Tom Longford writes about his work as a publisher with a Catholic cause.
Lent 1996 will see Gracewing publishing an unprecedented number of books of a particular Anglican interest. In many ways this reflects recent consolidation among catholics in the Church of England who are emerging from a period of disarray with a new strength and a streamlined agenda for evangelisation in the twenty-first century. The time of re-appraisal within the Church has provided the impetus for a number of new initiatives in the last eighteen months – seen, not least in the launch of New Directions.
Gracewing Publishing is committed to serving the needs of Catholic Christians on Britain and Ireland, whether following the journey of faith in the new structures emerging within the Church of England, and the Traditional Anglican Communion, or as Roman Catholics.
Gracewing is the imprint of Fowler Wright Books Ltd, a wholesale and retail religious book business, which has been supplying parishes for over forty years. Gracewing was established eight years ago, when I acquired the business as Managing Director, with the special intention of developing a wide range of publishing, particularly of books of traditional spirituality and teaching which current fashions in the Church and Theology might make unattractive propositions for other religious publishers. Since then over two hundred and fifty titles have been published.
A number of books have been produced in the fields of catechetics, liturgy and ministry, either written by members of the Church Union or arising from the work of its committees – these include the New Life Video from the Children and Young People’s Committee, The Deacon’s Ministry, Man, Woman and Priesthood, The Sacrament of Easter, and Marginal Catholics. A notable publishing success for the developing imprint was Eric Mascall’s delightful and inspirational autobiography Saraband, which had passed years being passed among the desks of editorial staff at other publishers, none of whom were willing to print it. A recent bestseller which captured the mood of the moment amongst Episcopalians has been The Spiritual Quest of Francis Wagstaffe.
Alongside its work with The Church Union and the Society for the Maintenance of the Faith, Gracewing has developed a range of publishing with Roman Catholic Religious Orders and Congregations, in particular with the Benedictines and with the Oratory. The Gracewing edition of the Rule of St Benedict is an established classic, while St Benedict’s Prayer Book, published in 1993 is fast becoming one. The company’s largest projects for 1996 will be the Catholic Hymn Book, a comprehensive hymnal to be published in cased melody edition for the pew and full harmony edition for choir and organist. Traditional words and music will provide all parish needs in one volume, with congregational settings for the Mass texts in Latin and English, Benediction, Marian Devotions, etc.
Two other major publishing projects for 1996 are The Word for All God’s Family, exploring retrospectively the Lectionary and Eucharist through project work in school and Sunday school. Many Catholic parishes have welcomed publication in 1995 of The Liturgical Years, a full colour children’s book introducing the riches of the Christian Year and complementing the previously published Sacraments, Prayer, The Apostles’ Creed and The Ten Commandments – the five books together making an invaluable resource for catechists in the parish or family.
Resources to strengthen the Catholic life, and analysis of key issues vital to preserving an authentic faith, following scripture and tradition lie at the heart of Gracewing’s growing publishing programme.
Tom Longford is Managing Director of Gracewing