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15 February 2008

SPCK Bookshops

Mum phoned today to let me know that the Christian Bookshop I used to work for in Canterbury is closing at the end of this month. Did a bit of web digging and found a really sorry tale that I will briefly share with you here.

The SPCK (Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge) passed ownership of its bookshops to the SSG (Society of St Stephen the Great) back in October 2006. The SSG is a US-based Orthodox charity, St Stephen the Great (SSG), which is run by the Brewer brothers from Texas.

It appears that since they were taken over, various conditions have been imposed on staff including really tight restrictions on what can and can't be sold, and new contracts were attempted to be forced on staff with unreasonable terms and conditions. Now it seems that those who dared to question the new conditions, have been sacked. Many stores across the UK are being closed and staff sacked - by email - because of their reluctance to these unnecessary and possibly even unethical changes.

Came across a blog run by the cartoonist of the Church Times who has had a wealth of info on this sad demise of the SPCK Bookshops. Check out the SPCK specific entries here. The Church Times itself printed the official statement from SSG that says Canterbury and Cambridge stores are going to be re-opened after a refit and restock - presumably of heavily Orthodox material. However, the sign pictured below doesn't give this impression.

What makes this sadder, is that there used to be 2 Christian Book etc Retailers in Canterbury - SPCK and CLC (Christian Literature Crusader). There is a small shop attached to the St Thomas Roman Catholic Shop (good but small) and a shop at the Cathedral Exit (not a huge emphasis on Christian Mission retail - just various gimmicky stuff). Apart from them - thats it. Now a few years back the CLC had to move from its City Centre location to a unit just on the outskirts of the City walls. Why? Because their rent was to high. Nothing unusual except that they were in a building owned by the Dean & Chapter of Canterbury Cathedral. Now they are off the beaten track.

SPCK were a bit further down the town but were still very busy and popular with Theology Students from the local University and also with lots of local Churches. They not only had a large selection of Christian Books, but also music, candles, resources, stationery, gifts and a great Second Hand room. Now this is being lost. I know a lot of people shop online for stuff but there is something special about chatting with a Christian in a Christian Bookshop while buying Christian resources. I don't think there's much that can be done to stop the sad demise of SPCK, but judging by the comments on the blog mentioned above, they are not going down without a fight.

All I can do is use technology as I'm doing now (amongst many other emails), and offer prayers for the staff who have been treated so appallingly. May God bless and use and protect them all.


John1954Moi said...

Hopefully it won't affect the SPCK shop we use in Lincoln too much. John.

caldjr said...

Seems to be happening across the board John. The staff are being forced into signing new contracts which contravene so many laws its untrue but sadly - is true. Bottom line - don't sign ... don't have a job tomorrow.

Really sad to see