‘Bought for the Town - Serving the Community’ is a mission statement fully lived out in Mansfield, as Steve Briars relates.
Twelve miles north of Nottingham is the town of Mansfield which has undergone huge economic and social transformation over the past thirty years. Historically Mansfield was at the heart of thriving textile and coalmining industries which have now almost completely gone. Despite all the changes Mansfield is known for its sense of community and at the heart of this is Mansfield Christian Book Centre.
The Book Centre first opened in 1972 and was later demolished to make way for the building of the town’s ring-road. It reopened again in its present location in Newgate Lane in the autumn of 1979 and underwent an extensive refurbishment in 1983. The building was purchased in 1986 for £10,000.
“Bought for the Town – Serving the Community” is the mission statement of the Centre; their aim is to serve the whole community in Mansfield not only Christians. Over the years their ministry has extended outside the shop under the banner of the “Mansfield Outreach Venture in Evangelism” (MOVE). It is also a ministry praying for the town, its shops, its regeneration, council officials, businesses, churches and schools as well as the needs of the people and community of Mansfield.
In 1981, under the MOVE initiative, they pioneered schools work in the town. Today this is an independent charity, Christ in Schools, which has its offices on the first floor of the Book Centre. More recent initiatives under the MOVE project are ‘The Listening Point’ and ‘Prayer Patrol’.
‘The Listening Point’ which started in 2010 was the initiative of two of the Book Centre trustees, Rob & Pam Townsley. The idea was to take the bookshop to the centre of the town, in the marketplace performance area, using a market stall gazebo and making available everything from children’s books to Bibles as well as free literature. As the name suggests, ‘Listening Point’, is far more than a mini bookstall; it is a place for listening to people’s problems and anxieties, praying with them for both physical and emotional needs from which they have seen many answers to prayer.
‘Prayer Patrol’ was started in 2006 and was incorporated into MOVE in 2011, being similar to Street Pastors or Street Angels. Its aim is to have a visible Christian presence in Mansfield town centre to help see a reduction in crime through prayer and conversation with those out enjoying themselves on a Friday night.
A pioneering spirit
Throughout the history of Mansfield Christian Book Centre there has always been a pioneering spirit. One of its initiatives was the launching of a mobile bookshop servicing some 64 book agents and churches across the Midlands. Despite every effort it proved to be financially unsustainable and after four years it ceased. They also established a Christian bookshop in Dewsbury, ‘The Branch’, which they ran for four years before it became independently owned. In 1990 the Mansfield shop became part of the Valley Books Trust before returning to independent status in 1997 under its original trading name with a new group of trustees.
Today the shop aims to serve all the Mansfield churches and wider community ensuring its stock is not biased to a particular type of theology or denomination. It stocks a wide range of books, Bibles, cards, gifts, CDs, and DVDs and also a comprehensive choice of teaching materials and church resources. A thriving part of the shop is the previously-
owned book section which encourages footfall and also contributes to the turnover of the business. There is a small coffee bar available for a limited range of confectionery and drinks.
The shop is open six days a week between 9.30 am – 5.30 pm with one paid part-time member of staff, Jackie Stevens, who has worked in the shop since 1973 becoming the manager in 1990. She has retired three times and was recalled back again three years ago to see them through some difficult times. There are three other volunteers and six trustees who are enthusiastically involved in the running and management of the shop.
The bookshop is an active member of Mansfield Churches Together co-operating with, and taking part in, the majority of its outreach witness events like Easter and Christmas and fun days supporting the homeless and Christian charities which reach out to the lost and vulnerable in Mansfield.
Like many other Christian bookshops they have not found trading easy over the last 2-3 years with competition coming from online shopping, a service they are looking to offer to their customers in the near future. However the Lord has provided for their running costs through some very generous gifts from the least likely source in answer to prayer.
Two people that we should pay tribute to are Michael & Jackie Stevens who have been at the heart of Mansfield Christian Book Centre from the beginning and have an amazing heart and love to serve the people and churches of Mansfield.
April 16th, 2015 - Posted & Written by Together Magazine