Tuesday, November 17, 2009

missional thinking about the high street

Last night I finished Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz. I really enjoyed it. It's a ramshackle, witty and well-written set of reflections on Christian spirituality. I recommend it.

I wouldn't have read it had by daughter, then working in our local Wesley Owen, not recommended it to me and ordered me a copy. I wonder how many of us are grateful to our local Christian bookshop for discovering new authors and encountering books that have had a shaping effect on our Christian lives.

Well, the news from Wesley Owen and its parent company is not good. The recession and other things are making life for them really difficult. Now, we've probably all contributed to this - we shop at Amazon, we don't read as many books as previous generations did (perhaps the publishers are partly to blame for this by not publishing what people want to read!).

But I wonder if this present trouble is an opportunity for fresh mission thinking and creative partnership between churches and the high street. After all, our neighbours are regularly on the high street and rarely in our buildings. The high street offers something they want. Analysts argue that shopping is a leisure activity and a source of 'spiritual' fulfilment in the absence of traditional organised religion. Missional thinkers have been rightly identifying consumerism as a rival god over recent years which makes the high street the place where we should be - as Paul was in amongst the idols of Athens - living and modelling a different form of spirituality to our neighbours.

And where better to do this than in a retail space that offers coffee, conversation, Internet access, books for browsing and buying, people to pray, space for groups to gather on a regular basis. The Christian bookshop could become a vital missional space with a bit of imagination on the part of church leaders and Christian retailers.

So are we up for this or will we all be lamenting the passing of the Christian presence on the high street the next time we gather at a conference to talk about how to do mission?


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this Simon, and for the link on your next post. It's a subject I keep banging on about (as in my post a while back, Christian Bookshops - who needs them?) and it's rather heartening to find someone else picking up the baton and running with it. To me it's as plain as day: we need a missional presence on our high streets — and that's really what Christian bookshops are, or should be, about.

Kercal said...

Me three :) But I'll leave the words of wisdom to that there Phil

eleanor watkins said...

I absolutely agree about the need for a Christian bookshop/coffee shop as a missional presence on the high street. For over 20 years I've been part of a small team of volunteers running such a place in the book mecca, Hay-on-Wye. We can only manage one day a week, but it has become a place for groups to meet for coffee, for people to come with burdens and prayer needs or just for company, for friendships and contacts to be made, and oh yes, we do sell books too, mostly secondhand and much cheaper than you'd get on Amazon. We do offer an internet service for out-of-print books etc. We've been under threat of closure more than once but so far have held our ground. We would dearly love a permanent bookshop/centre here, as visitors come by their thousands over the year and for the festivals. Anyone with vision/resources/time/energy to take on such a venture here would be welcomed with open arms! These places on high streets are a real beam of light in often dark places.

UKViewer said...

We have a Christian Bookshop and Cafe in our Local High Street, It is called the Ark. And a good place to go with helpful staff.

Erith, Kent.

Worth a mention if it brings them some custom

Anonymous said...

You've gone global, Simon: Christian Retailing > Missional Thinking about Christian Stores

maggi dawn said...

good post, simon!