In Massachusetts a Vestry mulls St. James’ fate

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The vestry of St. James Episcopal Church is expected today to decide the fate of the 150-year-old Main Street landmark.

Portions of the church's walls caved in during the summer of 2008, forcing the congregation to hold services at other locations in town.

Now, after receiving a report on cost estimates for refurbishing the building, located on the corner of Main Street and Taconic Avenue, the vestry, a group comprised of parishioners, will decide from three options -- repair the facility; demolish the buildings and erect a new structure; or sell the property with or without the existing buildings.

More time may be needed

The Rev. Frances A. Hills, the church's rector, said the 10-member vestry will probably decide today which option -- or a possible combination of options -- to go with, though more time may be needed.

"Hopefully we'll have something, but we may decide that we need to discern a little longer," said Hills.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)TEC Parishes* Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry

Posted February 26, 2010 at 6:30 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Fr. J. wrote:

I looked it up.  What a lovely old church.  Hope they can keep it.

February 27, 4:03 am | [comment link]
2. Pageantmaster ن wrote:

It’s rather pretty.  It looks as if they might have some land to the left which could produce some funds if developed.

February 27, 8:49 am | [comment link]
3. Bookworm(God keep Snarkster) wrote:

I know a church on Cape Cod that is ready to fall down like this.  I don’t know St. James’s story, but the CC church refused to do its ongoing maintenance(despite millions in endowment—typical tight-fisted/“penny wise pound foolish” New England stuff) and is now faced with a huge renovation(or “fall down”) in a challenging economy. 

I also know lots of vestries who think they need to “discern a little longer”.  Meanwhile the huge problem still sits there.  One of my astute, businessman friends refuses to ever again be on a vestry…“vestries don’t want to solve problems, they just want to talk about them”. 

If the global Church would divorce itself from phenomena like that, we would all be in much better shape.  Sad…

February 27, 1:14 pm | [comment link]
4. Terry Tee wrote:

Is it written in letters of stone somewhere in the United States that Episcopal churches must look English?

February 27, 5:21 pm | [comment link]
5. Bookworm(God keep Snarkster) wrote:

Did anyone besides me note that St. James’s walls caved in nearly TWO YEARS AGO?! 

Discern it much longer, and you might not have ANY options left.

February 27, 6:12 pm | [comment link]
6. Chazaq wrote:

Terry Tee, I googled “Episcopal churches must look English” and nothing came up except your comment, so I think the answer to your question is NO.  However, if we think about what it means for a church to “look English” and equate it to:

1. Declining attendance
2. Devoid of orthodox catholic biblical Christians
3. Led by bishops who are epic failures
4. Walls caving in (literally or metaphorically)

then, yes, it may be that what you suggest has merit.

February 27, 7:49 pm | [comment link]
8. Hakkatan wrote:

St James is in the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts, which has half (or a little more) of its congregations unable to both maintain a building and pay the expense of a full-time cleric.  One parish in Worcester closed down in January of 2009, and several years ago another parish closed because its building was damaged beyond repair because it simply wore out.  The diocesan leadership is talking of “mutual ministry” and of shared clergy.

A lot of the northeast is filled with century-old buildings, whose congregations may have some endowments, but not enough to support a cleric, or to do a full repair.  Those with modernist clergy are generally unable to attract newcomers or the unchurched, and the congregations are aging - with no real Gospel, they have little to offer and cannot even retain the youth.  I know of one congregation about 30 miles from St James that has grown in both numbers and activity over the last five or six years - through the ministry of an energetic and orthodox priest.  There is also a church plant near Springfield that is not far from parish status - the church planter is orthodox and knows and teaches the Gospel.  These two congregations are exceptions to the general trend - because they are exceptions to what the clergy ordinarily stand for and teach in the northeast.

February 28, 4:29 pm | [comment link]
9. Cennydd wrote:

My former TEC parish is stuck with a building in constant need of repair of one sort or another.  The property dates from 1955, has from time to time needed roof repair, maintenance or repairs for the heating and air conditioning system, replacement of the kitchen, major….and I do mean major…..water pipe and sewage lines repair and replacement in from the street, etc, and each and every time, they have had to stage a fund-raiser in order to do it.  The problem is that they can’t touch the money in their endowment fund.  What earthly good does it do to have huge sums of money tied up in an account where it can’t be touched?  That’s insane!

February 28, 5:12 pm | [comment link]
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