After so much bad news dominating the Christian Book Trade recently, it is wonderful to be able to post a piece of Good News – all about the Good News!
In this case, the Good News Centre – a registered charity and a rural Christian bookshop and coffeehouse – located on the borders of Gloucestershire and Herefordshire. Along with a number of other Christian outlets in the UK, this shop opened 30 years ago – on Saturday 22nd March 1980.
How do I know this? Well, because I was there 30 years ago. We were invited by the then Trustees to be the managers of the Centre – a brave act of faith on their part and, in my view, with that kind of start, a miracle it’s still functioning today! I learnt my trade of bookselling there. I’d done a bit in retail beforehand but I was so pleased to be asked to go and sell Christian books for a living.
In those early days, I was helped enormously by a monthly trip to Bristol to be mentored by Alan Maynard at the then ECL Bookshop in Park Street, Bristol – a shop founded by George Muller of Mullers Homes and another shop that had operated on faith principles (as with the GNC in those early days).
30 years later, both the GNC and I are still going – both a bit frayed around the edges – but still selling Christian material. It’s a privilege that I’ve never taken lightly. If I hadn’t been given that kick start in Newent, I’m not sure that I’d have had the right foundation to go on and do other things – so thank you, GNC!
Like most Christian retail initiatives, this one grew out of the vision of a number of key individuals to see their local town impacted beyond the walls of their local churches; to connect with the shopper and be visible on the High Street.
The history of this shop goes back to the mid 1970’s when a Christmas temporary shop opened in the town. The success of that venture led to other temporary sites and then in 1977, the Parish Rooms in Newent came on the market – and the rest, as they say, is His Story.
God moved powerfully through various people to ensure that the shop was established in the town. The story of the years leading up to the opening is quite compelling and if you are interested, a small booklet is now available.
The Parish Rooms are a Newent landmark. This black and white oak timber-framed building was built in the 16th century and was extended in both the 18th and the 20th centuries. The Centre features a Bookshop with two sales floors, the Coffeehouse, an office, a large car park and two maisonettes.
I managed the Good News Centre from 1980 to 1985. Over the following 25 years, the Centre has had three truly excellent managers – Heather Morgan (now with Care for the Family) from 1985 – 1989, Tim Lewis (now Chairman of Trustees); 1989 – 1990 and Peter Wathen; from 1990 – 2008 (Pete still has the distinction of being the longest serving GNC employee). Since then, the Centre has been managed by a small team led by Donna Clark.
We were invited back for the celebrations on Saturday. I was delighted to see the Centre functioning so well. These are difficult days for the Christian book trade but the GNC has always seemed able to buck the trend.
May the Good News Centre long prosper and remain as a witness to Newent and the surrounding area.
For more information, go to www.goodnewscentre.com and for the ‘Good News Centre Story’ (priced at £1.50 + p&p) apply to the Good News Centre, High Street, Newent, Glos, GL18 1AN or telephone 01531 821 456.