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The Rev. Daniel Randall shows off New Hope United Methodist Church's new home on State Street.
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Randall said he hopes the church's green space becomes a community asset.
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Randall said the front area of the church will serve as a worship space and cafe.

New Hope United Methodist Church Renovating State Street Structure

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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The church bought the former hardware store in 2015.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — New Hope United Methodist Church has found a new home on State Street and wants to open its doors to the community. 
The Rev. Daniel Randall said the building currently under renovation, at 192 State St. will not only be a place of worship but a center for community engagement and refuge.
"It is worship-able space, but we wanted to create a space in the city that the community could use and help connect the community and help them on their inward journey," Randall said.
"We had a choice: finish the worship space or finish the café space ... and we chose to go outward and invite the community in. We chose to be missional."
The North Adams and Williamstown congregations merged in 2010 to create New Hope and soon after that, began the search for a new permanent home.
"We were looking for spaces and we did some community asset mapping ... we wanted a space for our sacred worship but something we could also share with the community," he said. "We walked around every neighborhood and got maps from North Adams and Williamstown ... we found this space and it was just right."
Randall said the church purchased the former hardware store in 2015 and began designing the layout of the 5,000-square-foot building.
The front of the building will serve as a worship area and café for community members. Randall said he thinks it will be a good location for poetry readings and performances.
He added that they have also installed art by local artist collective Common Folk in the front windows and plan to keep a rotating selection.
"So when people are going by they won't just see a vacant window," he said. "They are engaged by something on the street and local artists now have a way to show their work."
Randall said they hope to install more windows to bring in more natural light and build a counter in the café that will open up into a kitchen they hope will be a community "teaching kitchen."
"Local chefs in the area said they would be willing to do the teaching," he said. "Not only can people learn how to cook good food on a budget, but they will be learning skills that will make them employable."
The church also plans to install bathrooms and classrooms.
Randall proposed turning the rest of the building into a banquet space, however, that will have to be a later project once the church secures more funding.
He pointed to the back of the building where he said he would like to add more windows to show new views of the mountains.
"It looks out on the hills and its east facing so when the sun comes up over there ... it will beautiful," he said.
New windows would also open up views to the back green space on the property that Randall said the church can also develop.
"When we got the building, we weren't able to occupy it right away so we started working back here," he said. "It was overgrown and entangled, and we wanted to create a green space in the middle of the city where we could gather ... we did a ton of work."
Randall said the church does not plan to put fencing up to keep people out but rather to create "edible landscaping" such as planters and fruit trees to provide the neighbors some privacy.
He added that kids from the summer program helped with the initial plantings last summer.
"It is a teaching garden as well as a community garden," he said. "So last year ... they not only helped plant but they were learning about conservation and ecology and where food comes from."
Randall said he hopes to have performances in the green space and sees it as a meditative reflective area that they hope to amplify with a walking labyrinth.
"You can walk like a quarter mile in this little area," he said. "You can follow the path and you don’t need to think about where you are walking or getting lost you just follow the path."
Randall said through financing, fundraising, and grants, the church plans to put an initial $1.2 million into the property. He said the larger vision, including the banquet area, would likely cost $2.4 million.

The church plans to spend $2.4 million on the project.
"On one hand if I just used my common sense I would say it is too much for us but on my faith journey remembering that we don’t always have to see where the resources are coming from," he said. "But we have to have faith and trust that if God leads us in a certain direction he will provide everything we need along the way."
Much of the demolition and renovations were done by the Nomads On a Mission Active in Divine Service, or NOMADS.
"The United Methodist church is a connected system which means they try to share resources across the denomination," he said. "It's also nice because they can go around and share our story in other communities."
Randall said the NOMADS park their recreational vehicles in the back of the building and are supplied utilities. He guessed that the rotating group of NOMADS that have helped during the summer, saving the church nearly $30,000. 
There is still a lot of work to do but if all goes well he hopes to have the front section of the building open by Christmas Eve.
"For us, it is not so much about finding a home to gather," he said. "It is important to us but what is equally important to us, if not more so, is having launch pad — having a place where we can share what we have with the community."

Tags: church,   community center,   religious building,   relocation,   

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