Tag Archives: Christian Bookshops

Durham: Cathedral Shop Reopens

Phil Groom writes:

Given that Durham Cathedral’s web droids took down the last couple of notices about the bookshop, I did wonder if this would actually happen — but it did: the Durham Cathedral Shop has now officially reopened, as of Monday, March 1st 2010. In view of the propensity of Cathedral notices to vanish without notice, here’s a screenshot and a transcript:

Durham: The Cathedral Shop is now open - we value your support

The Cathedral Shop is now open - we value your support

The Cathedral Shop is now open – we value your support

Durham Cathedral’s shop reopened on 1st March 2010 in a temporary space just off the Cathedral Cloisters. It is now managed and staffed directly by the Cathedral and is a new venture.

The arrangements from 1st March are short term as the Cathedral looks to open a larger shop in due course. A feasibility study has just been commissioned by the Cathedral, Durham University and Durham City Vision, to determine best use of the assets on the Durham World Heritage Site. Provision of retail is part of this study and recommendations will be made regarding the best location for a permanent shop.

The shop stocks a selection of gifts, books and church supplies.

Fairtrade Fortnight 2010: The Big Swap

Fairtrade Fortnight 2010: The Big Swap

One hopes that having opened in the middle of Fairtrade Fortnight, said selection includes a good range of fairtrade products — and that the staff can expect a fairer deal from their big swap in employers.

Not sure when I’ll be up there next myself, so if anyone would like to provide a photo of the new shop, please, I’ll gladly post it here. At this stage, however, whilst I wholeheartedly applaud the shop’s reopening, I have to confess my congratulations are a tad muted as we wait to see what the “provision of retail” in the Cathedral finally proves to be…

Praying HandsFinally, for those who haven’t cottoned on yet (that’s fairtrade cotton, of course), please make a note of Friday March 26th in your diary: it’s been designated as a Day of Prayer for the Christian book trade — for the whole of the Christian retail trade — here in the UK. There are meetings planned all over the country: from as far afield as Motherwell up in North Lanarkshire to Battle down in East Sussex, from Belfast in the West to London in the South East. If you plan to take part, please feel free to leave a note on the Day of Prayer page saying where and when, and hopefully someone else will turn up to join you.

It’s also hoped that churches will catch the vision and pray with us and for us on Palm Sunday, March 28th: if you’re a churchgoer, please badger and bother your church leaders until they too catch the vision and flag it up in church magazines and online on church blogs, facebook pages, twitter streams and websites; because the simple fact is that we’re all in this together, churches and bookshops/retailers. They’re even beginning to catch on over in the USA…

J Mark Brewer, I salute you again – but still briefly

Phil Groom writes:

Yes, still briefly, but nonetheless, as I said last timecredit where it’s due: this time, at long last, to Pauline Edwards. In her own words:

I HAVE BEEN PAID,
A great big THANK YOU to Phil Groom, Asingleblog, and everybody else who has stood by me. The one good thing that has come out of this is, this is not just a blog, it has become like a family, and I am still standing by everyone else, who are still waiting for there wages. A big THANK YOU to this blog, without this blog, I never would of known of what was going on. Mr Brewer, I am a women of my word, and I will let Acas know I have been paid, and will drop the case. Mr Brewer can you pay all my fellow brothers and sisters as well?

I’d love to offer you a longer lasting sign of respect, Mark, but as Pauline herself points out there’s the question of all her “fellow brothers and sisters as well”. Phelim McIntyre poses much the same question:

Hurray! A small victory but a victory at least. Now what about all the other employees owed wages/holiday pay and goodness knows whatever else financially? What about all the suppliers owed money? What about the landlords who are owed rent? What about other bodies owed money? Any chance of Mr Brewer paying them?

Your call, Mark. Your opportunity to salvage something of your reputation and, perhaps, the reputation of Brewer and Pritchard, PC, which you’ve been taking down with you…

I’ve said this before but I think it bears repeating: there are three main things I’m looking for out of this fiasco:

  1. Payment for your workers
  2. Payment for your suppliers
  3. Withdrawal of your threats of legal action against Dave Walker, myself and the various other people to whom you’ve sent ‘Cease and Desist’ messages

Another thing I’d like to see, of course, would be for you to recognise that you and your brother, Philip, simply don’t have the appropriate business acumen or people skills to manage a chain of Christian Bookshops. Once you acknowledge that, the way is clear to start giving (yes, giving) the remaining shops and stock to people who do have the expertise needed.

