Partnership: A New Vision
Why a "Partnership"?
We are talking about a Partnership as the best way to make use of our historic buildings to faithfully and energetically serve the community.
In 2016 the Church on the Hill spent time discussing the current state of the congregation, and its best expectations for the coming years. It considered the church’s relatively small size, as well as studies that show the population of the Berkshires is tending to decrease in number and rise in age. In short, it seemed to us most likely that the congregation would stay small. We are also determined to follow the Gospel call to serve our neighbors.
Interim Pastor Rick Chrisman introduced us to an arrangement called “Partnership,” in which we could more effectively use our two historic buildings — the 1805 Meetinghouse and the 1877 Chapel — by forming a relationship with one or more organizations. The church and its partner organization(s) would share responsibility for the buildings and significantly increase the activities in them. In August 2016 the congregation voted to pursue such an arrangement.
What is a “Partnership”?
A “Partnership” is a relationship between the Church and one or more other organizations. The church and its partner organization(s) would share responsibility for our two historic buildings — the 1805 Meetinghouse and the 1877 Chapel — and significantly increase the activities in them.
We hired consultants from “Partners for Sacred Places,” which specializes in working with congregations seeking ways to make more productive use of their historic church properties. We learned that such partnerships are happening around the country in rural towns as well as in urban areas. In some cases, the congregation and their partners formed an arrangement in which the church retained ownership of their building(s). In others, the congregation and partners formed a new 501(c)(3) organization that holds joint ownership of the buildings.
What changes will this
mean for the Church?
The first change will be increased use of our historic buildings. As Pastor John Nelson said, “One way to measure success is how often we have to replace the carpet because it’s worn out by so many people coming and going.”
Along with the increased building use, we expect to build relationships with our partner organization(s). Getting to know them will undoubtedly bring new energy and new perspectives to our life as a Church. There will probably be some bumps in the road as well — and we’ll get over those with the help of God’s Spirit!
Within the Church we have spoken about possible physical changes to our buildings. While we have some limitations because of their placement on the Register of Historic Properties, we expect to make careful adaptations so that the buildings are more useful to more people. For example, neither building currently meets ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) standards, and we may choose to bring them into compliance. The interior of the Meetinghouse has fixed pews, which are not original to the building: we may consider replacing those pews with seating that preserves the historical appearance but can also be moved so that the space is “flexible.”
The guiding principles for any changes are 1) that they honor the historic nature of the buildings and 2) that they lead to the buildings serving the needs of the wider community, rather than only the needs of the Church.
Who decides on
establishing a Partnership?
The Church decides! As a member congregation of the United Church of Christ, Church on the Hill is the sole owner of its assets and has sole authority to choose how to make use of them.
A number of members and friends of the congregation are currently making contact with non-profit organizations in the Berkshires to ask them to consider sharing the use of these beautiful, well-placed buildings. On the first Sunday of each month, following our 10:30am worship service, any who are interested will meet in the sanctuary to compare notes. When we ultimately develop a proposal with one or more organizations, the Church Council will call a meeting of the congregation to discuss and and make a decision.
Will we be losing
No! The Church on the Hill will continue to treasure and use the 1805 Meetinghouse and the 1877 Chapel. God willing, we will be sharing both usage and ownership of the buildings with others who are committed to serving our community.