Spreading the CommonWord
CMU shop blends Christian library, bookstore, meeting place
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This article was published 07/02/2015 (3045 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The common word at a new Christian bookstore and lending library in southwest Winnipeg might be co-operation. Or synergy. Or maybe even ecumenical.
“From the same counter, you can borrow, you can buy, you can ask questions,” explains Arlyn Friesen Epp, one of the managers of CommonWord, located on the campus of Canadian Mennonite University.
The bookstore-library holds a grand opening 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 7, just weeks after Friesen Epp moved his collection of 7,000 books and DVDs from the offices of Mennonite Church Canada to the new building at 2299 Grant Ave.
CommonWord is located inside Marpeck Commons, which also houses a coffee shop and the university library, and is linked to the southern part of the campus by a skywalk over Grant Avenue.
The not-for-profit venture combines an academic bookstore, giftware, fair-trade items such as coffee and olive oil from Ten Thousand Villages and a denominational resource centre of books, DVDs, online videos, podcasts and other electronic resources (commonword.ca).
“We want to invite people in,” says manager Anita Neufeld, of the expanded offerings for sale.
“We want to engage our customers with things that are nice for gifting and things that are hard to give away.”
But most of all, both Neufeld and Friesen Epp want to offer their customers and users books and materials that are increasingly more difficult to find locally due to online retailing and electronic downloads.
“There’s something about opening up a book and looking through it rather than ordering it from Amazon,” says Neufeld, a bookseller for nearly three decades.
The previous university bookstore, located in an out-of-the-way basement room, offered only textbooks, stationary, Bibles and a few specialty items. The new store is open six days a week with extended hours on Thursday evenings.
Friesen Epp says the combination library and bookstore fills a void created partly by the closure of other denominational libraries and Christian bookstores. Christian retailer Hull’s Family Bookstore closed its flagship Winnipeg store last March after 95 years in business. A smaller store under new management opened in December.
Materials from the lending library, owned and operated by Mennonite Church Canada, sit in the middle of the spacious store, with catalogue stickers indicating the items are for loan, not for sale. Borrowers from within the denomination access the materials for free, and other users can pay a yearly membership of $30 or one-time borrowing fee of $7.
The library section includes Anabaptist publications, as well as worship resources and educational materials.
With a visible location, and easy parking west of the building, Friesen Epp expects more walk-in customers of all denominational stripes coming to browse, borrow or buy.
“We want it to be something that would draw in the wider church community and the general public,” adds Friesen Epp, who has seen a dramatic increase in traffic in the last few weeks.
“Our real hope is that the resource centre becomes an ecumenical centre of interest.”
The $14.4-million building, which opened for the winter semester, was designed to be a hub for university students and the broader community, says president Cheryl Pauls.
“We didn’t want to build only a library, but we wanted to build a public gathering place.”
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Brenda Suderman has been a columnist in the Saturday paper since 2000, first writing about family entertainment, and about faith and religion since 2006.
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