And let’s face it, running a chain of Christian Bookshops was never really what you wanted, was it? You wanted to establish a series of outposts for your Orthodox mission movement: the bookshops and their staff never actually had a chance, did they?

Do me a favour, please, Mark: face up to the truth and make me redundant. Make this blog redundant. Make the poverty of your workers and suppliers history.

Finally, for now, a special note of appreciation and thanks to ‘a concerned party’ for letting us know that Pauline’s payment was on the way despite the trauma and nightmare of facing Hurricane Ike. May all who read this spare a moment to think of and/or pray for all those affected by that tragedy.

Brewer and Pritchard PC: The Things They Say

With Principal Partner J Mark Brewer having joined forces with his brother, Philip, to successfully decimate the former SPCK Bookshops in pursuit of their vision for Orthodox Mission, I thought it would be useful to reflect on what, exactly, this “Professional Corporation” from Houston, Texas, believes in.

A Google search for the company reveals some interesting snippets:

  1. Welcome to Brewer & Pritchard, P.C.

    Disclaimer: Please be advised that Brewer & Pritchard, P.C. has not agreed to represent you or render legal advice to you by virtue of your having visited 
    http://www.bplaw.com/ – 19k – Cached – Similar pages
  2. Welcome to Brewer & Pritchard, P.C.

    The attorneys at Brewer & Pritchard are aware that efficient staffing and direct accountability produce cost-effective results. Respect for clients’ budgets 
    http://www.bplaw.com/index.cfm?menuitemid=145 – 18k – Cached – Similar pages
    More results from www.bplaw.com »

The first, I have to say, came as an immense relief: knowing that Brewer & Pritchard had not agreed to offer me their services was the best news I’d come across for some considerable time, and I’d like to go on public record as thanking them for that. A considerable saving on outrageous legal fees, I believe…

The second: I truly didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Let’s run through that again: “The attorneys at Brewer & Pritchard are aware that efficient staffing and direct accountability produce cost-effective results. Respect for clients’ budgets…This, then, is no doubt the strategy that lies at the heart of the Brewers’ business practices here in the UK:

  • Efficient staffing
  • Direct accountability
  • Respect for clients’ budgets

Rather than comment directly myself on the subject of “efficient staffing”, I quote from Usdaw’s statement dated 24 June 2008:

Shopworkers’ union, Usdaw, has submitted 15 employment tribunal claims against the Brewers, US-based brothers who have taken over a chain of UK bookshops and were seeking to impose a new contract on staff, drastically reducing their contractual rights…

Following the change of ownership, a new contract was drawn up increasing the working week from 37.5 to 40 hours with no additional pay, turning all part-time staff into casual staff with no guaranteed hours every week and taking away all rights to company sick pay.

Now, virtually all Usdaw members have been dismissed with no notice, some by email, and have received little or no information about what this means for their rights and their pay.

Er, yes… efficient staffing indeed.

On the topic of “direct accountability”, it’s equally encouraging to know that Philip Brewer holds himself directly accountable for the activities of his branch management team and likes to send them jolly memos to build up their confidence as they serve the company. His most recent memo that we know of was, of course, reported here earlier this week, Philip Brewer says, “Immediately post this…”, and an earlier one was kindly shared with us by Ruth Gledhill in May last year.

Then there’s the little question of “Respect for clients’ budgets…” — one might hope that would, perhaps, include such things as not charging your clients the kind of fees that bring them to the point where you yourself declare them bankrupt. But I suppose that’s OK if you’re on the Board of your client’s company: then it’s just an innocent little internal transfer, isn’t it? Mark, we know you’re an expert on all things legal: could you outline the USA legal position on this for us please? Here in the UK the word “fraud” comes to mind, and I’m sure that couldn’t possibly be right…

So let’s continue to take what encouragement we can from the knowledge that Brewer and Pritchard PC have not agreed to render us their legal services: thank you, gentlemen.

