Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A powerful and moving Interfaith service at New Hope

All the candles lit at Sunday's service at New Hope Methodist Church.

“What lies before us and what lies behind us
are small matters compared to what lies within us.

And when we bring what is within
out into the world, miracles happen.”
— Henry David Thoreau

Candle lighting and heartfelt testimonies lifted our Interfaith Service for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding at New Hope Methodist Church to a truly transcendent level. Organized and conducted by New Hope Pastor Kim Kie with help from the Rev. Peter Elvin, of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Williamstown and the Rev. Dave Anderson of the First Baptist Church of North Adams, the service exceed expectations.

About 40 people attended on Sunday evenning, Jan. 27, filling most of the sacntuary of this unique, storefront church. The event was so well-attended, well-planned by Pastor Kie and others, moving and appreciated, that we will no doubt continue it in the future.

After Pastor Kie offered words of welcome, Marilyn Moran and Donna Turner of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Berkshire County Chapter gave moving introductory remarks. Donna read a great prose poem titled “Let Go....” (See text below)

During the service there were readings from various traditions, followed by each reader lighting a candle. The themes were Truth, Healing, Understanding, Hope, Thankfulness, Faith, and Love. Robin Kibler played fine muisc. I was privileged to read and light the candle of Hope. What I read, “Drawing Near--A Blessing to Begin Advent,” by Jan Richardson is below.

Later in the one-hour service, people came forward and lit candles in honor and/or memory of those in their lives affected by mental illness. This was profoundly moving. The Spirit seemed to be thick in the air during this time. Among the testimonies, Rachel Branch read a poem she wrote for the event, “NUTS & BOLTS.” It begins:

“Holy, Holy, Holy
Someone things I’m crazy

Local NAMI Support Group

Among information shared at the meeting were details about a local support group:

The NAMI of Berkshire County North Berkshire Support Group, a peer-led group facilitated by trained NAMI member volunteers. The group provides insight, empathy, and experiences as well as education, support and advocacy to help family members. It is open to anyone who has a family member, friend, neighbor, or special person who has a biologically based mental illness.

The support group is held the second Thursday of every month from 6:45 p.m. to 9 p.m. at St. John’s Episcopal Church, 35 Park St., Williamstown, in the library room. (Come in through the end doors of the Church School building. The library is on the right).

Thanks to all who in any way took part in this event. 

Pastor Kim Kie hosting the service at New Hope

“Let Go....”

To let go does not mean to stop caring. It means I can’t do it for someone else.

To let go is not to cut myself off. It’s the realization I can’t control another.

To let go is to allow someone to learn from natural consequences.

To let go is to recognize when the outcome is not in my hands.

To let go is not to care for, but to care about.

To let go is not to fix, but to be supportive.

To let go is not to judge, but to allow another to be a human being.

To let go is not to expect miracles, but to take each day as it comes, and cherish myself in it.

To let go is not to criticize or regulate anybody, but to try to become what I dream I can be.

To let go is not to regret the past, but to grow and live for the future.

To let go is to fear less and love more.

Drawing Near--A Blessing to Begin Advent by Jan Richardson

It is difficult to see it from here,
I know,
but trust me when I say
this blessing is inscribed
on the horizon.
Is written on
that far point
you can hardly see.
Is etched into
a landscape
whose contours you cannot know
from here.
All you know
is that it calls you,
draws you,
pulls you toward
what you have perceived
only in pieces,
in fragments that came to you
in dreaming
or in prayer.
I cannot account for how,
as you draw near,
the blessing embedded in the horizon
begins to blossom
upon the soles of your feet,
shimmers in your two hands.
It is one of the mysteries
of the road,
how the blessing
you have traveled toward,
waited for,
ached for
suddenly appears
as if it had been with you
all this time,
as if it simply
needed to know
how far you were willing
to walk
to find the lines
that were traced upon you
before the day that you were born.

We light the candle of Hope for persons and families living with mental  illness, for better treatment, for steadier recovery, for greater opportunity to work and serve. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

MLK Day of Service at Friendship Center

A group of volunteers from MCLA and elsewhere came to the Friendship Center with donated  food shortly after 10 a.m. and helped us sort it.

Nate Rodgers and a little volunteer on a step ladder clean the outside of the Center's front window, which really needed a good cleaning.

Paul Marino of Northern Berkshire Community Television films as Amanda Chilson and Amber Besaw get more donated food to bring in.

Bert Lamb and Liz Boland next pulled up with donations from Stop and Shop.

