Cathy Ramey, manager of the Anglican House in St. John, N.B., at the Anglican booksellers' meeting

Anglican booksellers fortify their ministry

Their churches are bookshelves and stock rooms. They preach about new theology books and vestments. Anglican booksellers aren’t your average ministers, but they reach out to hundreds of people who pass through their doors each week. From May 5 to 7, they met in Toronto, to bolster this ministry through education and fellowship.

Cathy Ramey, manager of the Anglican House in St. John, N.B., at the Anglican booksellers' meeting
Cathy Ramey, manager of the Anglican House in St. John, N.B., at the Anglican booksellers’ meeting

Part of their meeting was with religious suppliers, including Novalis, Broughton’s, and ABC Publishing, the national Anglican publisher, which was represented by Publishing Coordinator Janet Thomas.

Augsburg Fortress was also a major presence. The Lutheran publisher and retailer has become familiar to Canadian Anglicans since taking over the financially ailing Anglican Book Centre in 2007. Andy Seal, Canadian Director of Augsburg Fortress, organized this year’s booksellers’ conference.

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, the Primate, also dropped in for a chat. He affirmed the booksellers’ ministry to both the insiders (clergy, altar guilds) and those who drop in off the street. He also spoke about his recent trip to Chennai, India, for the Anglican-Lutheran International Conference.

Several booksellers piped up in response, saying that Anglican-Lutheran relations are now relevant to them since Augsburg took over the Anglican Book Centre. “It was life-giving when Augsburg came in last year,” said Sue Orgill, manager of the Church Bookroom in Kingston, Ont. “They’re a part of our life now.”

There were also challenges to share, including how online book retailers and megastores have hurt business for traditional booksellers. Several diocesan bookstores have closed because of this, including the Deanery bookstore in the Diocese of British Columbia, which closed in 2003. In April 2008 the Diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island decided to close its two bookstores, in Halifax and North Sydney, by the end of the year.

So booksellers look for ways to creatively sustain their ministry. Cathy Ramey, manager of the Anglican House in Saint John, N.B., explained that her store has recently partnered with fair trade retailer Ten Thousand Villages. They also run an adult education program.

“We try to diversify with partnerships,” Ms. Ramey said. “It’s good to get different people coming through the door, but it’s not a fast process, that’s for sure.”

Many of the booksellers feel their ministry is worth the long haul. Bev Parsons, manager of the Bookroom in Gander, Nfld., says her busy store is the only place in Gander to buy a Bible.

“The need is there and the service is there,” said Ms. Parsons. “As long as we get support from parishes, we will continue.”

These booksellers attended the conference:

  • Cathy Ramey, Anglican House, St. John, N.B. (Diocese of Fredericton)
  • Sue Orgill, Church Bookroom, Kingston, Ont. (Diocese of Ontario)
  • Lorraine Otto, Diocesan Book Room, Halifax, N.S. (Diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island)
  • Gail Brittain, Diocesan Resource Centre, St. John’s, Nfld. (Diocese of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador)
  • Bev Parsons, the Bookroom, Gander, Nfld. (Diocese of Central Newfoundland)
  • Brenda Hurley, Book Room, Corner Brook, Nfld. (Diocese of Western Newfoundland)
  • Lorraine Van Schaik, Anglican Book Centre, Toronto, Ont. (national book store)

Anglican book centres also operate in the dioceses of Brandon, Montreal, Ottawa, and Qu’Appelle.

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