As the Father has sent me, so I send you.
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.
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.
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.
- Taft Farms
- Lee Food Pantry
- People’s Pantry
- Board members; team members with Christ Trinity (pre-COVID)
- Multicultural BRIDGE
- Summer camp at Gideon’s Garden and other activities over the years
- Berkshire Immigrant Center
- Financial support; office space
- Construct, Inc.
- Parishioners participate in raising money during the annual Construct Walk; clergy serves on board.
- Berkshire Interfaith Organizing
- Members of Grace participate in accompanying immigrants to court appearances and check-ins; suspended during COVID
- Guidance Counselors (three public school districts)
- LIST OF FOOD PANTRIES & MEAL SITES IN BERKSHIRE COUNTY – APRIL 19, 2021
- LIST OF SCHOOL FOOD PROGRAMS – AUGUST 24, 2020
- LIST OF DIAPER PROGRAMS – AUGUST 24, 2020
- LIST OF TRANSPORTATION PROVIDERS IN BERKSHIRE COUNTY October 2019
- SOUTHERN BERKSHIRE RESOURCES GUIDE – 2015
View video about The People’s Pantry here
Donate to The People’s Pantry here
Human to Human
Diocese of Western Massachusetts has launched this new initiative. Under one umbrella they have collected the various ministries that are going on in our Diocese that exist to connect with our neighbors.
Human to Human is about compassion. We are about the human side of poverty, isolation, and addiction. Human to Human sees everyone as a friend and a neighbor. Our only agenda is love. Learn more here.
PAST PROJECTS IN THE COMMUNITY
Special Pentecost Event
Joining with Berkshire county churches, led by Rise against Hunger, we filled 20,000 bags each of which is a meal to be sent to those in need. This video, posted on Facebook, from the Rev. Mary Francis Curns captures the spirit of the day. Thank you to the Rev. Tim Weisman, Pastor of Zion Lutheran Church for hosting the event.
Railroad Street Youth Project, Grace Church, and Multicultural BRIDGE working together.
This summer we began a new initiative called Community Network Dinners. Four dinners will occur over three months, each with a different focus, where members of Grace Church will have conversations with members of chosen communities. The first dinner focused on youth and our special guests were members of Railroad Street Youth Project. Before the second dinner, with its focus on the Hispanic community, and issues that local immigrants face, Doreen Hutchinson, Co-chair of the Grace Wisdom/Outreach group that has organized the project, spoke with The Rev. Annie Ryder of Christ Trinity Church in a radio interview.
On the Religious Roundtable, a WSBS program, The Rev. Annie Ryder interviews Doreen Hutchinson to explore the inspiration and goals of the Community Network Dinners initiative begun by Grace Church, an Episcopal Community in the Southern Berkshires. Annie, of Christ Trinity, Sheffield is one of the four hosts of the weekly program; Doreen, of Grace Church, is a parishioner of Grace and co-chair of its Wisdom/Outreach Committee. WSBS is the local radio station for Great Barrington and surrounding towns in Western Massachusetts. The location for the dinners is The Guthrie Center, and the first dinner, focused on youth, is pictured while the recording plays.