Sacred Places Winter 2019 - Page 14

Performance by Crescendo with a full house at Saint James Place Photo: Christina Lane Photography $150,000 towards the preservation of the former church, under the provisions of the city’s Community Preservation Act which permits a local property tax surcharge to support historic preservation. Although the Berkshires have seen many congregations shrink and close, the region puts considerable energy into preservation. SJP is not alone but is, says Rembold, “the most prominent and best example for reuse.” SJP raised additional funds from foundations and state programs, including Massachusetts’ historic tax credit program, permitting the building to be fully restored and renovated as a home to both arts and social service nonprofits. Its intimate performance spaces have encouraged artists to use them year-round, which in turn has encouraged performers and audiences to patronize local 14 SACRED PLACES • WINTER 2019 restaurants and businesses in winter as well as summer. As Jim Frangione, the Artistic Director of the Great Barrington Public Theater, puts it so succinctly, “Every artistic organization needs a home and SJP is a home for us. A lot of programming is happening in the spring and fall that never happened before and SJP is a big reason why.” Although SJP has hosted the worship services of one or two congregations for a few hours each week, the tradition of housing programs that benefit people in need continues every day. SJP provides rent-free space for The People’s Pantry, a food pantry serving many across southern Berkshire County; the money that would have been spent on rent can go toward programming and food instead. The Pantry has its own private accessible entrance, allowing it to expand their hours of operation without hindering other programming in the building. Suzannah VanSchaick, Board Member and volunteer at The People's Pantry, notes that the region’s new “economic success can leave those in need to fade into the background.” SJP provides an “affordable, accessible, and attractive location for The People’s Pantry, providing a much needed balance within our community.” The fact that Saint James Place provides space and support for both the arts and for social services suggests that St. James Episcopal Church’s long commitment to community lives on in unexpected ways. And SJP’s transition from church to community hub can inspire and encourage other communities to do the same. As Sally Harris would say, “you are not alone.”