LENOX — A new shared-services partnership at the town's two Episcopal churches is yielding financial savings, efficiencies and a unity of purpose and mission.
The formal covenant between Trinity Church downtown and St. Helena's Chapel in New Lenox will be celebrated by the Right Rev. Douglas Fisher, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts, during a public service at 4 p.m. Sunday, April 3.
The partnership, described as a model for the future, was formalized at the beginning of the year. Trinity's rector, the Rev. Michael Tuck, took on responsibility for both churches, including most services, assisted by the Reverend Tad Evans, priest associate.
After St. Helena's — founded more than 150 years ago — found itself without a priest several years ago, leaders approached Trinity to begin talks on a potential partnership rather than seek another part-time minister.
The result, after many months of joint and separate discussions, was an agreement to share ordained leadership and administration, while retaining the independence and autonomy of each congregation, Tuck said.
He noted that the collaboration has allowed both churches to increase funding for their community programs by 25 percent.
"Even though these are two Episcopal congregations in the same community, there are differences," he said.
"Trinity has a rich tradition of music, a fantastic Sunday School program and a more formal approach to worship," he said. "St. Helena's is a small, family-like community with intimate experiences and relationships that you just don't get in larger churches. This collaboration allows each congregation to share the best of what each has to offer — to each other and the wider community."
Tuck acknowledged that while "churches and houses of worship are essential places where community is formed and maintained, financial pressures are making it increasingly difficult for smaller churches to survive."
He asserted that the collaboration "enriches parishioners in both parishes and ensures that these two distinct voices will continue to serve and be heard in the Berkshires."
During discussions leading to the adoption of the partnership agreement, parish leaders anticipated a significant reduction in Trinity's previous annual operating deficits while increasing programs.
Budget projections this year include a $2,360 surplus on expenses of $274,340. The surplus results from an increase in expected endowment income and savings from the partnership, allowing for increased funding for music, youth formation and outreach programs.
Contact Clarence Fanto at 413-637-2551.