Our Bookstore

As the back cover proclaims, “There’s a Story Inside Every Bookstore!”

Conventional wisdom says that when a browser picks up a book, the path to purchase is as follows: 1. Look at front. 2. Read back cover. 3. Read some or all of flap. 4. Check out table of contents. 5. Open at random and sample. At any point in this process, the book may be abandoned or may find a home.

With some 700,000 books published each year,  many deserving titles don’t even get this much contact with readers. So, how are we to determine which books we want to add to our shelves? Enter bookstores. Brick-and-mortar bookstores, to be precise.

Any book lover knows that browsing the shelves of a carefully curated bookstore provides peace and pleasure. The great bookstores of the world hold a well-deserved place on any bucket list, and even the smallest nook selling good books offers untold hours of enjoyment and enlightenment.

And who better to tell us about wonderful bookstores than authors? In My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop, renowned writers such as Isabel Allende, Douglas Brinkley, Terry Tempest Williams and dozens of others share their experiences with their most beloved bookstores. As the back cover proclaims, “There’s a Story Inside Every Bookstore!”

There is a story inside the doors of The Cathedral Bookstore. We invite you to get to know us better and make our little shop part of your story.

Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading!—Rainer Maria Rilke


A Wrinkle in Time: Was the Book Better?

Will the new light this movie sheds on L’Engle’s tale of good and evil amplify the message for you, or will your ink-on-paper experience–or your devotion to the specifics of the original story–prevail?

As director Ava DuVernay brings Madeleine L’Engle’s classic A Wrinkle in Time to life, moviegoers have begun the eternal debate: Was the book better? L’Engle herself maintained great skepticism towards a film adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time, but the story’s richness lends itself to further exploration of religion, creativity, and inclusivity.

A quick recap (sans spoiler) for those of you who have not read the book since middle school: Meg Murry, an awkward teenager, must travel through time and space to rescue her little brother from the clutches of evil. The method she uses is called “tessering,” a phenomenon her scientist father studied until he disappeared several years earlier. Meg learns of her mission from other-worldly beings; and the journey demanded of her takes her to the most dangerous landscape imaginable, that of her own heart.

Despite the difficulties of categorizing the quirky story published in 1962, it quickly became an international bestseller. Because of L’Engle’s treatment of religious themes, it soon became as controversial as it was beloved. The American Library Association Office of Intellectual Freedom lists it in the top 100 frequently banned books.

L’Engle, who served as librarian and writer in residence at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York City for over thirty years, included many biblical references in the novel, and the ecumenical world view she put for went so far as to suggest a “happy religious pluralism” described by The New Yorker as one in which “Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and even scientists can live together in peace.” Her intimation that love was more powerful than doctrine upset some conservative Christians, who claimed it offered an inaccurate portrayal of God and nurtured an unholy belief in myth and fantasy.

L’Engle suggests that the powerful messages of Christianity are not just for Christians. As Meg’s father tells her, “We were sent here for something. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”  The author appreciated the tension created by opposites and understood that tolerance and love could bridge seemingly irreconcilable differences. In community, she explains, we draw closer to God not through sameness but through our shared life. Love, L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time says, conquers all, and we do not have to be privileged, pretty or perfect to experience the power of this world-bending connection.

Several dozen Cathedral members recently ventured to the theater together to watch DuVernay’s new movie, discuss a little Popcorn Theology, and decide book or movie? A little background, ICYMI: Nominated for the Academy Award and winner of four EMMYs, DuVernay has received critical acclaim for her work across film genres. In 2017, she was named one of Fortune magazine’s 50 Greatest World Leaders and TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. She is the founder of ARRAY, a grassroots distribution and advocacy collective dedicated to the amplification of films by people of color and women which was named one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies. She gathered an all-star cast including Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Mindy Kaling, and Zach Galifianakis, and A Wrinkle in Time is the first film directed by a woman of color to have a budget of over $100 million.

And our reaction? With its presentation of the full breadth and accessibility of God’s kingdom, Ava DuVernay’s film version matches L’Engle’s creative fire, although some viewers in our group criticized it for combining and deleting characters and for deleting Christian references. The question was also raised: Would children understand the meaning of the story, or would they just be mesmerized by the special effects? But whether or not an individual approved or disapproved of DuVernay’s interpretation of the story, watching the movie together led to thoughtful discussion.

And that division might please L’Engle, who believed that our seemingly insurmountable differences can, in fact, be bridged—through that amazing tesseract we know as love. It’s not surprising that our group would have differing opinions about a movie based on this story. Three generations of readers have loved, questioned, or banned A Wrinkle in Time, and its longevity proves its power to withstand disapproval. More than half a century after the book’s original publication, DuVernay’s newest film opens the story’s arms even more widely and brings its mid-century perspective into the future.