Finally, let’s make it very, very clear that the Brewer approach to Orthodox Mission and bookshop management is most definitely NOT representative of the wider Orthodox community. In particular, Steve, at Khanya Blog, has made a point of distancing himself from the Brewers’ disreputable behaviour:

Avoiding mistakes in mission is especially well worth reading, articulating an intelligent strategy on how a more orthodox Orthodox group might have gone about establishing themselves here in the UK via a chain of Christian bookshops. Steve, should you ever wish to pursue this further, I for one would welcome your involvement in the UK Christian bookselling scene… I believe there’s a Cathedral Bookshop somewhere in northern England which needs of someone sensible to run it…
– Phil Groom

Sunday Sermon

Being Sunday, I figured we needed a sermon. Except it isn’t really a sermon: it’s the article I wrote for the August issue of Christian Marketplace magazine, but it was pulled at the last minute when Mark Brewer sent his friendly request to ‘Cease and Desist’. So for anyone who’s wondering why there’s no magazine contribution from me this month, now you know. Essentially the article is an introduction to this blog, written before Dave Walker’s situation blew up…


Another Christian Bookshop Blog

June this year saw the launch of another Christian bookshop blog: “SPCK/SSG: News, Notes & Info”. In the ideal world it’s a blog that should never have been necessary, but in the real world it should have been born much earlier. You’ll find it at spckssg.wordpress.com but be warned: in the words of Neil Denham, an ex-Exeter SPCK employee, “some of the commenters are very bitter and it does not make very happy reading!” (exeterblog.blogspot.com).

Alongside the bitterness you’ll find anger, a sense of betrayal, confusion and – perhaps most of all – grief: in short, the legacy left to the UK Christian book trade by Mark Brewer and his St Stephen the Great Trust. Mark Brewer himself (or, since we cannot be entirely certain of identities online, someone posting under his name [1]) has generously taken time out of his busy schedule to respond to the concerns of his customers, ex-employees and suppliers, offering the following pithy observations, both posted on July 6th, the eve of Steve Jeyne’s memorial service (reported on elsewhere):

In response to my call for a boycott of the SSG shops, Brewer writes, “What a great idea! Boycott! How very Christian of you” and, in response to the post “SSG tribunal claims mount”, he writes, “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?”

With respect to boycotting the SSG bookshops, my feeling is that a mere boycott is not Christian enough: Christianity is about following Jesus and the Jesus I read about in the Gospels had no qualms when it came to driving out unscrupulous traders from the temple. Jesus’ comment about turning a house of prayer into a den of thieves seems apposite in view of the Brewers’ record of unpaid employees and suppliers: I remain astonished that Durham Cathedral in particular continues to allow them – in whatever guise they now use – to trade from their premises.

With respect to SSG’s liquidation, a number of people have replied but this, from ‘Pax Vobiscum’, perhaps expresses best how many affected by the situation 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.

As well as updates on the ongoing situation the blog includes what should become a comprehensive index of news reports, blog posts and other related articles which should prove useful to journalists and other researchers.

If you are amongst those affected – whether as a concerned customer, an
(ex-)employee, a supplier or in any other way – please do take time to visit and join in the discussions: it’s an open forum which, I very much hope, will not only provide a catharsis but also help us find a way forward…

Phil Groom, Friday, July 11, 2008
679 words.

Phil Groom is webmaster and reviews editor of the UK Christian Bookshops Directory, a free online guide to the UK’s Christian Bookshops. Unless otherwise stated the opinions expressed here are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Marketplace or its publishers.


Re-reading that, I honestly can’t see why it had to pulled, especially with such a very clear disclaimer on the end. There’s nothing there that goes beyond perfectly legitimate reporting and fair comment. What do you think?
Please note that no criticism of Clem Jackson is implied in this observation.

Notes
1. See: SSG/SPCK – Will the real Mark Brewer please stand up? Metacatholic, 17/07/2008 and The Mark Brewer Saga: weirder than you think, MetaCatholic, 03/08/2008. My parenthesised comment is part of the original article as written and submitted to Christian Marketplace on 11/07/2008.