Friday, January 30, 2015

Church Renewal

Jewish Community Synagogue, Main Street, East Amherst

Two long established Amherst houses of worship are requesting money from the Community Preservation Act pot which recently doubled in size due to the local ballot initiative passed last November.

The question of separation of church and state or using public money for private endeavors hinges on the public purpose of a project.  The Mass Dept of Revenue ruled in 2007 that the preservation of historic structures has a legitimate public purpose.

As a result the CPA committee requires a historic preservation restriction on any funded project so it will stay open to the public in perpetuity.

Angel of the Lilies 

For instance, two years ago the town gave the Unitarian Church in town center over $100,000 to help restore their stained glass window "Angel of the Lilies."

Although, back in 2009 Town Meeting rejected spending $7,000 in CPA funds to fix the roof of North Church in North Amherst center (now a Korean Church).

North Church, North Amherst

The Goodwin Memorial Zion Church adjacent to Amherst College is the oldest black church in Amherst, founded in 1910. Although Hope Church, the only other black church in town. is not far behind, having been established in 1912.

 Goodwin Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church

They are requesting $25,000 to fund a "Capital Needs Assessment & Archaeological Study" for a major overhaul of the entire building (including handicapped accessibility) but in keeping with its sacred historical  significance.

The Church is one of only six buildings in Amherst to make the National Register of Historic Places.

As such, state money via Massachusetts Preservation Project Fund for the actual renovation project would probably be forthcoming in the future, but would of course require the archaeological study and renovation assessment first.   

At the January 20 meeting the CPA committee seemed receptive to the half-dozen parishioners who showed up to support their Church project.

 Steeple lightening damage bottom right

Another historic former Congregational Church in East Amherst, which became the Jewish Community gathering place back in 1976, is requesting $175,000 to right a lean in their steeple.  Last summer it was hit by lightening.

The insurance company will pay to fix the holes but not the 3% lean, which could date back as far as 1927 when a couple of supporting columns were removed to make more room.

Thus the primary purpose of the  project is aesthetic, rather than a necessary measure to keep the building from falling down.

The CPA committee seemed a bit skeptical and their questions to the petitioners bordered on a grilling.

A positive recommendation from the CPA committee is mandatory for a project to come before Amherst Town Meeting for approval, so a rejection from them is a death sentence, which even God cannot change.

The committee will take a final up-or-down vote on the 11 projects before them at their March 3rd meeting.


Anonymous said...

This just shows what a wasteful slush fund the CPA is. These private enterprises should pay their own way, and not try to pass their maintenance and capital improvement needs on to the taxpayer.

Anonymous said...

The town spent $100,000 on a stained glass window. Are you serious?

I am never going to have realistic expectations for anything that comes out of Amherst again.

Amherst is rich and there is not question about it.

How did spending $100,000 on a window not produce protests and riots in town?

That is 3 years salary for someone in the private sector or a half years salary for a local public official. Either way, it is a lot of money.

Larry, how about getting your police/fire money out of the church window fund, it is about 100,000x larger than most other towns funds for fixing private sector windows. That's got to be 2-3 cops or ff.

Larry Kelley said...

Well the common response is CPA money can only be spent for Open Space, Historical Preservation or Affordable Housing.

I voted against the $100K window assist because the Church was doing an expensive expansion, that killed a HUGE historic old oak tree out on Kellogg Avenue.

Anonymous said...

How about taking all of that money and fix the crumbling central fire station? If they cant build a new one, call the old one historic and make it decent.

Larry Kelley said...

Central Station is pretty historic.

But at this point not overly viable for a modern day Fire Department.

Anonymous said...

At least they could put a better bandaid on it while they discuss a new one for 10 more years.

Anonymous said...

That's a lot of churches for supposedly god-hating liberals.

Anonymous said...

Time to separate church and state.

Anonymous said...

It's a shame that tax money is spent in this way. We have so much trouble spending it on basic services. I've lived here sixty years and I have never even seen that stained glass window. What a waste of money.

Jackie M'Vemba said...

Key word is 'supposedly.'

Jackie M'Vemba said...

Separate but equal, right?

Anonymous said...

Make AFD Central "historic", fix her up and then make id FD administrative offices and maybe an APD satellite office or something....

Anonymous said...

Aren't we talking about "Community Preservation" funds here? Don't our religious entities help not only preserve but cultivate community? Aren't most of them housed in historically significant buildings whose presence enhance our collective landscape?

