Christian Resources Together


      Being Empowered at Swanwick

  Clem Jackson reports on the recent Christian Resources  
  Together Retailers and Suppliers Retreat and the CRT Awards
  evening held at Swanwick. (Monday 29 & Tuesday 30 April)

  The 2013 CRT Retailers and Suppliers Retreat, held at
  Swanwick at the end of April, was deemed by many attending
  to be a resounding success. A number of delegates said it was
  the best retreat yet with a great range of seminars, inspirational
  speakers and a broad ranging and interesting exhibition.

Certainly there was a tangible sense of togetherness, a feeling that we’re all in this together pervading the event. This was evidenced by the groupings at meal times, coffee breaks and in the bar and lounge which saw retailers and suppliers happily engaging in conversation alongside the inevitable business discussions.

Inspirational speakers

Delegates were sent back to ‘the real world’ with a message in the closing session from Pastor Agu Irukwu, on the theme ‘Empowered to Succeed’, encouraging us all not to be discouraged.

Using 1 Kings as his text he said that much of what Elijah faced in his battle with Ahab and Jezebel was not dissimilar to the world we live in today. “God raises Elijah’s for this time – and you are those Elijahs,” he told the gathered audience. He reminded us that Elijah complained that he was the ‘only prophet left’ but that God told him that he had ’reserved seven thousand  in Israel … who had not bowed the knee to Baal’ (1 Kings 19 v 18) – “We are not alone, we are never alone,” said Pastor Agu.

The two day event began with Professor Tom (NT) Wright sharing some encouraging thoughts on being ‘Empowered to Serve’. He said that the Christian vocation was for us to be “new humans reflecting the Glory of God” and that we are called to be the salt of the earth “through the humble, strange things that we are called to do.”

At the Awards evening Jeff Lucas entertained and encouraged the large crowd with his usual mix of humour and pathos. He revealed that the “four beautiful books” which had impacted him were; The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass – aged 373/4, Her Gates Will Never Be Shut by Bradley Jerzak, Fear No Evil by David Watson and The Wisdom of Pelican by Donald McCullogh. He shared how each had impacted at different stages of his Christian life, that Adrian Plass has taught him through his book that it’s OK as a Christian to laugh whilst Donald McCullough’s book had shown him that God loves you when you don’t love yourself – because of grace.

On Day 2, Tony Horsfall’s theme at the morning session was ‘Soul Care for Busy People’ where he asked us “Are you busy … are you too busy and in doing so being in danger of losing touch with God” He related a humorous tale of losing (mislaying) his suitcase in an airport because he was distracted and how this can sometimes be how we are in our relationship with God, distracted by our busyness. He made a telling point in saying “If you are what you do, then when you’re not doing, you aren’t”. He encouraged us all to slow down and abide in God’s love reminding us that “you are a deeply loved child of God”.

All the speakers had something to say which connected with those attending the event and I overheard many comments reflecting that. It really felt that there was something for everyone in what the speakers shared – that God had a clear word for all.

As well as the main speakers the seminar programme seemed to be well received as well with good attendances. The seminar on Social Media and Digital Marketing was packed for one and a number of people also attended the sessions at which Tom Wright and Jim and Elizabeth George spoke.

Having the exhibition open longer also seemed to be received positively, although there were times when the seminars were on where the exhibition hall seemed to be just populated by exhibitors – perhaps reflecting the popularity of the seminars, or maybe just as a result of the sunny weather providing an opportunity to get outside and reflect on the goodness of God enjoying the beauty of the location.

Honouring excellence

Once again a highlight of the event was the Awards presentation with 28 awards being made in less than two hours and with much hilarity shared through various misreadings and mispronunciations. The ceremony was hosted with some degree of self-deprecating humour by that well-known double act Steve and Mandy Briars. Steve announced that it was Mandy’s birthday (cue a rendition of Happy Birthday from the crowd and then proceeded to tell us that he had promised her a big party and dinner and then  thanked Hodder & Stoughton for providing the wine for her party!

The event certainly provides the opportunity to honour excellence in product and service, recognising exceptional products and people. The award for Book of the Year went to Life Without Limits by Nick Vujicic (WaterBrook Press) an amazing story of courage and triumph. Nick was born without arms or legs but overcame his disability to live not just independently but a rich, fulfilling life.