Will the new light this movie sheds on L’Engle’s tale of good and evil amplify the message for you, or will your ink-on-paper experience–or your devotion to the specifics of the original story–prevail?

Book or movie? Strict adherence to the original or a more liberal interpretation? You’ll have to decide for yourself. But whichever medium you prefer, you’ll be reminded that one of the great strengths of the underlying message of A Wrinkle in Time is its ability to carry us beyond the perceived boundaries of our understanding.

Read or reread the book. Watch the movie. Or come by the Bookstore and pick up one of the many books we have by and about Madeleine L’Engle. Whether your path to understanding takes you through fiction, non-fiction, books, movies, or all of the above, we’d love to examine her fascinating world with you.



A book, too, can be a star, “explosive material, capable of stirring up fresh life endlessly,” a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe. 
― Madeleine L’EngleA Wrinkle in Time


Christmas Cheer Starts Here!

Have yourself a merry little lunch hour

Cathedral members know the powerful joy of celebrating Christmas surrounded by the poinsettia-banked rood screen, the gleaming candlelit altar, and the invigorated voices of the congregation raising the roof with favorite carols. As the hushed tones of “Silent Night” reverberate, our hearts fill with wonder at the magnitude of God’s love. For us, despite commercialism all around, this feeling builds through Advent–with wreath decorating, Christmas at the Cathedral, Las Posadas, and so many other opportunities for worshipping together. Our Cathedral traditions feel so familiar that it can be hard to imagine celebrating Christmas anywhere else.

While all are welcome to join us in sharing our Christmas services, many people in our immediate community don’t know our traditions, and they can be a little intimidating for newcomers. What goes on behind the stained glass in that big, beautiful building? Why are those people running around the courtyard in ornate dresses? What if I don’t know when to stand or when to sit? If we are truly to show people that God is in the midst of the city–feeding and clothing people, offering relief from Harvey, providing spiritual guidance, and so much more–we first need to invite them in and make them feel comfortable.

This Advent season, the Cathedral is focusing on sharing our beautiful campus and traditions–with Treebeards customers, our downtown neighbors, and you! Come have a merry little lunch hour filled with Christmas shopping in the bookstore, a great Cajun lunch, a tour of our historic cathedral, and even a noontime Eucharist. Not only can you get body and soul fed, you can learn their way around the Cathedral, ask questions, and determine if one of our beautiful services might be a good fit for Christmas Eve or other times.

Even if you already have a church home for the holidays, the warmth of our hospitality and the help with preparations are a sure formula for reducing the stress and staying present to the real excitement and joy of the season. Whether you decide to bring your kids to watch the pageant, to stay up late with the booming brass and percussion, or to pray with joyful hearts on Christmas morning, everyone at Christ Church wants you to feel that the Cathedral is a welcoming place to celebrate the birth of Christ and the love he brings–the ultimate Christmas cheer!

Christmas Cheer Starts Here!

Have Yourself a Merry Little Lunch Hour
weekdays, December 1-22

Get into the spirit by
discovering unique gifts, jewelry and books
enjoying lunch at Treebeards
celebrating the Eucharist 12:05 p.m.
touring Houston’s historic Cathedral 12:35 p.m.
learning about the holiday service that best suits you:
    Christmas Eve worship at 4, 6 (en espanol), 8 and 11 pm
    Christmas Day at 10 am
picking up wrapped gifts
and returning, reinvigorated, to your routine!

23 and Billingsley

As KPRC’s Chief Meteorologist Frank Billingsley unravels the mystery of his DNA, he gives us all important perspective.

Gregor-Mendel-examines-peasWhen Gregor Mendel’s little gardening experiment with peas revealed the way that particular traits are passed down through the generations, he could never have imagined the myriad uses that technology would find for genetic information.

Want to know if you’re going to be bald? What your odds are for contracting Parkinson’s, psoriasis or palsy? Or do you wonder about your ancestors? What distant shores did they roam? What did they look like? What were their names? What’s your (real) name? Who’s your (real) daddy?

Spit into a cup, swab the inside of your cheek, and everything you ever wanted to know about your heritage can be revealed. But how much do you really want to discover?

Knowing he was adopted, Frank Billingsley, KPRC’s beloved meteorologist, had occasionally wondered about his birth parents, but he had such a strong relationship with his adoptive parents that he never considered searching for his roots. It seemed somehow disloyal. When a chance email set him on a genealogical search, he soon found himself compelled to know more. He swabbed and spat into myriad genetic test kits, and scoured the Internet late at night for connections to names he discovered. What he found surprised him on a multitude of levels and unfolded as an intriguing mystery.

