Lenox's oldest church seeks 'viability' in 250th year amid 'really hard' change

Leaders of the Church on the Hill in Lenox have organized a Christmas Eve virtual singalong to raise money for restaurant servers who are struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic.

LENOX — Local filmmaker and producer Mark Farrell has teamed up with the Rev. Liz Goodman, pastor of Church on the Hill in Lenox, to support downtown Lenox restaurant food and beverage servers with a special Christmas Eve singalong holiday benefit.

The local community, along with stars from near and far, will be featured in “Away in a Manger,” an online celebration premiering at 8 p.m. Thursday. A Vimeo link will be available at each night through Dec. 31 on eventbrite.

Farrell came up with the idea to bring the community together for the event a few months ago when he became administrator for Church on the Hill.

“A lot of things are happening in our worlds right now because of COVID,” said Farrell, who recognizes the need to stay safe, but also the desire to gather to enjoy the holidays.

“Another sad reality of this pandemic is that restaurants that provide food and comfort to us are either greatly reduced, or closed altogether,” he said. “The establishments that are still open have greatly reduced staffs and smaller revenues, and the workers who interface directly with the public are risking their own well-being every day to take care of us.”

The musical evening, filmed in advance, is co-hosted by Billy Keane from the popular local band The Whiskey Treaty Roadshow, and Wanda Houston, another local music icon. There will be guest performances by other local musicians, including Tyler Fairbank and David Joseph, along with inspiring words from restaurant owners and community leaders, from state Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli to Allyn Burrows, artistic director of Shakespeare & Company; iconic Berkshire-based artists, and a few surprise guests.

“Community participation is key to the success of the benefit,” Goodman said. “Anyone can join in and sing along, and we heartily encourage it!”

Farrell is accepting iPhone videos of community members singing along to two songs, which will be edited into the final program. Children up to age 17 can sing along to The Drifters’ version of “White Christmas,” and families can sing along with the Goodman family’s video of “Silent Night.” Visit lenoxucc.org/away-in-a-manger for the video and a songbook.

The videos should be filmed horizontally and emailed to mark@risingmoonprods.com by noon Wednesday.

Tickets to view the singalong are available on eventbrite at tinyurl.com/yd52n472 or lenoxucc.org/away-in-a-manger for a donation of $1 or more. All proceeds will support the restaurant servers. Farrell is working with the local restaurants to identify each and every server in downtown Lenox who will receive a special holiday bonus.

Community News Editor / Librarian

Jeannie Maschino is community news editor and librarian for The Berkshire Eagle. She has worked for the newspaper in various capacities since 1982 and joined the newsroom in 1989.