Bert takes a photo of Rich Davis as he gets some of the donations ready to roll into the pantry.

Though I was not able to go to the MLK lunch and ceremony later at the MCLA Church Street Center, I want to acknowledge the awarding of the 2013 Peacemaker Award to the Rev. Dave Anderson, pastor of the First Baptist Church of North Adams. He does a lot of great work for the community, much of it behind the scenes. As a group we appreciate that we are able to use First Baptist both for our monthly meetings and during the winter as a warm sign-in station for Friendship Center members before they come to the pantry. Well-deserved. God Bless him and to all who donated to the Friendship Center and those who came to work!

Well-deserved — Pastor Dave Anderson receives the 2013 Peacemaker Award from North Adams Mayor Dick Alcombright, who is at far right in photo. (Courtesy Bert Lamb)

Friday, January 4, 2013

A busy January for the Interfaith Action Initiative

In this post: 1). Discussion of Newtown tragedy at NBIAI meeting; 2). Caregiver Resource Guide Available; 3). Interfaith Service for Mental Illness Recovery & Understanding. 4). Pantry going strong; 2012 statistics.

Discussion of Newtown tragedy at NBIAI meeting

After taking a break in December, the Initiative will hold its next monthly meeting on Friday, Jan. 18, at 10 a.m. at the First Baptist Church of North Adams (use Eagle Street entrance). 

Following introductions, announcements, a moment of silent prayer and faith sharing, we will discuss the December tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., from a faith perspective.

All are welcome to come and share their thoughts and feelings in an informal and respectful discussion on how, in the aftermath of this horrible event, we view our place in the world, our relations to others, our thoughts about good and evil, and our vision of and relationship with God.

Those attending also will be able to pick up a copy of the second editon of The Northern Berkshire Caregiver Resource Guide, fully revised and updated. Refreshements will be available.

We owe the idea for this topic to Pastor Kim Kie of the New Hope Methodist Church, who suggested this topic to me after the taping of the January edition of the Initiative TV program, “In the Company of Friends.” (More on this below.)

Caregiver Resource Guide Available

As noted above, the second edition of the “Northern Berkshire Family Caregiver Resource Guide” is now available, a product of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition. Coalition Communications Coordinator Bert Lamb has done a great job both updating the original guide and in making it much more attractive than the original.

The 12-page guide features an introduction; listings for adult day services/respite care, assisted living, councils on aging, education, financial support or referrals, services in the home, support groups; and also a listing of helpful national websites, and books about caregiving.

The guide will be available both at the Jan. 18 NBIAI meeting and at the Friendship Center Food Pantry during our hours of operation. They also can be obtained from the Coalition, 663-7588 or from me, Mark Rondeau, 664-0130.

Service for Mental Illness Recovery & Understanding

On Sunday, Jan. 27, at 7 p.m., all are welcome to an interfaith service for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding at New Hope Methodist Church in Williamstown (located in the former TGL Photoworks building) at the corner of Main and Water Streets. This will be an informal, 45-minute service with candle-lighting and a brief presentation. New Hope is a bright, non-churchy setting with a welcoming atmosphere.

This event grew out of a presentation at our September, 2012, Interfaith meeting by Kathy Quinn, a family advocate with the Berkshire affiliate of The National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Our discussion centered around the role faith communities can play to acknowledge the issue and offer support to individuals and families. Kathy provided us with a packet of information from NAMI — a “Mental Illness Awareness Week Faith Tool Kit” — on how faith communities could plan a vigil for those affected by mental illness.

On the January edition of the NBIAI cable access TV show, “In the Company of Friends,” on Channel 15, aired this month on Fridays at 5 p.m. and Mondays at 1 p.m., the Rev. Kim Kie, pastor of New Hope, talks about plans for this interfaith service.

We are grateful to Pastor Kim for stepping up to provide a venue for this service and in taking the lead in planning it. Here is some of what she had to say on the TV program:

“We’re thrilled to be asked, we volunteered our space because we are not a [traditional church setting], so we don’t have a lot of things attached to the wall and installed altars and things that might make people uncomfortable who are not part of a faith community or to preference one faith tradition over another.

“So we have that great flexibilty and a wonderful new space and a good location — that was why we stepped forward.”

She said that Rev. Peter Elvin from St. John’s Episcopal Church in Williamstown also has been working on the service; some members of First Congregational Church in Williamstown have been giving input; and Rev. Dave Anderson of First Baptist in North Adams is also involved.

