Pilgrim Book & Bible has served the church for 46 years in East Vancouver

Greg Wasmuth began Pilgrim Book and Bible in 1974.

“You just know when it’s time. You feel it in your gut,” says Greg Wasmuth.

The stock of books, Bibles, music, movies, greeting cards, trinkets and artwork at Pilgrim Book and Bible is definitely dwindling as the 35 percent off signs sway from the breeze brought in by another customer looking for last chance bargains.

Greg greets each person as if they were his best friend, and it is that personable touch and gregarious smile that so many loyal customers will miss when the store closes permanently this Saturday (October 24).

Since 1974 Pilgrim has been anchored in East Vancouver, with a mission to equip Christians for life’s journey. The store has survived a fire in its original location, a flood from a huge aquarium next door in its second location and a deluge from a broken pipe in its third.

Like its owner, the store has been resilient and quick to keep on but the passage of time, changing demographics, competition and the surge of the internet has spoken louder.

“There has always been something to encourage us, however.”

Pilgrim Book and Bible got its name when Greg’s wife, Wendy, suggested the moniker after the couple had enjoyed Pilgrim’s Progress.

Greg says that he was a self-styled hippie in his first year of English Literature, studying apocalyptic books like Ezekiel, when his future wife Wendy gave him his first Bible. Through reading and study, he gave his life to Christ and the couple then absorbed numerous Christian books, changed friendships and went to church.

They zealously wanted to do something for God. Greg thought originally that he would sell books for a few years and then go into ministry. Books gave the Wasmuths life, and so the dream of giving life to others through books became a reality.

Encouragement came when people would come in and express how a book had changed their life.

During one of the early days a young man stopped by, talked with Greg and purchased a book. He later admitted that he had been on his way to commit suicide. but the talk and the book he picked up changed everything.

Some mentioned that they were impacted by a book their parent had purchased when they were young. He loved it when children would come in to read in the children’s area at the back of the store.

“We’re not preaching to people but we’re helping them understand by the books we display and the conversations we have, and this seems to make a difference for people.”

Nothing was “more important than the person who walked in the door…. Whether they were buying a greeting card, a novel, a commentary or a book of some kind.”

Praying for customers and calling them by name was standard practice. At one time Sunday School curriculum was the foundation of a good segment of business, as dozens of churches relied on Pilgrim for their quarterly orders of Gospel Light and David C. Cook – but now even Bible study materials are being ordered online.

Greg has been gracious in giving local authors a chance to display their works on consignment. He says, “it’s good to work with like-minded people in the community.” When Greg sold his last copy of Mere Christianity recently it gave him a pang because he prided himself on the classics that he sold among the rest of the stock.

He says the hardest thing about closing is the loss of relationships after 46 years because this is more than a business. He says executives come to the end of their time, clear out their desk and walk away while things continue.

“Every day people come into the store and are sad that we are closing and we’re sad that we won’t be seeing them as often. The Christian community is small enough.”

Greg isn’t sure of his future dreams but hopes to work with schools and churches in speciality resource areas without being tied to a brick and mortar location. There are still a lot of loose ends to tie up.

He’s been giving New Testaments to a gentleman who gives away free Bibles in SkyTrain stations and would like to keep that up. Christian bookstores have withered to about 50 in Canada and even the suppliers have dried up.

“We have a generation that is reading articles and shorter clips on the internet but there is still a generation which likes the comfort of a tangible book where they can curl up with a coffee or read in the park or wherever they are.”

For wisdom, Greg says, “The strength of the church is the small church and he fears that it is getting lost in the superstar syndrome focusing on large churches. .. . . Big churches continue to get bigger and small churches continue to get smaller.”

Greg himself has been a pilgrim through the Christian resource landscape and he has doubled as a pastor to pastors during these years. He will be missed.

Greg says that the one thing you can’t replace is time. “We’ve kind of been married to the store and now the grandchildren need time. I’m hoping to continue playing hockey and staying involved in supporting the Christian community. After praying for years I’ve reached a peace that it’s time to end Pilgrim.”

Greg adds, “Come out and vote on the 24th and then come and clear out Pilgrim.”

Best wishes Greg!

Several friends and colleagues wish Greg Wasmuth well as he retires:

Greg Wasmuth, bookseller extraordinaire. Friendly, warm and engaging and he always knew what he was talking about. He is well respected by his customers and by book distributors and other booksellers. His presence in the bookstore and his infectious smile will be dearly missed. I wish Greg many adventurous and fulfilling retirement years.

Lando Klassen, House of James Bookstore, Abbotsford
Decades long friend and business colleague.

Greg Wasmuth was one of the first people that I met when I started with Missions Fest Vancouver in 2014. He is a true treasure and man of God. Pilgrim Book and Bible. and by extension Greg, have operated the book table at the conference since 2006.

Every year, rain or shine, Greg and a few faithful helpers packed boxes of books and merchandise and brought them to the Vancouver Convention Centre for the public’s enjoyment and edification. Greg’s smile and enthusiasm at the crack of dawn on a Friday morning always gave me a sense of peace and joy at the start of our busiest weekend.

