The Rev. Pat Kriss, of the First Congregational Church UCC in North Adams, is leaving the area after two years, having recently been named pastor for the First Congre gational Church in Danbury.
Kriss previously served as ministerial intern and sabbatical pastor in the Danbury church. Her last Sunday with North Adams will be Nov. 11.
Perhaps the most compelling reason for the move, the new position will be within 14 miles of Kriss' home in Westchester County, N.Y.
"Housing has been an issue for the last two years," Kriss admitted. "For a number of reasons, the housing issues between Hurricane Irene last year, which ate up all the rental housing, and trying to find housing where we can have a small dog and a cat, have been very difficult.
"The consequence is that I've been paying a very large mortgage on my place in West chester, and renting here, and that will only work for a short time on a pastor's salary."
The Danbury church had actually approached Kriss earlier in the year, but at the time, she hadn't responded. By summer, however, she had realized that the current situation was not financially feasible, and so she was pleased to receive the call from Danbury. Still, Kriss was sorry to be leaving her congregation behind.
"If I could pick up my congregation and take them with me down to Danbury, I would do that," said Kriss. "I love them, and think they have a good regard for me.
"But the practical issue here has been housing all along. The church sold its parsonage on Church Street a few years before I came, and rightfully so because it was a huge drain on the church -- a beautiful Victorian -- but that kind of housing isn't available, and made it very difficult for me.
"I tried to remain in the community as long as I could, but it came to a breaking point financially for me."
In the meantime, Kriss is glad to have done the work she did while installed in the church. She believes that making the church more visible was crucial, and one of the goals she focused on over the past two years.
"The church had been quiet for a long time," Kriss ex plained, "quiet about its own role, its prominence in the city, its value to the city as a place that houses the Berkshire Food Project, and its presence in the city since 1827. So I set about trying to get the word out about the church as a place that was doing things."
Being active, for Kriss, is the proper role of a church.
One of her proudest mo ments was a few months back while walking along Main Street, when a pedestrian ap proached her and asked where she worked, and when Kriss mentioned First Congre ga tional Church, the pedestrian said "Oh, that's the church that's doing things."
Kriss was delighted and feels that is the best testimony that the church could ask for.
Some recent activity includes hosting the Field of Flags this past summer, which Kriss started working on 2 years ago when she first arrived, and free Tiffany window tours.
"One of the most significant things we did with First Con gregational Williamstown was launch an interfaith youth group designed to bring together middle school and high school kids who didn't have a youth program of their own at their churches or synagogues," said Kriss.
"We were able to expose them to different religions and traditions, and bring the parents together as well. That will be continuing sometime this fall, and that's a bit of a legacy for me, that we did get this off the ground locally."
The idea of the interfaith group was to get kids explore and learn things about other people and religions. They got to meet with the imam at Williams College, and did a seder with the cantor from Williams College.
"The idea is to break down some of the barriers between people so people don't only think of what they believe, but appreciate and know about other faith traditions," said Kriss.
The concept for the program came from Sam Humes at Williamstown's First Congre gational Church, but Kriss chaired it before stepping down at the end of the summer.
"I'm going to miss everyone terribly," said Kriss. "I was pleased to have the years that I had here, and get to know a special group of people. We're hoping to be up here periodically; we've made many friends in the area who are inviting us to stay, so I expect to see everybody again."
Margaret Whitney, Modera tor of the Church Council, will be assembling a search committee to find a replacement pastor.