The most interesting place in Southport

 

Southport is always an interesting place. It has all the usual seaside details you would expect plus some features that mark it out as a little more dignified than the usual destination. Most notably these include the intricate nineteenth-century cast iron verandahs which adorn Lord Street.

But for me, for as long as I can remember, the one place that really stands out is the Shell Shop. You could easily miss it if you didn’t know it was there but it is a place I never walk past without going in.

Youthful visits to Southport with church and youth groups always included a trip to the Shell Shop. It was arranged as a museum around some rickety staircases and took the visitor on an eccentric journey to the South Sea Islands. A large and grubby looking plug from borstal hung near the end of the experience along with, I was recently reminded by Tony the current owner, a large model of a witch doctor placed there to discourage young visitors from shop lifting! Nowadays I don’t go so much for the shells as for the three floors of second hand books. I didn’t realise until a recent visit that the original Shell Shop and book shop were two separate businesses and indeed both were different to the current business, Parkinsons Books, but such was the demand from visitors for shells and other unusual items that the large stock of shells, fossils and curios from around the world remain very much a part of the display.

There is always a good selection of theology upstairs and it is always worth the hike to see what is there. But the shadowy passageway containing the 50p bargains never fails to yield some great finds. Not so long ago I purchased six random volumes of the original Dictionary of National Biography for 50p each. You might wonder why I wanted them since they are quite bulky and are, of course, available online these days, but you couldn’t leave them there for £3. Besides I only have to find 16 more and I will have the full set.

Southport shop front

A Lord Street shop front

Southport colonnade

Victorian cast iron and glass shop canopies

Southport shell entrance

The entrance to the Shell Shop

Southport shell 50p books

50p bargains

Southport shell passage

Getting nearer to the shop

Southport shell books

Ground floor

Southport shell shelves

Some shells

Southport diver

Don’t forget the diver. Southport statue

Fr John Navone’s ‘Theology of Failure’

In the Spring and Summer 2014 issue of Faith and Freedom we were very pleased to have something of a scoop with two articles by Fr John Navone SJ, the leading Italian American theologian whose theology has been acknowledged as a major influence on Pope Francis.

 

In that issue we were delighted to have John Navone write exclusively about the challenges and priorities of Francis’ papacy. In his first article on the subject for a British or European audience Professor Navone explained the Pope’s interest in his thinking and gave a resumé of his own ‘Theology of Failure’.

 

Professor John Navone SJ
Professor John Navone SJ

 

 

Just prior to the Pope’s visit to the USA in September 2015 Fr Navone was interviewed by CNN and featured in a long and thoughtful online article on the CNN website by Daniel Burke, CNN Religion Editor. The author discusses Fr Navone’s theological influence on the Pope and carries part of the interview with him. In the piece he quotes Fr Navone as saying:

“There was a blessed juncture between my theology and his crisis…It was a kind of light in the darkness to him.”

 

And among other things himself says:

As it happened, Navone and I spoke on the day Francis made it easier for Catholics to annul their marriages, and about a week after he encouraged priests to forgive women who have had abortions.

Navone and I talked about mercy, and how it’s hard to forgive others if you aren’t intimately acquainted with your own failures. We talked about a Pope who travels to the peripheries because he himself was sent there. And we talked about Francis’ apparent internal freedom, his refusal to resign himself to others’ expectations.

The full article, ‘The Pope’s Dark Night of the Soul’, can be read here:

http://edition.cnn.com/interactive/2015/09/specials/pope-dark-night-of-the-soul/

 

Faith and Freedom is also delighted to announce that the Autumn and Winter 2015 issue, due out this week, also carries another timely article by John Navone entitled ‘Finding God in Strangers’.

 

Faith and Freedom is a print journal but it can be ordered online here:

http://www.faithandfreedom.org.uk/subs.htm

 

 

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

These words of the Chinese philosopher Lau Tzu seem appropriate for the beginning of any new enterprise, they also tie in, for me personally, with the picture of the Ancient Chapel of Toxteth, a place which was very much a starting point for me. But the purpose of this blog will be to flag up things that interest me particularly in relation to the journals Faith and Freedom and the Transactions of the Unitarian Historical Society, both of which I edit. Not that I intend to confine myself to either of those publications – anything that catches my eye will go in here – the blog will have a special remit towards faith, religious history and associated matters but it will by no means confine itself to matters of religion.