK/SSG Bookshops over the last 18 months has caused so much needless hurt, so much pain, so much impoverishment of certain areas of the Christian faith in the UK that it is impossible to feel elation over the ‘bankruptcy’ of SSG. Only relief that this whole sorry episode is drawing to a close.

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20 responses to “A Letter to Mark Brewer

  1. Thank you Pax –this about sums everything up on behalf of all of us present and past employees just how we all feel. This needed saying and I couldn’t have improved on what you have written

  2. Phelim McIntyre

    Well said Pax! As someone who has spoken with people around the country who have been so badly treated, both ex-Bookshop staff and suppliers, as well as ex-customers you have caught the way we all feel.

    Hopefully some phoenixes will rise from the ashes of what was SPCK Bookshops, and any way those of us who have got back on our feet can help those still recovering we will do so.

  3. justflyingkites

    Thank you Pax. And to think that the Brewer’s once used to talk about ministry!

  4. I totally agree Pax.
    Mr Brewer, your comment speaks volumes……..
    Out of interest, in what way do you think you have been “slandered”?

  5. justflyingkites

    Me, I didn’t know where to post this. Your comments about UK law and the Brewers are quite devastating. They seem to expose the hierarchy at Chichester and Durham. Can anything be made of the fact that goods were moved from Norwhich to Chichester and from Canterbury to Durham prior to the liquidation of SSGLLC?

  6. Justflyingkites,

    I too am frequently sorry that the law is blind and can quite understand your upset.

    It is not my intention to ‘expose the hierarchy at Chichester & Durham’ – they may well be in action that we do not know about (as it would seem, according to Phelim, are so many others! Though this argument only holds for so long before it begins to be implausible – an accurate statement of exactly what one is in contention about can generally be given at a certain point in any legal proceeding).
    Indeed they may not have been formally approached or consulted by the Brewers!
    It is easy to assume that because we are aware of a situation others must also be – however sometimes because it is assumed people will know they are not told – or everyone assumes someone else will have told them and so problems may occur.
    I would always recommend writing and or contacting someone in the first instance to ensure they are initially aware of the problem and or concern -even if you think they will have been already informed or should have made measure to know.

    This aside in relation to your question as to the movement of goods prior to liquidation I refer you to these previous postings:

    https://spckssg.wordpress.com/2008/07/04/from-bankruptcy-to-liquidation/#comment-92

    &

    https://spckssg.wordpress.com/2008/07/04/from-bankruptcy-to-liquidation/#comment-91

    Also if you suspect that an act of fraud may have been committed within this country then you can also contact your local police force and ask to speak to their Economic Crime Unit or Fraud Squad about your concerns.

    However it needs again to be stated that there may not have been a fraudulent transfer or any other act of fraud as there may be perfectly legal and mitigating circumstances we are not aware of that allow the transfers you make reference to!

  7. Valiant for Truth

    A succinct and accurate report on the SPCK/SSG story appears in the current issue of “Private Eye” (11-24 July), so more people will be in the know.

  8. Phelim McIntyre

    Well done Private Eye!

    Me – as to Chichester and Durham, my point is silence does not mean that nothing is happening. I know some of what is going on with ex-employees, and suppliers on the legal front. They are not speaking out because they have been advised not to seapk out as it will affect their standing in court. Durham and Chcihester may be doing the same, but in Chichester’s case I doubt it. When the STL thing fell through many other shops were contacted by their diocese and/or their bishop. Chichester said nothing. Even over the plans of Mark Brewer to turn Chichester shop (which is still a sacred building owned by the diocese) into an Orthodox place of worship, nothing seems to have been done other than an “oh dear – he can’t do that”.

  9. Phelim McIntyre

    Have just read the Private Eye article (under the books and bookworm column). Nothing new to many of us but hopefully this will bring it to the attention of a wide audience – shame Radio 4’s New Quiz and Have I Got News For You aren’t on.

  10. Being legalistic here, alledging fraud by individuals/companies without clear evidence is very probably slanderous/libellous and any action would be taken against the owner of the blog & the commenter.

  11. That’s life, Jim: full of doubtful probabilities. No one is alleging fraud anyway: we’re simply asking the questions and discussing the possibility; and as far as I know freedom of speech has yet to be outlawed here in the UK.

  12. Lots of thanks for keeping this in the public arena. It’s not a time for anyone to be complacent and I find it sad that many more of the church community and hierarchy did not raise their voices before now. At least on these web-sites their is room to comment and question.

  13. Just read through a load of SPCK/SSG history. I was reminded through my reading and then listening to Mark Brewer’s radio interview, that the bookshops seemed to have fallen into the laps of Mark, Phil and Sandra. Seems that they were going to run an orthodox outfit in the same way one runs a pizza chain. I watched their Youtube movie and read the comments. One of the earlier ones struck me. It said something like, “let’s use this business…”

    I think that the Brewers were never really interested in the bookshops other than that they would help finance buying up redundant churches and forward the aims of orthodoxy as seen by the Brewers.

    In their movie the Brewers pointed to the Gateshead Church. They were pretty sure they were going to get it. In fact they have earmarked 52 churhes. Well it seems they can cross the Gateshead church off the list. The Chronicle Echo (free Gateshead paper) says that it is going to be turned into a stained glass window museum.

  14. Asingleblog,the reason the Brewer Brothers were never going to get there hands on the St Cuthbert Church , would be the powers that be new of there unchristian behaviour.

  15. Jim,
    Thank you for your comment but no one has actually alleged fraud – In most instances a point has been made to state quite clearly that no wrong doing may have been done as there are circumstances to which we are not priviliged.
    Certainly questions have been asked, and information given, but in most cases it has been quite clearly stated that the legal authorities cited – namely the US Judiciary Courts – state that if someone has concerns or suspicions of wrongdoing they should report it.
    ‘If you have information about an individual or company you SUSPECT is not complying with federal bankruptcy laws, report this activity.
    ‘http://www.uscourts.gov/contact.html
    This is passing on public domain information as provided by the courts of the USA and/or the UK.

  16. Thanks ‘me’ & phil for clarifying.

  17. Justice, I guess you’re right. I’ve heard the Brewers called a number of names. The last one was, “a bunch of crooks”. Please Jim, note the inverted commas. Maybe I should add “allegedly” like that Heslop guy from Private Eye who also does “Have I Got News for You”.

  18. Phelim I feel sad for the people who are currently working in the Chichester shop. They really do need the support of the Diocesan authorities. Since SSGLLC went into liquidation, none of the suppliers want much to do with SSG in any form. Both Chichester and Durham will struggle to keep the shelves stocked and the Brewers will turn on the staff in those shops and blame them. This is not just a guess – it is the way they work.

    Nobody knows the details of lease agreements when it comes to Durham. All I can say is that the Cathedral family are aware of what is happening in the shop. It doesn’t take rocket science. All a Cathedral steward need do is take a walk through the door, look at the shelves and then sympathise with staff. At least at Durham there is some support. I’m not saying that this has always been true for all staff – all we can hope for is that there is some movement behind the scenes.

  19. Phelim McIntyre

    Veritas – I agree. Chichester has received the stock from Norwich and either Bristol or Bradford. But this will be outdated soon, if it isn’t already, due to ENC/Chichester/Durham being blacklisted by suppliers. As for the people working in Chichester – make that person. Someone is there on their own five days a week, as far as I am aware without lunch cover. Sound familiar? Some one is going in one day a weeek to give them a day off. I think a couple of people are also going in part time a few days a week, but generally it is one man in the shop.

  20. Pingback: Sunday Sermon « SPCK/SSG: News, Notes & Info

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