So one of my favorite small independent bookstores is going out of business. It's a small-town bookstore, and I thought they had a lovely ambience and a great selection of different genres of books. In the back was a children's book section with a mini log cabin and a display of all of Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House" books. (This town is not far from the site of "Little House in the Big Woods.")
Still, the bookstore is in a small town, and small town economies are in tough shape. It's in the historic downtown, where businesses are leaving (there's a thriving new area with several chain stores along the highway). We all know that the bookstore business is in decline.
So I'm walking down the straight and I notice that there is not just this one bookstore in town. There's also a Christian Bookstore. And it's not going out of business, as far as I can tell.
Now I can't tell you if this bookstore is doing well or not; all I know is that's it's not going out of business. I can also say that even though I call this a "Christian Bookstore", it's probably more appropriate to call it a Christian book, card and gift shop. And of course, it features a modest selection of Bibles (though not the translation I use most), and some devotional books.
Though I suppose it's not fair as I have not been inside, this bookstore does seem familiar to me, as I have been in a number of Christian bookstore in my life, starting at about the time when I was having my flirtation with the evangelical and charismatic movements. I started out liking them, but soon began fantasizing about opening my own bookstore, because I wanted a more diverse selection of spiritual books, to match the diversity of my own spiritual journey.
So for many years in the back of mind I've had this "impossible dream" about a Christian bookstore, but also I couldn't help noticing that all of the other Christian bookstores I had ever been in were sort of -- um -- alike (except for one, in Minneapolis, called St. Martin's Table. Good food and a wonderful selection of books. Unfortunately, St. Martin's Table closed last year.)
I couldn't help noticing (and still can help noticing) that, for example, the Christian bookstore I most enjoy right now is located in our local Lutheran seminary, where almost none of the people in my congregation would ever go, and the local evangelical (southern Baptist, actually, though they don't tell you) bookstore is about six blocks away from where I live. There are wonderful resources that I want the people in my congregation to know about, but some of them they can't find in any bookstore. Because the bookstore six blocks away won't carry these wonderful resources (not all of them Lutheran, by the way). I will also say that the fact that my favorite bookstore is located in a seminary might give you the impression that these are, for the most part, books for scholars, and not for lay people, and in that, you would not be totally mistaken.
I'm pretty convinced that I won't be starting that "alternative Christian bookstore", but I would love to figure out a way to get more visibility for resources that are accessible, theologically sound, compelling and well-written. Could churches host little satellite bookstores, or perhaps have suggested resources and links on their websites?
What do you think?