Author speaks to influence of commune, church in shaping Warwick

  • Harold Wolfson, who wrote a book about his experiences of living in Warwick, speaks in an online program hosted by the Warwick Free Public Library on Sunday. SCREENSHOT

Staff Writer
Published: 2/8/2021 3:06:19 PM

WARWICK — Among his memories of Warwick, the twin legacies of the Trinitarian Congregational Church and the Renaissance Community stand apart for Harold Wolfson.

Wolfson is the author of “A Town Time Passed By: Warwick, Massachusetts,” which was published last spring. He lived in Warwick part-time for 40 years until 2018, with his late wife, Marian. The book is available at the Warwick Free Public Library, and a second printing was recently announced.

On Sunday, Wolfson spoke about his book in an online talk coordinated by the library.

When he bought his house on Chase Hill Road, Wolfson said, the Renaissance Community’s presence in Warwick was less organized than it had been only a few years earlier, and the group had mostly moved on to Turners Falls and Gill. Wolfson, who as a younger man had worked as a newspaper reporter, learned more about what had happened in Warwick from locals who had been there at the time.

The Renaissance Community was a commune centered around its leader, Michael Metelica, a Franklin County native who had developed his own views on spirituality after seeking to understand experiences he’d had as a teenager.

The group came to Warwick in 1970. The people it drew to town were easily identifiable because they were younger, compared to the town’s relatively older population, Wolfson said.

For many in Warwick, Wolfson said, the commune seemed to contrast sharply with the Trinitarian Congregational Church, which was very traditional in comparison.

In the years that Wolfson lived in Warwick and since, the “duality” of the two groups has fascinated him, he said.

“I began to realize that there was a lot of similarity and confluence between the commune and the church — that they were not as polar as many people thought, that they were not as opposite to each other,” he said. “In fact, they were quite similar.”

While researching the two groups, Wolfson said, a certain similarity occurred to him in statements of their core values — the church’s, in a written pamphlet from a former reverend; and the commune’s, in a documentary about the Renaissance Community that featured interviews with former members.

The two groups had their differences — their ideas about the human soul, for example — but there was a certain similarity in how they both emphasized the role of the larger community in their members’ individual spiritual experiences.

More fundamentally, Wolfson said, they both had a genuine interest in the infinite.

“I realized the Warwick I loved was strongly influenced by the liberality of the small church movement, and the progressiveness of the commune,” Wolfson said. “It was no longer an old, conservative population ... but could look beyond that to inter-individual benefits that these two efforts were concerned about.”

“A Town Time Passed By: Warwick Massachussetts,” is available to borrow from the Warwick Free Public Library. Following a wave of interest, a second printing of the book for purchase is underway. This printing will be published within the next month and be available through the library — warwick@cwmars.org. Book sales will be a fundraiser to benefit an outdoor pavilion at the Warwick Community School, the Warwick Free Public Library and the Warwick Historical Society.

Reach Max Marcus at
mmarcus@recorder.com or 413-930-4231.




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