NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (AP) -- A Northampton church is considering selling its Tiffany stained-glass window to pay off debt and ensure it has the means to carry out its mission, but it’s a decision that some people are questioning.
The congregation at the First Churches of Northampton recently approved the sale, pending permission from the state Historical Commission. The church already has an offer of $750,000.
"By getting rid of this debt, we feel very confident that we can move forward for a generation and be a vital congregation and meet the needs of this building," pastor Todd Weir told The Daily Hampshire Gazette (http://bit.ly/1ozJPop ).
Weir acknowledges that it was a tough decision.
"This is tough to swallow for people, giving it up," he said. "It took some time for us to get to the point where we believe the greater good is served for us and the community if we could sell it and get out from under the capital debt."
First Churches, a united church of the American Baptist Churches USA and United Church of Christ with about 200 members, recently took out an $800,000 loan to cover a shortfall from a $2.2 million capital campaign to fix the building after a 2007 roof collapse.
Some say the window, that’s been at the church since the 1870s and is currently located in the sanctuary, is a piece of history and shouldn’t be sold.
"That window is an important part of the history of Northampton," said Tristram Metcalfe of Metcalfe Associates Architecture, and an expert in the preservation of historic buildings. He says the window could be worth $1 million or more.
Metcalfe said he recognizes the church needs revenue, but thinks it’s counterproductive to think a church can sustain its future by selling artifacts.
Metcalfe is floating a plan to have the church keep the window but make it the focus of a new fundraising campaign to raise both money and awareness about how important the church building is to the community.