“It just seems to fit”: Why a tiny church helps tiny house builders

“It just seems to fit”: Why a tiny church helps tiny house builders October 20, 2015
A few weeks ago, I wrote about a friend, Chris Terramane, who is building a tiny house with her husband, Seth (and chronicling the adventure here). Chris put me in touch with Mary Memmott, whom Chris calls their champion at Grace Church, a United Church of Christ church in Framingham, Mass.
It just seems to fit: A tiny church helps tiny house builders
Grace Church, c/o Mary Memmott
Grace Church is sharing land and power with Chris and Seth so that they can build their house. Mary is the volunteer coordinator at Grace, and she kindly shared with me a bit more about the connection between Grace and the Terramanes.
The Terramanes' tiny house in progress, c/o Christine Terramane
The Terramanes’ tiny house in progress, c/o Christine Terramane
To be clear, the Terramanes have zero affiliation with Grace Church–yet the church has opened its arms to them. Pretty cool! The following interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Alicia: How did you meet the Terramanes?
Mary Memmott: I had met Seth at Stearns Farm (where he works) and Grace Church has a share that we donate to a food pantry.  But the request for a place to build the tiny house came to me indirectly, through my involvement with Transition Framingham, an organization focused on building a more resilient and sustainable Framingham as we transition away from fossil fuels  (you can see more at their website). I responded to an email that had been forwarded through a friend in that group and later realized I had met Seth before.
AR: What does Grace Church do to help them?
MM: Seth and Christine have a key to the building, they can use electricity and water as needed, and they have a lot of space to work in.  They help us by watering our small herb garden on the weekends.  We have members interested in hands-on helping but I’m not sure if anyone has shown up on one of their build days yet.
AR: Why did Grace Church decide to help this family with this venture?
MM: Well, I thought the tiny church should help with the tiny house (we are a very small congregation).  Part of our mission is to be a “green congregation” and this seemed in line with that–a way for us to learn about sustainability in a very concrete way while offering something that cost us little–space. We discussed it a leadership meeting and the response was very positive.  Then we had Seth and Christine come to a group meeting open to the whole congregation and again the response was very positive; it was an easy “yes.”
AR: Is tiny house living connected to faith or community for you?
MM: Personally, it gives me hope for the future to see a young couple so committed to living their values. For the church as a whole, I think we try to practice a faith that respects the earth and our role in it–as a part of creation, not the rulers.
AR: I think this church/non-church-family relationship is really cool. Does your church have other relationships like this with people or organizations? How do you see it as connected to faith? Is it outreach, or something else?
MM: We are members of Stearns Farm, a community-supported-agriculture farm–we do our work hours as a group and work alongside non-church members regularly.   Several non-church members help with the pick-up of the share and the delivery to the food pantry.  We are very supportive of Transition Framingham, which often uses our building for meetings and we have hosted events with them.  Through Transition Framingham several of us have gotten involved in other ways around town–helping an after-school program in downtown Framingham with their garden, helping to plan a seed library for the public library, and supporting the downtown anti-chemical pollution group FACES.
From our 2015 annual report, this is our church’s current mission statement:
The community’s deepest need is for authentic, positive connections among people of diverse cultural and economic backgrounds, and Grace’s new mission would be responding to this need….We identified gardens and shared food as part of how God has always brought people together and how gardens and food could be our way to live out our new mission in the community.
The Terramane’s house doesn’t fit the garden bill–but is about authentic and positive connection. And they are helping to take care of the herbs, which we offer a free resource to the community. It just seems to fit.

 


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