LETTER: Affordable Housing Critical to Watertown’s Fabric

Print More

I am writing as a local clergy person concerned with the fraying of the social fabric of the local communities.

Over the past 6 years I have served as the pastor of the Belmont-Watertown United Methodist Church. During this time and over the past 29 years in pastoral ministry I have experienced the vital importance churches serve as community organizations. Churches have long been a place of worship for members and friends and free and affordable space for community life. In Watertown the former St. John’s United Methodist Church, now Belmont-Watertown United Methodist Church is a prime example of a worship community woven into community life.

The church has a long history of providing space for recovery meetings, a home for the Watertown Food Pantry, Scouts, theater and cultural organizations to name of few. This is the work of weaving a fabric that reflects the needs, hopes and dreams of neighbors. In the same fashion, the development of affordable housing embraces the needs, hopes and dreams of neighbors. An affordable permanent residence enhances the possibility for community life. 

Today, there are fewer and fewer options for community life to thrive. Churches struggle to stay open as membership dwindles and building maintenance costs drain resources. Other social and community organizations find it increasingly difficult to find volunteers and leaders. Creating housing opportunities for all neighbors and particularly individuals and families seeking affordability will add strength to the social fabric which holds us all together.

Granted increased housing opportunities will not immediately replace the loss of community organizations and institutions, but new neighbors living in affordable and sustainable homes will  form the threads to strengthen a worn social fabric.

Gary Richards
Pastor, Belmont-Watertown United Methodist Church

3 thoughts on “LETTER: Affordable Housing Critical to Watertown’s Fabric

  1. Thank you, Rev. Gary, for these words affirming the importance of affordable spaces — for housing, community gatherings, community life — in Watertown. I heartily agree that Belmont-Watertown United Methodist Church (BWUMC) has served as a vital resource and support for all these community needs over the years and decades.

    Most recently, I am aware that BWUMC has provided space for the Watertown Food pantry, the Community Fridge, as well as English as a Second Language (ESL) classes provided by the Refugee Support Group (WCPJE) and Project Literacy.

    I hope this commitment to affordable spaces for community life can be multiplied many times over as creative uses for the Mt. Auburn Street location are considered through current Watertown planning efforts (Watersquare planning, Arts district planning, etc).

    Thank you for your voice and your leadership, on behalf of your two united congregations, to address these important community challenges.

  2. I too applaud the stance that Gary Richards has taken. The BWUMC has been a strong presence in the community, with its commitment to food insecurity (the pantry and ‘fridge), to people and family members affected by substance use (its recovery ministry), and its warm and welcoming staff. As the composition of the city changes, with an emphasis on new lab spaces and high-rent apartments, I agree with him that a commitment to build and offer affordable housing is increasingly important for the fabric and vitality of the community.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *