My “first proper job”, i.e. the full-time salaried work I pursued after graduation, was as Mail Order and Web Manager for what was then the Church of England’s official bookshop.1
In the preceding months I’d applied for a couple of positions in publishing,2 having shifted away from an earlier ambition to become a broadcast journalist (because, by coincidence, my brother had opted into a Broadcast Journalism PGDip at Sheffield Hallam the very same year and I like to blaze my own trail). The post at Church House Bookshop appealed to me because it harnessed knowledge I’d gained formally (in my degrees) and informally (as a sacristan),3 and because it also required me to up my technical game: The job desired knowledge of HTML, so I taught myself HTML.
It also suited me because I had voluntary commitments that required me to suppress the backpacker instinct. Working in central London was convenient when it came to project season, making it feasible to drop in on the ARC communities at St Paul’s and Westminster. Reciprocally, my cathedral contacts had testified to my management experience when I applied for the Church House post.
I suspect my new-found colleagues wondered quite what had hit them as this 23-year-old parachuted in, creating a new layer of management for the mail order team. They were a wonderful bunch, though. And while two-and-a-bit years’ worth of liturgical seasons proved sufficient to diminish my interest in the Christian book trade, I think of Mandy, Richard, and Rob–and Mel, Ian and Jay–with fondness.4 It’s a pity Facebook wasn’t around to better preserve those connections. And I am grateful to the wonderful people behind archive.org and its “Way Back Machine” for having preserved the look and feel of the CHBookshop website in those heady days of the noughties when I was responsible for its content.
1. Not long after I left, Church House Bookshop was sold to Hymns Ancient & Modern. On my last visit, one of the old team was still in post and reviews suggest the mail order service is as good as ever (personable and efficient).
2. I still remember a kind rejection letter from IB Tauris, who wanted to keep me on file after I’d applied for a job that warranted considerably greater experience than I had to offer.
3. To the Fitzwilliam College Chapel, ca. 1999.