CLC United Kingdom

Started in 1941

Advance Into the Impossible

In 1943, when sitting with his team of seven staff in Colchester, all of whom were all living off the widow’s pension of one of the group, Ken Adams startled the group by suggesting a CLC advance into London.

Open a shop in London!” exclaimed Fred Whybrow.

“Open a shop in London?” echoed Dorrie Brooking (the supplier of the widow’s pension), “How?

“It is impossible,” said another of the team, to which Ken Adams replied, “We are going to advance into the Impossible.

Ken and Bessie Adams

The Ministry’s Early Days

The first CLC bookshop nearly didn’t happen! Ken and Bessie Adams had a bookshop in Colchester and, at the same time, in the late 1930s, they were considering running a WEC Regional Headquarters.

Ken wrote:

We were willing to offer our services to WEC but we had a problem… the bookshop. We had no liberty to close it; we were willing to consider selling it or employ someone to carry the main responsibility, which would free us to travel throughout East Anglia in the interest of WEC.

On mentioning this to Norman Grubb (WEC General Secretary), he said: “Close it? Indeed not! We should have bookshops like this all over the country – a chain of Christian bookshops…

“As we prayed and thought and dreamed, the vision kept enlarging. We could see not only a chain of bookshops across the British Isles, but a chain of bookstores throughout the English speaking world… and even in other countries where English was widely used. And more, we could become a service agency for the literature needs of missionary societies and the national church around the world.

We had been doing this very thing in a limited way… now the whole world was our vision.”

“The Christian literature organisation, under the title of Evangelical Publishing House*, was born on November 1, 1941. At this time, the name did not need to be registered with any government department, but on that day it was my happy privilege to go to our local bank and change the bank account from ‘The Bible Depot, Proprietor: Kenneth R. Adams’, to The Evangelical Publishing House, with myself and Fred Whybrow as the two signatories to operate the account. We did not, of course, register with the bank the name of the true Proprietor, but to us and to the rest of our small team of workers, we fully and gladly recognised His name to be the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Foolishness of God by Ken Adams)

* Just a year or so later the mission title was changed to ‘Christian Literature Crusade’

The first CLC bookshop in Colchester

Favourite Quote:

Faith on Fire by Norman Grubb

“It really is something to see and laugh at the rickety starts of these various launches of faith, and then see emerging a properly run literature organisation which can meet the commercial world on its own level – yet the end and aim of it is the bringing of Christ-centred literature to millions of people in many countries. The primary activity and interest is not sales but souls, not a business but a ministry.”

Norman Grubb

CLC Innovation

by Hillary Cameron

In the 1960s, greetings cards were not common, and none had Scripture texts. CLC artist Charlton Smith designed a set of Christmas cards with Bible verses included.and these were then published by CLC. From there Dorrie Brooking, the buyer for CLC, made an arrangement with publishers to get texts in all greetings cards purchased by CLC.

Memories We Cherish: An Interview with Doris Race

Back in the late 1930s, Fred Whybrow and his wife had a lovely home and ran a grocery business in Chelmsford, Essex (UK). One day their son gave them the book C.T. Studd that was written by Norman Grubb, the General Secretary of WEC at that time. The Whybrows were challenged by what they read and started to run a WEC prayer meeting in their home. Norman Grubb himself visited one of the prayer meetings and encouraged the Whybrows to link up with Ken and Bessie Adams who ran a bookshop, The Bible Depot, 20 miles away in Colchester. In obedience to the call of God and at Mr. Grubb’s suggestion, the Whybrows sold up in Chelmsford and moved to Colchester to join the small team there and the new bookshop project that the WEC leadership had envisioned, soon to be named CLC.

Doris Race, the Whybrow’s daughter, remembers those early days well. She was at college in Chelmsford when the family moved to Colchester, but she cycled there when she had time off and was active in helping the small team, eventually serving with CLC rather than pursuing the career she had initially chosen.

As shops opened rapidly around the UK, a total of six by the end of World War 2, Doris was moved around from one shop to another to help start them up. As Doris commented, “If you are going to do the Lord’s work, there is a price to pay.” Doris then got caught up in the expansion overseas and served with CLC in Uruguay (1948-53). Following that, she and her husband, Alan, served with CLC in the UK, including 11 years in Sheffield.

Doris Race before joining CLC

Now in her 90s, Doris not only has vivid memories of the early days, but she also keeps in touch with everything that goes on in CLC today! She gets the regular prayer and news updates by email and is still praying for CLC 75 years on!

A Background to Taking Over Six Existing Bookshops by Phil Burnham

The 2008 financial crisis, which caused many churches and individuals to put the budgetary brakes on, merely underlined the difficulties already impacting the recruitment efforts of mission agencies. The CLC trend was clear: personal financial support for our existing staff was falling, there were no fresh faces on the horizon and we were faced with having to close shops due to lack of staff. At that time we had no employees, only supported workers.  In view of this, consultation before and during the May 2009 staff conference culminated in the Trustees approving an amendment to the Constitution which would enable CLC to become an employer, if need be. When bankruptcy hit the UK’s #1 supplier of Christian resources that very same year, it was our culture-changing decision to keep six of the Wesley Owen bookshops open — with employees! — that catapulted the mission forward sooner and faster than anyone had expected.  God’s timing was perfect!

A “Forever Grateful” Moment: CLC Wholesale Relocation

by Eddie Olliffe

2015 proved to be an important and crucial year for CLC Wholesale. The long- awaited move of the CLC Warehouse took place over the UK’s bank holiday weekend at the end of August. God has been so faithful, and we have been utterly amazed at His goodness. We were able to find, purchase, refurbish and move to a new warehouse, all in the space of a few short months. We had previously been prevented from going ahead with the purchase of another building but, in early 2015, we located a sizeable 2,800m² facility near Chester in the north-west of the UK, just across the border in Wales.

Everyone rose to the occasion. The CLC retirees, especially those living in the area around the previous warehouse, encouraged all those involved in this move, and the team felt lifted and empowered by the prayers and love of those who had gone before. Despite the many, many challenges (which included the installation of a completely new computer system), CLC Wholesale was active again by early September. We had a very good trading period leading up to Christmas and managed to remain ahead of the previous year’s sales figures, despite the gap in trading due to the move at the end of August. God is truly faithful and clearly went before us. Sola Deo Gloria – all glory to Him.

Inside view of CLC Warehouse

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