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Going in Love with Community Partners

Going out to bless and plant Gideon’s Garden @ Taft Farms 2019
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.
John 20:21

As Grace members grow in our love for God and for ourselves as God’s beloved through worship, study, and fellowship, this love reaches out into the community. Our relationships outside the gatherings of our church have grown and deepened over the years. Sometimes these community connections have emerged from casual conversations among members, such as the Sunday School wreath party at Taft Farms in 2008 that started Gideon’s Garden. Other times they emerge when we purposefully gather for deep reflection and prayer. In 2019 the Wisdom Group discerned a community need that led to a partnership with local schools to sponsor a day and evening with basketball star Chris Herren for honest discussions about substance use disorder.

Through their community connections, such as board membership on Construct, the local family housing and shelter non-profit, our clergy have also helped us to look out into God’s holy fields and into the faces of God’s beloved around us. In some cases this support for the people around us is financial and reflected in our Annual Budget such as that for Berkshire Immigrant Center, based in north county, in our 2020 and 2021 budget. In 2018 we provided safe meeting space for legal consultations. Public policy and then the pandemic complicated this service, but a need may arise post-pandemic.

The largest budgeted item is Gideon’s Garden and our community partners in Gideon’s Garden keep growing and spreading each year, especially during COVID, from the various delivery sites to the Multicultural BRIDGE summer program and now with the schools through the new summer intern program. Lee Food Pantry was begun by the people of St. George’s and is now managed by Grace Church with the hands-on work and support of many community groups and churches in Lee.

The People’s Pantry, begun in the small shed behind the former St. James building in Great Barrington, and now housed in that building’s basement, is included in our budget. It is now managed by a board that includes two members of Grace Church, and is staffed by teams from various faith and community organizations.

The clergy of Grace Church have traditionally served on two community housing boards: St. James Community Housing Corporation which directs the senior low-income housing Bostwick Gardens founded in 1985 by St. James Church, and Construct, Inc., the local non-profit that builds and locates low-income housing for families and vulnerable community members.

Grace Church members at Lights for Liberty Candlelight Vigil to protest immigration policy, July 2019

Sometimes our love for those around us shows up when we show up. When we realized through our friends in our food ministries that immigrants were growing increasingly fearful about ICE raids and children in cages in July 2019, a group of women from Grace contacted the then-brand new pastor at First Congregational Church in Great Barrington to hold a “Lights for Liberty” candlelight vigil to protest immigration policies on their Main Street lawn. Since our rector was on vacation, we asked other clergy and our bishop to attend “in collar”. Local musicians pitched in, including a summer music camp group who arrived and asked to sing a song. The sight of hundreds of people standing up for humane treatment of our immigrant neighbors reached the ears and hearts of those working in the Great Barrington restaurants that evening. And the word spread through the community that these people are neighbors who are cared about as fellow human beings.

Gideon’s Garden delivers to WIC (Women, Infants, & Children) at Community Health Programs in Great Barrington

Grace members see their journey to God as a journey to others. Who knows what new way God will dance us into future solidarity with those around us? You can learn more about our partnerships in our 2020 Annual Report which also includes the 2021 budget. The following is a list of our partners who have been included in our budgets, have met in our office space, and have spoken to our congregation.

Community Partners

Interested clergy contact the Diocese of Western Massachusetts Canon for Transitions, The Rev. Dr. Rich Simpson: rsimpson@diocesewma.org or 413-417-2415