Archive for March, 2010

Christian Book trade – 30th Anniversary; Good News Centre, Newent

March 22, 2010 10 comments

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 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.


Review – The End of Christianity; William A. Dembski

March 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Dr William Dembski, described as a gifted Christian thinker, is a mathematician and philosopher and a well known champion of Intelligent Design (ID).  He’s author of a dozen plus books and has been cited in both Time magazine and the New York Times.

This book is an intellectual tour-de-force of Christian apologetics. It attempts to counter the recent rash of neo-atheism books, headlined by the likes of Richard Dawkins. Dembski is ‘pleased that Christianity is once again a live issue’ and the cover blurb describes the book as ‘provocative’.  For me, in places, it was simply impenetrable!

It tackles the age-old question – termed theodicy (the problem of a perfect God in an imperfect world) – with which all of us struggle; ‘how can a good God and an evil world co-exist’?

The book attempts to deal with the ever-perplexing problem of the existence of evil and to offer new insights into God’s purposes in allowing evil.

Dembski tries to reach an understanding of what the ‘end (result) of Christianity’ really means, hence the title. He tries to change our thinking so that we see God’s goodness in creation despite the distortion of sin and evil.

Augustine had said, ‘God judged it better to bring good out of evil than not to permit any evil to exist’. The book argues that ‘God would be unjust if he didn’t subject the world to natural evil so that it reflects the evil in human hearts resulting from the fall’. It is therefore ‘painful to accept that God bears at least some responsibility for natural evil and that he brings it about in response to human sin’.

Here are the big questions; is human sin responsible for natural evil? Is the fall responsible for famine, floods and earthquakes? Does creation predate the fall and by how long? If so, how old is the earth and how do we understand and interpret the early chapters of Genesis? Does science now trump the traditional young-earth, creationist view of Genesis?

Dembski resolutely defends the claim that all evil is ultimately traceable to human sin at the fall.  It is this that is the cause of all evil, not God; ‘The essence of evil is the rebellion of the creature’, an action of created free will.

Along with other Christian thinkers, Dembski asserts that the main reason why people reject God is that they cannot believe that He is good.  He states that the key mark of faith is an ability to discern God’s goodness in the face of extreme evil.

Phew – I struggled big-time with this book. I found it difficult, fascinating, challenging and stretching. I’m far from qualified to comment on the arguments and around chapter 13, I just got hopelessly lost!

Why does God allow evil? I’m afraid I still don’t know. To me it remains a troubling and disturbing mystery.

The End of Christianity – Finding a Good God in an Evil World

William A. Dembski

2009     238pp

Paternoster / Authentic Media

ISBN 978-0-8054-2743-1

Note – This book was provided FOC by Clem Jackson, Editor of Christian Marketplace magazine for the purpose of writing this review. Further details can be found at You can download a free copy of the digital version of the magazine from the website.

Photography – Cunard’s Queen Mary 2; off Monte Carlo, Monaco

March 17, 2010 3 comments

Meditation – some words from Psalm 94

March 16, 2010 Leave a comment

PSALM 94:12-19 (part NIV, part Message)

The words below were read in Church last Sunday.

I have been meditating on them since – they are quietly stunning.

‘Blessed is the person you discipline O Lord

the person you teach from your law

You provide a circle of quiet within the clamour of evil

For the Lord will not reject his people

He will never forsake His inheritance

… when I said, my foot is slipping

your love O Lord supported me

When anxiety was great within me

your consolation brought joy to my soul

.. the Lord has become my fortress

And my God the rock in whom I take refuge’.


Photography – The Grand Canal, Venice, Italy

March 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Review – Waverley Abbey Insight Series; CWR

March 11, 2010 2 comments

This is not really a review, more a bit of PR!  However, this really is a great series and is already building into the classic Pastoral Care and Counselling library.

The Waverley Abbey Insight series is based on the popular one day seminars held by CWR at Waverley Abbey House, near Farnham in Surrey. These hardback titles cover many of the key issues that so many people struggle with on an every day basis.

Insight topics covered so far include – Stress, Bereavement, Self-Esteem, Eating Disorders, Anxiety, Anger, Addictions, Perfectionism, Forgiveness, Depression and Assertiveness.

Insight into Dementia will be added to this list in July.

For more details log onto or visit your local Christian bookshop.

Photography – Pilgrim Causeway; Holy Island, Northumbria

March 10, 2010 3 comments

Review – Finding Sanctuary; Abbot Christopher Jamison

This has become one of my favourite books. I just love the way that Christian monks, seemingly shut away from contemporary society, can be so engagingly relevant for today.

A few years ago, 3 million viewers to BBC TV’s The Monastery watched  and listened to Abbot Christopher Jamison’s engaging approach to life and faith. This wisdom is further underlined here in this absorbing book of the seven Benedictine ‘steps’.

The section ‘How did I get this busy?’ alone makes the book worth reading. This penetrating insight into our consumerist lifestyles shows that someone who has dedicated his life to pray and meditate is able to comment far more compellingly than those of us caught up in the frenetic scramble of life.

This beautifully produced hardback book – it’s a delight to handle – is sprinkled with website links, and lists many other interesting titles.  Read it slowly; the writing is perceptive and full of spiritual truth. It deals with disciplines with which evangelical Christians can be sadly neglectful.

Note – a paperback edition is also available (but doesn’t feel quite the same!).

FINDING SANCTUARY: Monastic Steps for Everyday Life

Abbot Christopher Jamison

Weidenfeld and Nicholson

ISBN: 0 297 85132  2

182pp :  2006:  Hardback

Photography – Boat in Argostoli Bay; Kephalonia, Greece

Review – The Sixty Minute Family; Rob Parsons

Rob Parsons is the consummate, inspirational communicator.  His books – read easily in 60 minutes – have always managed to stir my emotions through their witty and engaging anecdotes. His writing appeals to so many due to Rob’s warmth and honesty.

This latest title fairly zips through the various aspects of family life. Its value lies in the sheer breadth of material covering early parenting through to the ‘sandwich generation’ – when the roles of children and their parents reverse. 

Rob states that the most important priority for the family is ‘time’ and that it is this and ‘affirmation’ that actually make families work. Hopefully, my family won’t be holding up my score cards at this point – not sure I’d do that well.

The chapter ‘To learn to love in January’ is particularly helpful. It sensitively covers the acceptance of difficult relationship outcomes and of family breakdown.  Rob is especially forthright as he deals with ‘the ability of the affair to decimate families’. 

The ‘end of chapter’ action points are useful and allow for a careful reflection of the issues raised. Overall, this is vintage Parsons.


Rob Parsons

2010     121pp

Lion Hudson plc

ISBN 978-0-7459-5383-0

Note – This book was provided FOC by Clem Jackson, Editor of Christian Marketplace magazine for the purpose of writing this review. Further details can be found at You can download a free copy of the digital version of the magazine from the website.

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