By Kim Siebert MacPhail
At Monday night’s Selectmen’s meeting, Reverend John Gibbons—senior minister of First Parish Bedford—presented the Town, on behalf of his congregation, with what he termed “a token payment. . . .in recognition of Town services which First Parish receives but for which [it] pay[s] no property taxes.” In the case of this particular church, the real estate tax exemption includes the meetinghouse on the Common at 75 The Great Road and the parsonage at 5 Ledgewood Drive.
Gibbons counted the ways in which First Parish is a beneficiary of Town services: safety, police, fire, public works—including the grounds, water and sewer, refuse, roads—schools and, finally, library—without which, Gibbons reported, he can barely write a sermon.
“We make this [$1000] payment,” Gibbons said, “because it is part of our mission as a church—expressed in our mission statement—to be a good neighbor to our larger community and in awareness of our good fortune and privilege to occupy and be stewards of the Bedford Town Common.
“Some of our members—myself included,” he continued, “question whether any religious institution should be exempt from public taxation. All of our members—affirmed indeed by a unanimous vote of our congregation at our Annual Meeting last June—agree to express our gratitude to the Town in this way.
“We are quite aware that this is a token payment: were we taxed at assessed rates, the amount would be much, much greater. And while we appreciate this opportunity tonight [to publicly present the check], this payment deserves no fanfare.”
Gibbons closed by saying the church remains vigilant to the separation of church and state and that First Parish counts itself as fortunate to be in Bedford.
The check was acknowledged by the Selectmen and delivered to Town Treasurer and Finance Director, Victor Garofalo, who was also present at the meeting.