There were a couple of categories where certain publishers had a clean sweep of the nominations but overall the awards were well shared out – even if the lion’s share (four awards) went to Lion Hudson imprints. IVP gained two awards, Authentic also picked up two (for Media product), CUP, SPCK took one award each along with WaterBrook Press whilst Integrity/Kingsway wrapped up the three music awards.

On the retailing side congratulations go to Methodist Book Centre in Stoke –on-Trent who won the Independent Large Retail Store of the Year award, with Canaan Christian Book Centre in Staines as the runner-up. In the Independent Small Retail Store category the award went to Good News Centre in Newent with the runner-up in this category being Eastbourne Christian Book Centre.

Lion Hudson once again picked up the Publisher of the Year award with CLC Wholesale receiving the Distributor of the Year Award and Potters House were the delighted winners of the Card & Gift Supplier of the Year Award.

Honouring the people

The awards to individuals are always special and give a tangible opportunity for the trade to honour personal contribution and commitment to serving others. Stewart Anderson (IVP) received the Suppliers Representative of the Year Award, the third time he has picked up this award and a fitting tribute as he approaches retirement this year.

The Store Manager of the Year Award went to John Watkins, manager of CLC Stockport, who has come through a traumatic year following the fire in adjoining premises in 2012. The Long Service Award went to Andrew Franks from Bedford Books. However Andrew had to receive his award the next morning having decided to retire early after a long and busy day. As Steve Briars pointed out, this just goes to prove that award winners don’t know they have won until the announcement.

The final ward of the evening was the Christian Suppliers group Award which went posthumously to John Paculabo. Receiving the award on behalf of John’s wife, Juliet, Jonathan Brown from Integrity Music paid a warm tribute to the man who had impacted so many lives throughout the world over the years through publishing and distributing so many classic contemporary Christian songs.

A full list of the Award winners can be found on this website and you will also find audio files of all of the main speakers and seminar talks there as well.

A few comments

The final words go to those who attended. Here are just some of the comments received.

Melanie Carroll wrote on Facebook, “I would just love to say a massive Thank You to Steve and Mandy Briars and the team for another great CRT. Also to all those really nice folk I met who helped to make the two days a wonderful time and experience.”

David Wavre, from A Good Read and Aslan Books said, “This is a brilliant event, really worthwhile.”

“Had a great time renewing and deepening friendships and making new ones. Thanks to  Steve and Mandy Briars for organising it. Great.
Lloyd Hodkinson, CLC Christian BookLink Africa

“Big thanks to Steve and Mandy and all involved in making CRT Retailers & Suppliers Retreat such a success.” Mike Norbury, The Good Bookstall Website

“… a wonderful time at CRT Retailers & Suppliers Retreat. Many thanks to Steve & Mandy working so hard to give us a fantastic event.”
Mark Fleeson, Lindisfarne Scriptorium

“I had a great time, thank you.” Esme Stackhouse, CLC Wolverhampton

Thank goodness it’s over! I'm shattered . But a lot of shops and other suppliers have now seen my work. Thankyou. Jonathon Hemingray, Jonathon Hemingray Sculpture

“Thanks for a great CRT Retailers & Suppliers Retreat. I particularly appreciated the main talks and look forward being able to download them on mp3. I think they will be an encouragement to others. Thanks again.” Graham Allen, Leamington

“A very big thank you from me and everyone at SPCK for the excellent way the Retreat was run this year. I was struck by the fact there were far more people in attendance and the diversity of traditions is increasing every single year.”
Alan Mordue, SPCK Publishing

“I truly appreciated the moments of praise and reflection. It’s crazy that God was able to speak peace even amongst everything that was going on but he did to me, even so.” Paula Renouf, Speaking Volumes

“It has truly been a great blessing to all who attended. Try to enjoy some time off before you begin work on CRT 2014.” Geoff Fanning, Retail Director CLC Bookshops

 "Thank you for the great event and all you did.” Sheena Burwell, CLC Blackpool.

So if you missed it and don’t want to be left out next year then keep your eye on the website and Together magazine for details of the 2014 Retreat – coming soon. Similarly, if you were there and want to experience all again next year then get your booking in as soon as the details are released – and tell others (including your trustees and church leaders) what they have been missing.

 Clem Jackson
Editor, Together Magazine