The staff and I at Mission Central wish you all the best Greg, as this next chapter in life opens up before you. Thank you for your love and faithful service.

John Hall, Executive Director
Mission Central (Formerly Missions Fest)

“Greg was one of those people who made you feel at ease in his presence. Our interactions happened mostly at Christian booksellers conferences where he would generously share his knowledge of the Christian bookselling industry with whomever asked for help.

He passionately lived out his mission “to equip Christians for life’s journey.” His easy approachable manner along with his desire to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with everyone he could was the successful combination he needed to provide years of excellent service to the Christian marketplace.

He will be remembered for the difference he made long after he retires.  All the best in your retirement Greg”

Marlene Lewis Reimer
Former Manager, Angel Christian Supplies, Surrey

Well done Greg, on over three decades of service to Greater Vancouver, supplying churches and individuals with life-giving resources. Thank you for your partnership in this calling we share, the conferences and buying trips where we discussed, planned and encouraged each other. You deserve some rest for a job well done!. I’m sure a new adventure awaits!

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26)

Mike Easton
Christian Book & Music, Victoria

This article is re-posted by permission of the author, from The Light.

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8 comments for “Pilgrim Book & Bible has served the church for 46 years in East Vancouver

  1. I just saw online about the store closed permanently. Felt like my heart dropped. The first time I entered the store itself, Greg’s approach was so friendly and positive and homely. I felt like my dad (whom I lost) was talking to me. Its very heart breaking. God will continue to use them to influence more lives.

    Best wishes to Greg and Wendy.

  2. Greg was like a partner in ministry to me for the many years that we ran Alpha and other Christ-centred outreaches.

    God Bless you for your faithfulness my brother,
    Frank Berto

  3. Dear Greg and Wendy,

    Hoping to pick-up a book for a friend, I headed to Pilgrim Books one fine day in June 2021, Without verifying online.

    To my surprise I found the gate closed and the unlit interior bare and empty. My heart fell as a thought immediately crossed my mind, “Oh no, I hope the store hadn’t gone bankrupt as a result of the pandemic, although I’d heard that Bible sales had risen over the uncertainties of the past 15 months . . .”

    The next day it was on my morning ‘to do’ list to search for news of Pilgrim Books. On finding the article “Pilgrim Book & Bible has served the church for 46 years in East Vancouver,” I was thankful to God for yet another meeting of a brother and sister, albeit online and indirectly. (It usually happens in-person!)

    “It’s a happy delight to meet you, Greg and Wendy!” It is encouraging and revealing of God’s glory to read your story. How awe-inspiring to read and to see how God works in our lives (what fruit!) and how He brings us together in intricately designed ways.

    I’m saddened that Pilgrim Books closed (knowing it was located in town always gave the reassurance that I could stop by and pick-up a last-minute gift without the delivery factor). On the other side of the coin I am curious with joyful enthusiasm about where God will lead you next in continuing His ministry! He puts in my heart and mind to pray. And so I will pray. Praying for much continued fruitfulness for His praise and glory! Eternally your sister in Christ.

  4. Greg certainly didn’t get into this for the money. Personally I wouldn’t have had the patience to do this. No matter how low he put those prices, people still wanted an additional discount, I’m sure. I knew him during the 80s from my time at Northwest Baptist. Greg had a special demeanor, someone truly genuine, empathetic who would do anything to hunt down that book, no matter how obscure and in the end just make a few bucks on it.

    Probably made more from Pastors with their “book allowances” than from seminary students who are scraping by but needed to fulfill their required reading. I know it was a tough haul for Greg over those years. His Christian Book Store was much more than just books, it was a place where you would meet new people, exchange ideas and appreciate Greg’s insight.

    Sadly, the Christian Book Store , as most other book stores will be a thing of the past; with Amazon taking the world by storm, yet the “world wide net” also makes purchasing the most obscure literary gem just a few clicks away and to your door in record time.

    Yet Greg and his interaction with his customers is what will be remembered and missed the most. Thank you for making each customer feel special and a priority in a world that cares less and less as the years go by. May the Lord Bless your new ventures and keep you in good health. You’ll be missed.

  5. Oh, I’m so sorry to see the last Christian book store around go down! 🙁 VERY sad.

    I agree with the above, Greg – you’ve done a good job, and will be rewarded for your work.

  6. It was always a joy to go to the Pilgrim Book and Bible and be greeted by Greg or the staff. He will be greatly missed and we look forward to staying in touch with him and Wendy.

  7. Thank you for your life of service to the community and to the Church, Greg. Many people have been blessed by the authors whose books you have carried and recommended, as well as by your personal friendship and counsel. Well done, my friend! And although the bookstore closes, I know that your personal ministry will continue as you pursue your chief purpose and pleasure in life – to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.

  8. We have really enjoyed Greg and Wendy’s positive outlook on life. It showed up at Pilgrim’s and at Missions Fest. We had the good fortune of being in a small study group with them some years ago and can say we were richly blessed by them. The word retirement does not exist in the Bible, so blessings for the next chapter (pun intended) of your life.

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