I don't get the long as dollars are distributed without regard to the nature of belief.

Your photo, Larry, of the North Amherst Congregational Church, shows clearly the significance of that structure in the surrounding landscape. Though not a member of that faith, I thought then and continue to feel that it was a shame for Town Meeting to deny access to public funds for the preservation of this historically significant and community minded treasure.

Jackie M'Vemba said...

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

The above is the clause from the Constitution of the United States about religion. Rarely do we hear the second half of it quoted. The state may NOT prohibit the "free expression" of religion . Even yours!

Anonymous said...

No one is prohibiting expression. Express all you want. Just don't ask me to pay for your steeple.

Anonymous said...

Jackie, the one that no one reads is the first half or they would not call it freedom of religion, though that is a nice catch phrase, kind of like "no child left behind."

The first half says that one specific body of the federal govt cannot even recognize that religion exists. This would be congress.

This makes the second half not even needed if the law was followed as the congress would not even have words to describe their law against the thing they cannot recognize. Congress is supposed to officially go, "what's that" when someone says Christians.

If we are looking at the actual words, this amendment does not restrict the executive branch, the judicial branch, states, counties, towns and most specifically other citizens or businesses. There are some other laws out there that secure such things, then there are customs and more that secure this (and fail occasionally or are absent like may be the case in this example).

I know we don't have freedom of religion or the freedom to even define what our religion is, I know this because my religion is strictly against taking money from 1000's of people by force or to have the money taken by me to spend on a church window. Many others even share this religion, I think it has graduated beyond cult status...But I am not allowed to practice my religion in Amherst without violating the law. I must give and I must take or I must leave.

Government and their marketing parties are the new religions. Don't shoot that one down so quick.

Anonymous said...

You folks are fighting but forgetting that this is Amherst, where no one votes, no one but NIMBYS care (only when it affects them), where the Government has no leadership and can't make decisions. A place where study after study for anything and everything results in the worst decisions possible by a stale group of liberals and trust fund babies. Nothing changes. It's a town of selfish, self-centered, self-important residents who live off the University, no different than a welfare state, but with academic degrees. It's the best example of communal living out there.

Anonymous said...

Koreans are Presbyterian, by and large.

Presbyterianism is a branch of Reformed Protestantism which traces its origins to the British Isles. Presbyterian churches derive their name from the presbyterian form of church government, which is government by representative assemblies of elders. Many Reformed churches are organized this way, but the word "Presbyterian," when capitalized, is often applied uniquely to the churches that trace their roots to the Scottish and English churches that bore that name and English political groups that formed during the English Civil War.[2] Presbyterian theology typically emphasizes the sovereignty of God, the authority of the Scriptures, and the necessity of grace through faith in Christ. Presbyterian church government was ensured in Scotland by the Acts of Union in 1707[3] which created the kingdom of Great Britain. In fact, most Presbyterians found in England can trace a Scottish connection, and the Presbyterian denomination was also taken to North America mostly by Scots and Scots-Irish (Scotch-Irish American) immigrants. The Presbyterian denominations in Scotland hold to the theology of John Calvin and his immediate successors, although there is a range of theological views within contemporary Presbyterianism.

Local congregations of churches which use presbyterian polity are governed by sessions made up of representatives of the congregation (elders); a conciliar approach which is found at other levels of decision-making (presbytery, synod and general assembly).

The roots of Presbyterianism lie in the European Reformation of the 16th century; the example of John Calvin's Geneva being particularly influential. Most Reformed churches who trace their history back to Scotland are either presbyterian or congregationalist in government. In the twentieth century, some Presbyterians played an important role in the Ecumenical Movement, including the World Council of Churches. Many Presbyterian denominations have found ways of working together with other Reformed denominations and Christians of other traditions, especially in the World Communion of Reformed Churches. Some Presbyterian churches have entered into unions with other churches, such as Congregationalists, Lutherans, Anglicans, and Methodists.

Anonymous said...

Who cares?

Anonymous said...

Surely even you will agree that your right to freely express your religion is trampled on a regular basis. I do agree with you that you shouldn't have to buy a steeple fix.

Jackie M'Vemba said...

...and such small portions!

Anonymous said...

How did the Koreans get dragged in to this? Korean Americans or Koreans? South? North? I guess I musta missed that reel.