The Power of Publishing

It is well-known that William Barclay’s Bible commentaries, with their combination of scholarly acumen and popular touch, have had a reach that is very unusual in this field. For many years they were the mainstay of St Andrew Press, the publications arm of the Church of Scotland

Still, it was a surprise when I went to Zomba market to buy some paint for my new house and spotted a copy of Barclay’s Gospel of John Volume 2 on the shelf amidst the paint pots. Why not take the chance to do some Bible study in moments when business is quiet?

This reminded me of the power of publishing. When William Barclay was writing his commentary on the Gospel of John, I doubt if he imagined his work being read at a paint stall in Zomba market. But when you publish a book you never know where it will end up.

Twenty-five years ago, together with colleagues at Chancellor College in Zomba, I was involved in conceiving the Kachere Series of books on religion, culture and society in Malawi. Kachere has recently been described by the Journal of Southern African Studies as a, “… publishing outlet that is unique in the region outside South Africa.” 

What is most encouraging for me is to see many of the 150 Kachere titles in use throughout Malawi, supporting courses in Higher Education. In fact, many of the library copies have been in such heavy use that they are almost falling apart. Reprints and new editions are needed. More importantly, there is need for a literature that addresses the pressing challenges of the 2020s. A big part of my job is to encourage those who will produce it – the future William Barclays.

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