A good bookstore, by definition, shares stories, but when your bookstore celebrates its 35th year in a church that was established in 1839, it’s important to document and share your own history, too. We asked J. Pittman McGehee D.D. for his recollection of our beloved shop’s beginnings during his tenure as dean of Christ Church Cathedral.
The Founding of the Cathedral Bookstore
Henry Ford said, “The greatest wisdom is in doing the obvious.” So it was with founding the Bookstore. There was a kind of old-fashioned church parlor where the bookstore is now. It was affectionately known as, “the Red Room.” (Obviously because of the decor.) For 99% of the time, it was wasted space, with anachronistic decor. I had desired a bookstore at Christ Church Cathedral, as symbol and fact that I wanted the Cathedral to become a center of intellectual curiosity. So, on October 16,1983, the Cathedral Bookstore was founded.
There was a historic bookstore in Houston called the Episcopal Bookstore. I asked the former manager, Alberta Jones, if she would consult and help us begin our own store. At that time I asked Cynthia Pyle, who had been in conversation with me concerning the bookstore founding, to be program director and coordinator of volunteers. Within a manner of months, it became obvious the Cynthia was more than capable of running the store, so, on January 4, 1984, I appointed Cynthia as manager. Much of the success of the Cathedral bookstore is due to the innovative leadership of Cynthia Pyle.
In 1993, Kathy Jackson succeeded Cynthia as manager and successfully led the store through some of the most tumultuous times in bookselling history until her retirement this summer. The current dean, the Very Reverend Barkley Thompson then appointed Lucy Chambers, a pioneer in Houston publishing, to carry on their work.
The rich history and tradition of the Bookstore, soon to be 35 years old, continues thanks to those mentioned above, plus long-time volunteers Wendy Bentlif, Jan Fitzhugh, Pat Hallmark, Earle Martin, Roxanne Dolen and other dedicated volunteers who have served their ministries at the Cathedral as a part of the bookstore.
~J. Pittman McGehee D.D.
Thanks to the faithful work of this team, the Cathedral Bookstore has provided a haven for book lovers for decades, and we are grateful to the Very Reverend J. Pittman McGehee for his vision in 1983. The Cathedral has indeed become a center of intellectual curiosity in Houston, so in addition to a well-curated list of religious, spiritual, general non-fiction, fiction, and children’s titles, we carry books by the many notable speakers who visit the Cathedral and a constantly-refreshed supply of quality used books.
The Cathedral celebrates the store’s history and retiring manager, Kathy Jackson, Friday, September 29th with a tea. For more information, stop by and see us or visit the Cathedral’s website www.christchurchcathedral.com.
God is in the midst of the city, and we are assured that He, too, loves a Good Book!
[Y]ou might also choose to see it as a cathedral of the human spirit–a storehouse consecrated to the full spectrum of human experience. Just about every idea we’ve ever had is in here somewhere. A place containing great thinking is a sacred space.