On Sunday, October 22, the Cathedral Bookstore welcomes Frank from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. to share his recently published book, Swabbed and Found: An Adopted Man’s DNA Journey to Discover His Family Tree. Frank’s experience reminds us that while the technology provided by companies such as 23 and Me enables us to know exponentially more than Mendel or other early geneticists dreamed possible,  in the end, whatever our genetic makeup or history, when it comes to our common humanity, we are all still as similar as peas in a pod.


I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.”
~Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird


Continue reading “23 and Billingsley”

Keeping Faith with Books

We’re celebrating 35 years of our beloved bookstore with a tea.

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.
~Forrest Church

The Peace Builders’ Poems

Taking more time for stories won’t solve our problems, but it provides an understanding that is the first step. 

The Jerusalem Peace Builders, Israeli young adults from the each of the Abrahamic faiths–Christianity, Islam, and Judaism–spent the week at the Cathedral. On Sunday, before reading the lessons in the service in Hebrew and Arabic, they explained themselves to us by reading poems they had written.

Each poem began, “I am from…” And each list-format poem included sweet, mundane ingredients that made up these young men and women: my mother’s hummus, my sister’s tabbouleh, roses and olive trees. But going beyond the sugar-and-spice-and-everything-nice aspects of their character, they also shared darker ingredients: trouble, chaos and death, and the ways love had softened hearts of stone.

As they had opened up to each other through the course of the week, they opened themselves for the coffee-hour crowd. They shared their inside jokes and their respect and love for one another. They will never be able to look at a person from another religion as other, because by sharing their stories, their “I am,” they created connection and empathy.

At the Cathedral, the Dean has a book club. The titles are varied, selected by the group, and we carry them here in the bookstore. The title for September’s meeting is My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel, by Ari Shavit. Called a “must-read book” by Thomas L. Friedman in The New York Times, Shavit doesn’t try to tell us what to think about Israel, instead, he shares its story, intimately intertwined with his own.

“The Israel question cannot be answered with polemics,” he writes. “As complex as it is, it will not submit itself to arguments and counter arguments. The only way to wrestle with it is to tell the Israel story. That is what I have tried to do in this book.”

Taking more time for stories–for sharing our own openly and listening to and reading those of others intently–won’t solve our problems, but it provides an understanding that is the first step.

The heartfelt group hug after the Jerusalem Peace Builders’ reading testified to what an important start knowing and understanding one another is on the path to peace.


The shortest distance between truth and a human being is a story.
–Anthony de Mello

These little lights of mine

There is no denying the pleasure of a thoughtful gift.

In this day of online shopping, flash sales, and instant gratification, finding a gift for a dear one can be a daunting task. Nothing seems special, or worthy of conveying the fondness we have for the recipient. Or we feel guilty about the material blessings–or collections, piles, or hordes– that threaten to encroach on our serenity, and we don’t want to burden anyone else with more stuff.

But there is no denying the pleasure of a thoughtful gift. Knowing that a friend or family member took the time to select something to delight us, wrap it carefully and brave traffic or the lines of the post office to get it to us warms the cockles of our hearts.

At our bookstore, we carry beautiful beeswax candles that have burned under twelve inches on our altar. Made by the same family since 1869, they smell divine, and they last longer than paraffin candles. Most importantly, they have been part of the beautiful services here, and perhaps some of the peaceful energy that is present in those services might have somehow rubbed off on them. At least, it’s lovely to think so.

Next time you’re wondering what to share with that friend who has everything, or you need special candles to adorn your family dinner table or cast a soft glow on a gathering of friends, remember that we have beeswax candles that can add a touch of the Cathedral to daily life. Proceeds from the sale of the candles go to the Altar Guild, so when your candlesticks shine, you’re helping the Cathedral shine, too!

There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.
–Edith Wharton


Tree-Part Harmony

Have you listened to the songs of trees?

Have you been forest bathing recently? Did you know that spending two or more leisure hours under a canopy of trees provides a variety of health benefits so potent that the Japanese government has designated forest therapy paths? Have you listened to the songs of trees?

After publishing Pulitzer Prize finalist The Forest Unseen, Sewanee professor David George Haskell repeatedly visited a dozen trees around the world. His keen–and infinitely patient–powers of observation and fluent prose convey a deep and specific understanding of the connectedness of all species and describe the audible evidence of health or disease that really listening to trees provides.

The Songs of Trees: Stories From Nature’s Great Connectors will leave you with a new appreciation of the relationship of the arboreal world to the future of our planet, as well as fascinating insight on the many ways the biology of trees affects our daily lives.

Next time you’re forest bathing, take along Haskell’s contemplative study of the natural world. We have much to learn from trees, and there’s no better place to read than a leafy room lit with dappled sunshine.


For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die. –Anne Lamott