Photo Gallery: Vigil for former NARH employees
NORTH ADAMS -- About 150 worshippers from churches representing several North Berkshire County parishes came together for strength and support on Sunday at an ecumenical service at the First Congregational Church in the wake of the closing of North Adams Regional Hospital on Friday.
"It's somewhat in support of the dedication and years of service by all of the employees of North Adams Regional Hospital," said Nancy Lescarbeau, a longtime parishioner of the First Baptist Church from North Adams. "But this closing has touched a nerve in the community."
"We're coming together as a community, as we have so many times before," said Mayor Richard Alcombright. "North Adams has had so many setbacks, just in my lifetime. But we've always made it back. Today also references the beginning of something new."
The Rev. David A. Anderson, pastor of the First Baptist Church and one of the organizers of the event, said he wanted to "do this to begin to deal with the grief process."
"We're strong people," said the Rev. Ann Killum, pastor of the Congregational Church, in welcoming the crowd. "We will get through this. I appreciate the fact that we're all here together. We've been in the valley a long time and we've faced a lot."
Anderson, also speaking to the group, quoted 1 Peter 5:7 of the Bible, and urged those in attendance to "cast[ing] all your anxiety on [God], because he cares for you."
"I'm a pretty simple guy," he said. "And to me, all the answers to these questions is to cast my cares to God."
Early in the ceremony, those in attendance were asked to come up to the front of the altar, where a prayer net was set up. Prayer nets are a Christian tradition by which worshippers tie ribbons to the net with special prayers.
Overall, the event was overwhelmingly positive. As they entered the church, people were hugging and talking to each other. And even after the ceremony was over, attendees stayed long afterward, talking and comforting each other.
"I think it went very well," said Elva Labonte of North Adams, a member of the Congregational Church. "I thought it was great to have all these people together, talking and praying."
About midway through the service, attendees were asked to express aspects of the event for which they were thankful.
Many spoke. There was gratitude for all the caring personnel who worked at the hospital and there was sadness that because the hospital would be no more, many friends would be parting.
There were comments from nurses and other hospital workers in appreciation for the support from the community.
"The hospital is a building," one nurse reminded the crowd. "We're a community. We can rebuild."
To reach Derek Gentile:
or (413) 496-6251.
On Twitter: @DerekGentile