(Host) A Brattleboro church that serves as an overnight homeless shelter has voted to sell its Tiffany stained glass window to keep its operations going.
The decision has attracted offers, and plenty of attention.
VPR’s Susan Keese has more.
(Church goers sing)
(Keese) It’s the Sunday morning service at First Baptist Church. Near the front of the sanctuary, a multi-colored stained glass John the Apostle points heavenward.
The narrow, arched window is a signed Tiffany, dedicated in 1910 by a prominent local family that supported the church generously.
But now the Main Street church, like many others, is struggling to make ends meet. Suzanne Andrews is the pastor at First Baptist.
She says the church has a leaky roof, an ancient furnace and about $8,000 in the bank.
(Andrews) "So we decided at a special congregational meeting two months ago to sell our prized Tiffany window and keep the doors open at First Baptist Church. Our expenses have accelerated because of the homeless shelter here seven days a week we have to keep the heat on, the electricity is on 24 hours a day because the volunteers come in and stay awake all night to insure the safety of our guests."
(Keese) Andrews says the church has gotten lots of letters and small donations since its story was picked up by the Associated Press.
There’ve also been offers, the highest for $75,000. Andrews hopes the bidding will accelerate or that a miracle will happen and the church will get to keep the window after all.
After the service, in the fellowship hall, parishioner Jean Deyo says she hopes the window is sold.
(Deyo) "It’s not important to me. What I see as a sacrifice is when someone from the homeless shelter comes into our church on Sunday morning and only has ten dollars in their pocket and they put 50 cents or a dollar in the plate. That’s a sacrifice."
(Keese) The idea for the overflow shelter came from Brattleboro’s Drop-in Center, which is open to the homeless during the day. Other churches and religious groups take turns providing nightly hot meals and volunteer help.
Still, the decision to *house the shelter was a big one. Sylvia Seitz has been a member of First Baptist Church for 30 years.
(Seitz) " I think a few people did feel uncomfortable mingling with homeless people."
(Keese) But Seitz believes the work has given the church a new vitality and sense of purpose.
(Server) "Would you like some vegetarian chili?"
(Keese) It’s a few days later. The shelter has just opened for the night and volunteers are serving the evening meal.
(Server) "Would you like some shepherds pie? You can have both."
(Keese) Spence Garrity, who’s been homeless off and on for years, says he’s moved by the church’s willingness to sell the window.
(Garrity) " It’s overwhelming. I think a lot of churches wouldn’t even dream of doing something like this. I think it’s touched everyone."
(Keese) Bruce Wilder, who volunteers here with his wife, says they used to go to another church. But more and more they’re drawn to this one.
(Wilder) "Because they’re doing the right thing. They’re feeding the poor and sheltering the people that need shelter."
And Wilder says for him, that’s what religion is all about.
For VPR News, I’m Susan Keese.