Philokalia Orthodox Bookstore

By Patricia Madden

The following pages offer an outline and suggestions gleaned from our experience with developing an Orthodox bookstore at Holy Apostles Orthodox Church, W. Columbia, South Carolina. We started in the corner of our coffee room in the old church. After a short period of time, we realized that we would need a “real” bookstore if we were to be a viable Orthodox presence in the area. A storefront was found at a very reasonable rent that enabled us to start this ministry… and a ministry it is.

While it is necessary for us to receive a steady income from the sale of books and other items, the main focus is “Come and See.” We chose the name “Philokalia,” which in Greek means “love of beauty,” so that our store might reflect the love of beauty in our theology and Church. Our mission is to share this with anyone who comes our way.


About a year and a half ago, when our first church building became too small because of the growth in parishioners, we moved to our present, much larger building, which has a separate office in the front that opens onto the street. This office became our new bookstore. We are Philokalia Orthodox Bookstore, located at Holy Apostles Orthodox Church, 724 Buff St., W. Columbia, SC, 29169; tel: (803) 926-8744. Our hours are 10—5 Tues., Thurs., Fri., Sat. The store may be closed on some Feast Days, during Holy Week, and on the weeks after Pascha and the Nativity.

Organizing: How to Decide What to Offer; How to Generate Interest in It

1) Ask your community what they want to know more about.

2) Look at the surrounding area. What denominational churches are there?

3) Refer to lists of books that may address the above.

Some ideas to generate interest might be “reading groups,” individuals who will read the same book and then get together to discuss it. Difficult passages can be referred to the priest for further discussion.

If your priest is available to speak to other churches or groups that invite him, and he acquaints them with the existence of the bookstore, this may also bring in some interested people.

Classes taught by the priest at the bookstore on such topics as “Introduction to the Orthodox Church” encourage interest.

Include publicity, reviews of new books, bookstore hours in the parish bulletin.

Take a table at festivals, flea markets and fairs to sell your books and other items.

There are things besides books that can be made available for sale—prayer ropes, incense, CD’s, tapes and DVD’s, handmade gift items, cards, charcoal, burners, head scarves, vigil lamps, prosphora seals, and candles, to name a few.

How Philokalia Bookstore Is Organized

To help find categories of books, we have placed icons on all four walls, these being Christ, the Theotokos, Old Testament figures, and the Saints. When asked about a particular book, we direct them to the area of a particular icon.

The books are organized roughly into categories, but we have found that people get so used to seeing them, that they do not really see them… If books are moved around every so often, or are featured, then they are more noticed. Generally, they can be placed according to history, theology, saints, monastics, spiritual writings, whatever category works for your collection.

We try to make pamphlets and selected articles from the website available as handouts.

We have a comfortable couch where people can sit and browse through books, look over our articles (which are available for copying) and chat.

Some Thoughts and Ideas Gleaned from Our Bookstore Experience

Frequently asked questions from non-Orthodox inquirers are: “What is the Orthodox Church?” How does the Orthodox Church differ from…?” We ask for their background which gives us an idea where the questioner is coming from. Sometimes their experience includes several denominations. The time-line folder of how the Christian Church developed (available from Conciliar Press) is helpful here.

As a general rule, Protestants have questions such as “Why do you have Tradition?” “Where does it say in the Bible that…?” The single most difficult thing for them is their refusal or reluctance to consider “extra-biblical” sources, such as the writings of the Church Fathers. The King James Version, used in the Orthodox Study Bible, is a good help since it uses the translation most familiar to them. However, it is currently limited to the New Testament and Psalms.

Knowing which denominations are in your local area, you can have books that address Orthodoxy’s “answer” to questions that members of those churches might pose to you. One particularly good book for Protestants is Matthew Galliton’s Thirsting for God in a Land of Shallow Wells (Conciliar Press). He writes of his experience in several denominations and his studies at a seminary that then led him to the decision to enter the Orthodox Church. The book is written in a gentle, kind way. Another book useful as a resource is Orthodox Worship—Continuity with the Synagogue by Williams/Anstall (Light and Life Publ.). The book covers such topics as the development of Christian worship, the interior of an Orthodox Church, a description of the Orthodox Liturgy, and an overview of the ancientness of Orthodoxy. Generally, books by Fr. Alexander Schmemann, Fr. John Meyendorff and Fr. Thomas Hopko are foundational.

