Guthrie Center serves needs for culture and other basics

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GREAT BARRINGTON — The Guthrie Center is a federally recognized nonprofit with once-a-month religious-ish services, a "BYOG (bring your own God)" philosophy, a cabaret style, and a mission to provide programs that aim to help the community, says center director George Laye.

All denominations are welcome to the service, held on the first Sunday of every month, led by Interfaith Minister Joni Carron, and always full of music, coffee and doughnuts. The cabaret part comes from the way the nave is laid out: there are no pews, just small, round club tables with chairs.

Laye is quick to point out that the church isn't a nightclub, though it does host musical performances, or "hootenannies," every Thursday. It's free for performers; $3 to $5 for everyone else.

"We're a lot more than that," he says. "People come from all over the world to see here and they believe in what we're doing."

The Guthrie Center offers several free community programs: meals every Wednesday at noon; a legal clinic every Wednesday at noon, sponsored by the Berkshire Center for Justice; and tutoring for students in Grades 1 through high school as well as adults — 413-528-1955 to register.

Laye says that the center is growing with the help of volunteers as well as generous donations from Guthrie fans.

"This is on a lot of guys' bucket lists from Vietnam," Laye says of Vietnam War veteran visitors to the center.

Among recent donations to the Guthrie Center is restoration of the church's large stained glass circular window above the front entrance. In about a week, the window will be taken out of the building, the hole will be boarded up and the glass will be shipped to Guarducci Stained Glass in Great Barrington. It's a $32,000 gift, Laye estimates.

"It was clear that (the Guthrie Center) doesn't have the funds to attend to it, or they have other priorities for the money that go with their mission," says Charles Woodard, Guarducci co-owner. "They were going to lose the window; we had a couple good years, so we could make this offer: they're always in the community, we've been in the community for 35, 40 years; it just made sense. It's a good way to give back."

Kristin Palpini can be reached at kpalpini@berkshireeagle.com and @kristinpalpini on Twitter.

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