By Hannah Shirley
EGREMONT — After fundraising goals fell short last summer, it seemed the 186-year-old First Congregational Church of South Egremont was headed for the open market. Then, Charles Proctor said, the congregation came up with a Plan B: donating it to the town.
“The town taking it over has a lot of advantages,” said Proctor, who is the church moderator and chair of the trustees. “They have meeting space, they have hall space, they have road space for whatever reason they want to use it for.”
“And,” said Proctor’s wife, Ellen, the church treasurer and organist, “It’s the main historical building in town.”
Proctor said the congregation, which is currently down to about seven members, is developing an article for the town warrant, which will be presented to the selectboard. If the selectmen accept the article, townspeople will vote on whether to accept the donation of the building at the Annual Town Meeting on May 7.
If the selectboard doesn’t accept the article, Proctor said the congregation intends to start a citizens’ petition, but Selectman Mary Brazie said she doesn’t see any reason why the board wouldn’t put the article on the warrant.
Ellen Proctor said although the building is part of the South Egremont Historic District, which is on the National Registry of Historic Places, the building itself is not on any historic registers. That means that if the church went onto the open market, the buyer could do whatever they want with the building.
By donating it to the town, Proctor said they hope to preserve its historic value. While he said they don’t plan to attach any stipulations to the donation, he said they envision the building as a community center. After all, he said, the members of the church aren’t the only ones who would be displaced if the church were to be permanently shuttered.