Questions About Icons

About icons, we are usually asked what these “pictures” are. Why do we have them all over? My personal favorite task is to explain icons, using the Nativity Icon, done in the Old Style Russian or Greek, because it clearly follows biblical teachings, i.e., Joseph questioning the situation, the Theotokos sometimes looking away, as though keeping things in her heart, perhaps anticipating His suffering, Christ wrapped or swaddled, but then looking closer, in the fashion of a deceased person, foreshadowing His death.

The concern Protestants have for “worshipping images” can be addressed somewhat by showing the icons that are images of events in the Bible, e.g., the Annunciation, the Transfiguration, the Last Supper, the raising of Lazarus. Then, sometimes, I show a saint, like St. Nicholas, who was a bishop. In these there is nothing magical or esoteric.

We have the luxury of having the church right next door, so the next step would be to show the icons in the nave and the sanctuary. Then the questions become: “What, no organ? no pews? an iconostasis?” There is lots to talk about.

We are blessed to have Fr. Thomas teaching an inquirers’ class each week. I attend it because it gives me a chance to hear his answers to the questions and concerns that are raised so that I am better prepared to answer similar questions at the bookstore.

There will be times when no one comes into the store. This is the hardest aspect for me to experience. I had to learn that it is God’s work, not mine. All I have to do is be there. It is a great time to spend reading, praying and working on projects. There is always something to do.

Feel free to contact us if you have questions about organizing and running an Orthodox bookstore.


In addition to the books and authors mentioned earlier, some of the following books are recommended:

Orthodox Study Bible (New Testament and Psalms), Conciliar Press, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press

Orthodox Daily Prayers, St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press

The Divine Liturgy, Vols. I and II, St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press

Abridged Typicon, St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press

Priest’s Service Book, OCA Diocese of the South

Festal Menaions, St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press

Lenten Triodion, St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press

The Living God, Vols. I and II, SVS Press

Orthodoxy for the Non-Orthodox, by Fr. John Garvey, Templegate Publ.

How Then Are We Saved?, booklet by Bishop K. Ware, Light and Life Publ.

An Eastern Response to Evangelistic Claims, booklet by P. O’Callaghan, Light and Life Publ.

The Way to Nicea, by John Behr, SVS Press

Father Arseny, by V. Bouteneff, both volumes, SVS Press

Stages on Life’s Way: Orthodox Thinking on Bioethics, by J. and L. Breck, SVS Press

The Desert City, by D. Chitty, SVS Press

A Beginner’s Introduction to the Philokalia, by A.Coniaris, St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press

The Living Witness of the Holy Mountain, by Golitzin, St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press

The Papacy, by A. Gutee, Light and Life Publ.

Unseen Warfare, by St. Theophan the Recluse, SVS Press

Evening Worship, by N. Uspensky, SVS Press

The Meaning of Icons, by N. Uspensky, SVS Press

The Theology of Icons, by N. Uspensky, SVS Press


Orthodox Christian Publication Center
4653 Memphis Villas S. 
Brooklyn, OH 44144
Tel: 216-531-1838

St. Vladimir’s Seminary Bookstore
575 Scarsdale Rd.
Crestwood, NY 10707
Tel: 800-204-BOOK

St. Tikhon’s Seminary Bookstore 
St. Tikhon’s Rd. 
South Canaan, PA 18459
Tel: 888-454-6678
Conciliar Press 
P.O. Box 76
Ben Lomond, CA 95005
Tel: 800-967-7377

Holy Cross Bookstore
50 Goddard Ave.
Brookline, MA 02445
Tel: 800-245-0599

Light and Life Publishing
4808 Park Glen Rd.
Minneapolis, MN 55416
Tel: 952-925-3888

Templegate Publishers
PO Box 5152
Springfield IL 62705
Tel: 800-367-4844

Additionally for icons: 
St. Isaac of Syria Skete
25266 Pilgrim’s Way
Boscobel, WI 53805
Tel: 800-814-2667

For icon pins, medallions, bumpers stickers, banners:
Festal Creations
3827 Bluff St. 
Torrance, CA 90505
Tel: 800-747-9245

Patricia Madden is the Voluntary Bookstore Manager at Philokalia Orthodox Bookstore and is an active member of Holy Apostles Church, West Columbia, SC.