We had a lively and moving meeting of about 10 people on Friday, March 18, at the First Baptist Church of North Adams, this despite five of our regular attendees being out of town or otherwise not able to attend.
Our guest at the meeting was Valerie Schwartz of the Berkshire Food Project and we touched on a number of ways our programs can assist each other. For one thing, Val and Kim McMann had Mark Lincourt and me on their local TV show later on Friday. The program aired on Sunday night on NBCTC Channel 15, and we were able to convey a lot of information about our effort. (It will be shown more times until a new show is recorded).
Valerie also has shelves available that we hope to be able to pick up on Friday and put into the back room of the Friendship Center. At Friday's meeting she also mentioned a possible source of food for us. For our part, we put up a flyer advertising the daily meals at the Berkshire Food Project at the First Congregational Church in North Adams and included the flyer in bags of food we gave out.
Another important item at the meeting concerned extending the Williamstown church voucher plan/fund throughout Northern Berkshire. I handed out a summary of the program written by Stuart Crampton, who
has spearheaded the exploration of ways of preserving and extending this program.
Our group discussion came to the conclusion that this is a worthy effort. We thought that it is a long-term project and an extended program may end up looking quite different than it currently does in Williamstown. There are many factors and possible complications to consider. The consensus of those present was that Stuart should go ahead and form a task force of interested people, do more research, and eventually come back to the wider Interfaith group with a proposal.
The idea for an expanded voucher system demonstrates that the Northern Berkshire Interfaith Action Initiative is about more than just a food pantry.
Part of the future I envision for the NBIAI includes lobbying state and federal officials for adequate funding for necessary programs and working for interfaith tolerance and understanding. Religious intolerance — and ignorance — are major problems in our nation and world. Though we can be rightly grateful that we don’t have them in abundance here, who knows when they will become so? Our area has become more ethnically diverse over the years and will continue to do so.
Our group is an example of how people of different beliefs can work together for the common good.
The faith aspect
In addition, we want to preserve a strong faith aspect to our work, whatever that work turns out to be. On March 18 discussed maintaining a faith presence at the Center. We seemed to agree that bringing in our house of worship bulletins to make them available at the Friendship Center is a good way to preserve a faith presence and reach out to those who are curious as to what motivates us. We already have some of this literature down there, just not differentiated from the material we have for social services. I may just go ahead and buy a small rack we can put near the door to put them in. We already have some faith bulletins/literature a the center but it is currently mixed in with the social services information.
The next monthly meeting of the NBIAI will be held on April 15 at 10 a.m. at First Baptist Church of North Adams (use Eagle Street) entrance. All are welcome.