On the surface, using Gloucester property tax revenues for what most would see as a church project would raise a few eyebrows, given our separation of church and state.
Yet, Gloucester’s Community Preservation Committee indeed chose to do just that through providing $30,000 in Community Preservation Act money toward a project aimed at making the Unitarian Universalist Church on Middle Street fully accessible to the disabled. And the committee made the right call.
That’s because the church, rich in more than 200 years of history, is rightfully recognized as an historic building. And given its use by its own congregation and other groups for concerts, as part of the Grace Center project for the homeless, and for a variety of other events, it is in fact a citywide resource and a longstanding source of community pride.
The project — launched after wheelchair-bond activist Joe Randazza sought to attend a Haiti relief fund-raising concert and needed four men to literally carry him up some two dozen steps to get in — has included the installation of an accessibility ramp, a new lift, an accessible bathroom and the widening of doorways to accomodate wheelchairs. And all of that has indeed made this historic building, as last week’s headlined proclaimed, “open and accessible to all.”
That’s the way it should be — and the way our Founding Fathers would have wanted it as well. Indeed, this wasn’t a project that crossed any lines; it’s one that represents what the CPA, funded through a local property tax surcharge and state deeds registry funds, should be all about.
All who played a part in this project deserve credit for a job well done.