“I expect some others will be stepping forward and participating,” she said.

Pastor Kim said the planners liked the idea of a vigil offered in the NAMI packet of service options.

“There are seven candles: one for truth, healing, understanding, hope, thankfulness, faith, and love. “And so what we’re doing is we’re having a reading to go with each one. Some of the readings are from sacred scriptures of different faith traditions, some are just contemporary poetry or older, familiar poetry that builds on that theme, and then lighting the candle,” she said. “Then there’s also an opportunity for people to come forward and light a candle themselves” for an individual intention.

There will be live background music throughout the service, alternating with periods of silence for people to reflect. And Kathy Quinn will talk about what NAMI does and the services that are available to help people who are either confronting a mental illness themselves or supporting a family member.

In the future, we hope to help present such a service every year during Mental Illness Awareness Week, which is marked during the second week of October. 

Again, the service for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding will be held on Sunday, Jan. 27,  at New Hope Methodist Church, at the corner of Main and Water Streets in Williamstown. The service will begin at 7 p.m. and last for about 45 minutes. All are welcome.

For additional information, contact Mark at 664-0130.

Pantry going strong; 2012 statistics

We’ve developed a tradition during the almost two years the NBIAI has run the Friendship Center Food Pantry that in the early evening of every Wednesday, Food Distribution Director Mark Lincourt emails several of us the total number of households who have come to the Friendship Center during its morning and evening session, the resulting total, and how many new members we added that day.

We add families from North Adams, Clarksburg or Florida every week and we now have about 1,200 member households. 

On Wednesday, Nov. 28, we set a new record, serving 120 families in our first session and 66 in our afternoon session for a total of 186 for the day. Demand has been so high, that we have begun opening an hour earlier every Wednesday, at 10 a.m., instead of at 11 a.m. as before, and continuing to 2 p.m. Our evening hours remain 4 to 6 p.m.

To keep our members from having to stand outside during the bitter cold, we just this past Wednesday started to utilize the First Baptist Church of North Adams as a warm place to sign people in. (See previous post here for more details).

We also continue to be the recipient of many generous donations of food and financial support from the community — I just today picked up several hundred pounds of food donated by students at the Clarksburg Elementary School.

And we continue attract new volunteers in addition to a large core of weekly stalwarts who make the Friendship Center a joy to visit.

Here are some statistics for 2012 based on the number of households we served each week:

1). We had a total of 6,581 household visits in 2012, 68 percent of these were during our morning session and 32 percent during our late afternoon/evening session.

2). In December 2011, we averaged 67 households in our first session and 29 in our second session, for an average total of 95. In December 2012, we averaged 93 households in our first session, 36 in our second session for an average total of 128. This gives a good idea of the level of increased visitors.

3). Our average number of households served for the whole year were 86 for the first session and 41 for the second session and a total of 127 served per week.

4). Our busiest weeks were:

1). Nov. 28: 120 + 66 = 186

2). Oct. 24: 131 + 53 = 184

3). Sept. 26: 115 + 53 = 168

4). Dec. 19: 123 + 44 = 167

5) May 30: 96 + 63 = 159.

Thanks for reading this and God Bless You All! And hope to see you soon!


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Winter measures put into place at Friendship Center

Steve, Tara and Al, with baggers in the background, Notice that no one is working the back of the desk. Instead, Fran was doing the registrations down at the First Baptist Church (below).

In an effort not to have people waiting out in extreme cold during the remainder of the winter, the volunteers of the Friendship Center put into place a change in procedures on Wednesday, Jan., 2. 

We served 87 people in our first session and 39 in our second session for a total of 126 people served for the day. We added four new members. The temperature outside was in the low 20s, with a wind chill of -4.

We had people sign in at the downstairs level of the First Baptist Church of North Adams, and then sent them over to the Friendship Center Food Pantry as space freed up. This procedure was suggested by Dan Bird to the Interfaith Action Initiative Steering Committee at its last meeting.

In the moring and early afternoon session, Dan and Fran Berasi signed people in at First Baptist’s street-level meeting room right off Eagle Street. Meanwhile, back at the Friendship Center, Al Nelson, Steve Green and Mark Rondeau asked people showing up at the Friendship Center to first go down to the church.

And a whole host of our ususal volunteers were on hand to bag our friends’ groceries.

A great way to start the new year!

The sign we put on the door of the First Baptist Church. Below, Dan Bird at First Baptist.