Where the Almighty Meets the Almighty Dollar

At the crossroads of greed and fear, you can buy a book.
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"You cannot serve both God and money." -- Matthew 6:24

Across the street behind

Trinity Church

, the oldest Episcopalian parish in New York City and an anchor of Wall Street, the

Trinity Bookstore

sells just two kinds of tomes: those about religion and those about business.

In the simple store window

Risk Management Analysis

and

The Art of The Trade

stand stiffly alongside books like Gail Godwin's spirituality-before-the-millenium novel,

Evensong

, and

The Paul Quest: The Renewed Search for the Jew of Tarsus

. Occasionally amid the orderly shelves, church finance textbooks like

The Complete Ministry Audit

neatly bridge the gap.

This little shop has found its calling by ministering to a self-centered, harried trading floor flock, albeit one with a conscience. Each year it sells hundreds of Bibles, outdistancing every edition of

Modern Portfolio Theory.

"

The financial books always get people into the store," says Arlene Bullard, the engaging, dark-haired store manager. Lunchtime finds the bookstore's faithful stealing a few moments away from the money altar. Radiating welcome and warmth on this rainy day, Bullard and the other managers, Robert Chinga and Larry Soucy, have tuned the radio to Pagliacci while they stock the two-story, woody-smelling nooks with gleaming, handmade ornaments and matte-faced Greek icons. Stock and options traders hurry in from the newly merged

Nasdaq-AMEX

up the block, seeking a moment of respite from the footrace for the almighty dollar.

"One told me he drops in for some peace, just to escape the floor," says Bullard.

Technically a ministry of the massive Trinity Church, the store began selling religious books of all denominations, adding texts on finance, stocks, bonds and trading strategies along the way to boost business. But then came America's newfound religion -- investing in the stock market -- and an impending sense of panic tied to the year 2000. Both have fanned a brisk business in publications addressing risk-taking, mortality, spirituality and a reexamination of morality and ethics.

For the Wall Street novitiates, combing Trinity's shelves is a rite of passage. "The young ones dash in, all flustered, with a name scribbled on a scrap of paper. Someone's obviously told them they ought to read Sheldon Natenberg's

Options Volatility,

" says Bullard. "And it's always 'I need it yesterday. I'm in a hurry.'" (Here's a shocker -- these book buyers, she says, "tend to be the ones who haggle on price.")

If they survive Wall Street's ups and downs, young traders often return to Trinity Bookstore years later for more thoughtful fare. Perhaps a classic: Graham & Dodd's

Security Analysis,

or

Technical Analysis on Stock Trends,

the acclaimed 50-year-old staple by Robert D. Edwards and John F. Magee. Books by Street scribe and high priest of fixed income Frank Fabozzi also "fly off the shelves," Bullard says. "The traders ask for them in hushed tones."

In the 16 years since it opened, Trinity Bookstore's business titles have followed the fashion on the Street. In the late 1980s and early '90s, volumes on technical analysis and energy futures reigned. Now customers are partial to electronic, online and daytrading manuals, which are stacked prominently near the check-out counter. According to Chinga, a up-to-the-minute daytrader is no sooner parted from her copy of

Electronic Day Traders' Secrets

as she is from her T1 line.

But even with its unusual formula, this bibliopole isn't exempt from the usual pressures on indie bookstores. A

Borders

opened in 1996 in the nearby World Trade Center, hurting sales for the first month while customers checked out the competition. And being situated at the crossroads of greed and fear means the tiny shop's sales are affected by upheavals like

Bankers Trust's

(BT)

and

Merrill Lynch's

(MER)

layoffs during last fall's stock market scare.

Trinity Church won't say what sort of sales the store generates, or whether it's profitable. But since the parish owns the bookstore, the building that houses it at 74 Trinity Place and about two dozen other properties in the Wall Street district, it's doubtful the little shop is going under anytime soon.

"Trinity has outlasted all the other bookstores around," says one browser, a utilities and oil analyst who started shopping here in the late 1970s after it bought out the inventory of a finance bookstore around the corner.

For Bullard, the appeal's no secret. "People are afraid to lose their jobs. They become reflective, conservative," she says, fingering

Guide to Contentment

by Catholic archbishop Fulton Sheen and several works by C.S. Lewis. "There's so much uncertainty -- on the trading floor, in life. People always want to discover what they're missing."

In the spiritual section, Arthur Homewood, an accountant who has been stopping in since 1989, lingers, leafing through

Letter to a Man in the Fire: Does God Exist and Does He Care?

A troubled relationship, now ended, lured him back on this rainy day.

"Even though I'm in business, I don't think of myself as just a secular person. That's why I keep coming back. And the young guys," he says, "they'll keep coming back too."