BY BILL MCDEVITT, valley dispatch contributor

While churches may occasionally complain that there are not enough people in the seats on Sunday, it is a good thing for Pelham that churches are sometimes empty.

Fledgling arts groups and those sponsoring performances by individual artists still look to churches for performance space. Pelham offers few alternatives.

Schools pitch in when they can, it’s true. But community groups wanting to borrow a school gym need to get in a long line behind multiple school uses and town recreational activities. Pelham Community Theater can’t set up or store scenery for a few weeks on the Memorial School stage since in real life it’s not used as a stage but a classroom crowded with desks and chairs. Besides, it hasn’t had stage curtains for years.

The Sherburne Hall Committee gathered to help make this come true. They committed themselves to using privately raised funds. After many months of work, the committee has raised $40,000, less than 20 percent of what they think they need. Their efforts lately have been bogged down by what they see as lack of public interest. The committee also blames themselves for not effectively communicating excitement over their vision for Sherburne Hall.

Right now the Sherburne Hall Committee is raffling a pellet stove, a TV, a handmade quilt and other prizes in a further attempt to raise funds. The real question facing the committee and Pelham at large is whether or not the community is ready to step up to take the final steps to create a performance space through private donations.

Failing that we must continue to hope that the churches will be empty. Forgive us, reverend.

Bill McDevitt served for 13 years on the Pelham Board of Selectmen. He is also a member of the Sherburne Hall Committee and the Pelham Community Theater board of directors.

If you would like to write a guest column, contact Editor David McArdle at 978-970-4639 or