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Art & Soul: Phyllis Tickle

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David Long (right) works the Baker Books/Bethany House Booth

Phyllis Tickle
Phyllis Tickle, author of more than 2 dozen books and as many essays, spoke on Theology, the Writing Life, and Me - The Business of Compiling a Contemporary Breviary. A breviary is a liturgical book that helps you with fixed hour prayer. Raised Presbyterian, Tickle entered Anglicanism at an early age and has long practiced fixed hour prayer (praying the ‘hours’ in a sort of lay-monasticism).

On the Reality of Publishing
Tickle said:

Religious publishing is a field that requires dirty hands and an open heart and if you forget it you’re in trouble. No publisher is going to publish a book that does not have an audience.

Publishing Trends Act as A Conduit
Phyllis Tickle said publishing trends act as conduits for the re-introduction for many ancient aspects of Christianity, from praying the hours, keeping the Sabbath, fasting, & even tithing as spiritual disciplines.

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Art & Soul Conference Floor

Influence of the Self-Help Movement
Phyllis Tickle also traced much of current religious book sales to the history of the self-help movement.

Alcoholics Anonymous developed a program in 1937 that had two hallmarks: a structured self-help program, and the talk of a Generic God. This movement began the self-help wave when in 1959 AA began to publish their Blue Book title including these principles.

Fast-forward to today. Now Americans are trained to go to bookstores to get solutions to what is wrong instead of the pastor’s study. I’m personally not sure this is a good thing, but I do find the trend interesting and Tickle’s observations ring true.

Sustained Growth in Religious Literature for Next 10 to 15 Years
Tickle was introduced as a Futurist among other things, and her many decades in the publishing industry may lend some authority to her forecasts.

Tickle said religious book sales are booming, and have been for years.

Baker & Taylor (the Library distributors) in 1992 posted a 92% increase in religious material. Ingram in 1995 reported a 246% increase in religious material! Since then each year has shown double digit growth.

Will it hold? Yes, she thinks so. Tickle predicts this growth to last for at least for the next 10-15 years..

Tickle explains that:

… we are in a cultural upheaval, at the end of modernity and denominationalism. Until the dust settles on these issues religious books will boom.

She said she’d be amazed if we solve it in less than 15 years.

Books Taking Place of Pastor’s Study
She also found troubling the rise of anti-clericalism. She hopes for the return of the priestly role, and an increase of pastoral role, and a return to the era when you can take things to the pastor’s study.

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