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Ottawa Church Tests a New Christian Bookstore Paradigm

Imagine a store where everything is on a donation basis. Now imagine a mix of used and new products. Now add to that Bibles, not just economy Bibles, but a focus on high-end, high-quality Bibles. Is such a store viable?

The Upper Room at Calvary Ottawa is an initiative of Calvary Fellowship, part of the Calvary Chapel family of churches. In an interview with Spur Ottawa, pastor Andy Falleur explained the vision:

There was nowhere in Ottawa to buy a Bible other than Chapters… There is nowhere you can go where there are Christians. I don’t think it should be like that… We see people from all kinds of different denominations and we get the crossover. That is an important space. It is good and healthy for the Christian community, as a whole. The other thing is that churches are always closed. We need places that are open where you can get resources and where someone is going to pray for you.

Spur Ottawa also spoke to the church administrator, Sharon Weir:

We decided to go with Bibles that are premium, not Bibles you would buy off Amazon… Whether you are looking for the 1611 version of the King James Bible or a preaching version of the Christian Standard Bible, the Upper Room has you covered. I don’t know of a translation we do not currently have. We try to have a $10 all the way up to a $300 version of every translation.

Full disclosure: Steve and Sharon Weir worked with me at Searchlight Lindsay, and Steve helped us find our location there. They spoke with me about three years ago about this vision, and always at the centre of it was Bibles.

But how do you sell a $300 Bible on a donation basis?

They key seems to be a “suggested donation” which is at least 20% below list price. They also take in used Bibles.

Calvary Chapel churches vary in shapes in sizes, but the one common denominator is consecutively preaching through the Bible, verse by verse. Once they reach that final sentence in Revelation 22, the next Sunday usually returns to Genesis 1. The emphasis on Bibles is therefore not surprising.

The new bookselling venture also has an endorsement from Gerry Organ, former CFL placekicker who played over a decade with the Ottawa Roughriders.

Pastor Falleur would probably dispute this story’s headline, telling Spur Ottawa,

We are not a bookstore, we are a church with some resources that we are making available to the wider Christian community. We are just getting going, but it’s been a joy talking to people, praying for them, and in some cases having them pray for me.

It will be interesting to see how this model works.