The idea for the Christian Bookshop Mission came about after a group of local men, disappointed by a shortage of Christian literature in the island, decided to pool their resources and do something about it.
So in 1973, the Christian Bookshop Mission opened in a former butchers shop in the Central Market, a premises it still occupies today.
The shop is small, with every inch of space filled with stock, but the Management believe that the Market is where God wants them to be, rather than a building on the precinct where they perhaps wouldn't enjoy such a good relationship with the neighbouring shop and stall-holders.
|Staff member Rosemary Le Breton|
Being a Christian is a firm pre-requisite for working in the Bookshop Mission; for all the staff and volunteers working there entails far more than just selling books. At times they may find themselves praying with people who come into the shop or offering them words of advice and comfort.
The staff are aware that being both a 'Bookshop' and a 'Mission' gives them a special remit; for over 30 years their aim has been, and continues to be, to offer Christian help and guidance to anyone who asks.
Audrey Richardson is currently one of the Bookshop's Directors. She became involved in the mid-80s and hasn't looked back since. In the last twenty years she's seen quite a few changes.
Audrey told me that, despite what you might expect, not all of their customers are Christians. Some people simply pop-in for Christening or Sympathy cards or a present for a first Communion. Many others, she tells me, simply don't know they're there at all, whilst others get a surprise when they walk in and discover that it's a Christian rather than secular bookshop.
Looking around, the shop is compact and gives the impression of being a treasure-trove, stuffed full of surprises. The stock includes contemporary CDs by Christian musicians, jewellery, children's books, music books, gifts and a very impressive stock of literature on every aspect of life imaginable.
I was shown books for teenagers about the Christian view of sex and relationships, books about women from around the world who have been persecuted for their faith and a large range of fiction by Christian authors.
The bookshop management make a trip to Doncaster each year to a trade-fair to purchase their stock. They also keep in touch with local Ministers who tell them of the events being organised in the coming months so that they have titles available by visiting speakers. They're also often asked to order-in multiples of the same title for groups embarking on a course or study-programme.
It's easy to see that being part of the island's Christian Community is of vital importance to everyone involved with the Bookshop Mission. They're equally committed to supporting different denominations without being tied to any particular one.
Rosemary Le Breton, one of the staff members, told me that since she's been working in the shop, she's found herself buying more books so that she can offer customers a personal opinion on some of the titles on offer as well as feeding her own interests.
When I ask what the Missions most popular item is, Audrey tells me with a laugh and a smile that it's The Bible. "We probably sell one every day of the year," she says, "and it still surprises me that in an island of this size that we still manage it."