The River to a Godly Space
If you ever find yourself driving along 147 in Sunbury, Pennsylvania, you’ll notice at least two things: the giant wall that keeps the river out of the town and the large blue building with the front of the it spelling out “BIBLE DEPOT” in large white letters. While the building isn’t in the center of the town, it makes itself easily identifiable along the side of the road. The store proudly boasts “serving God and his people since 1931,” putting this store somewhere close to 90 years old.
But why here, why Sunbury? It’s not like the town is the Mecca for Christians, but is nuzzled in an area where Protestantism and Catholicism are prominent, and that’s fairly obvious if you drive into Sunbury on 61 South. On the main street itself, you see only a handful of churches and places of worship. Upon further inspection, sixteen places of worship are in the immediate town of Sunbury.
View of the store from sidewalk.
Map of Sunbury, PA with highlights on sites affiliated with religion.
Bible Depot shares its environment with the raging Susquehanna, which as Tim Cresswell describes it, “site[s] of history and identity in the city” (5). The river plays an essential part in the identity of the town, as its waters have flooded the “soup-bowl like” landscape for years before the wall was built in the 1970s. It’s no wonder that the River of Life Assembly meets just two blocks from the banks of the river.
Looking at the front of Bible Depot.
The view of the river and the wall from Bible Depot.
When thinking about place, specifically in Sunbury, it’s best to think of it more fluidly. In Cresswell’s, Place: a short introduction, he talks about how thinking about place is both a metaphorical and physical experience. He proposed that “The museum is an attempt to produce a ‘place of memory’” (5). While this might seem far off from the vision of a religious bookstore, it actually correlates fairly well.
Upon googling Bible Depot, there will various yellowpages with contact information and yelp reviews, but when visiting the actual store website, one is bombarded by not books, but urns and urn accessories. When I learned this, I was a bit taken back, like a book store that sells urns? Weird. However, what the urn carries and represents is that sense of place.
Urns typically contain the ashes of some loved being that has passed on, and with those people that have passed, is this “sense of place as memory”. Dead loved ones bring about memories of a special place you would have gone with them to, or the attempt to remember that the person will always hold a special place in your heart.
Front door of the building.
When talking about death, it’s important to note that different demographics of people handle their loved ones dying differently than another group. In the town of Sunbury, the majority of the town (90.6% to be exact) is white, with the other 10% coming from minority groups of Hispanic or Black descent. Of the population of a little more than 9,000, at least 8,100 of the community members are white, and while being white doesn’t associate with Christianity, it tends to be a trend in this part of the country.
In contrast to the religious vibes of the town sits the Hotel Edison, which was the first building in the world to be lighted by Edison’s three-wire electric system. Bible Depot sits a few blocks away from the hotel, and while the Hotel was in Sunbury long before the bookstore opened, it creates and eerie sense of clashing within the town itself. Take it from me, driving through the town on a dreary and overcast day can send shivers down your spine.
As Tim Cresswell said about his book, “… is that place is not just a thing in the world, but a way of understanding the world” (11). Bible Depot is conveniently located just outside the town, but not far from any one church in the surrounding area. It’s a place of healing and help, as posters around the outside advertised ways for soldiers to over their scars of battle, both physical and mental. While I could not venture into the store, as it is closed on Wednesdays, I look forward to my next visit to dive deeper into this deep rooted Christian bookstore.
Entrance to the bookstore.
“DATA USA: Sunbury, PA.” DATA USA, 7 Feb. 2019, www.datausa.io/profile/geo/sunbury-pa/#top.
“City-Data.com – Sunbury Pennsylvania.” City-Data, 7 Feb. 2019, http://www.city-data.com/city/Sunbury-Pennsylvania.html.
“Google Maps.” Google Maps. Google, n.d. Web. 07 Feb. 2019, http://maps.google.com/.
Chobanoff, Anna. Bible Depot, 06 Feb. 2019, Sunbury, Pennsylvania
Cresswell, Tim. Place: A Short Introduction. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub, 2004.
“Visit – Hotel Edison.” Hotel Edison, 7 Feb. 2019, http://thehoteledison.com/visit/
“Facebook – Bible Depot.” Facebook, 7 Feb. 2019, www.facebook.com/pg/bibledepot/about/?ref=page_internal