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Natalie

Natalie Shiras is a recently retired
pastor at Church on the Hill, United
Church of Christ in Lenox, MA as
well as a vital part of the Multicultural
BRIDGE team. She wears
many hats at BRIDGE, her most
prominent being her position as
development coordinator.
Natalie whole-heartedly believes in
BRIDGE’s vision, and channels her
passion for social justice into all of
the work she does.
Both of her parents were strongly
involved in the civil rights movement,
when she was growing up in
the 1960’s in Washington, D.C. Her
mother worked for National Urban
League in the main office, and was
involved in groups such as The
Southern Christian Leadership Conference
(SCLC) and The National
Association for the Advancement of
Colored People (NAACP). Due to her
mother’s involvement in these
groups, Natalie became aware of
racial injustice and white privilege
at a very young age.
Her father was headmaster of a
prestigious school, where The
Board of Trustees was extremely
resistant to integration. Due to his
persistence and willingness to
make a change, segregation within
his school eventually became a
thing of the past. Natalie’s father
was pivotal in their desegregation
process, and because Natalie attended that school herself, she became a part of the desegregation
movement as well. 
Both Natalie and
her parents were involved in the
work of Martin Luther King, Jr., and
lived in Turkey from 1964-1967,
where they had the chance to meet
and learn from African American
artist and novelist James Baldwin.
Natalie moved to the Berkshires in
2003, and became the pastor at
Church on The Hill in Lenox, MA.
She was originally invited to be a
part of a Race Task Force meeting
as the pastor of the Church on The
Hill by Founder Gwendolyn Hampton
VanSant as Gwendolyn was initiating
the collaboration with the
Department of Justice Community
Relations Service Division with Amy
Albert. Natalie has been working on
social justice issues for her entire
life, and she came to BRIDGE with a
focus and passion for empowering
people of all cultures. “There is a
need for social justice and equity in
our society,” she said. “Being on the
race task force is an honor, and to
be able to work on it in my retirement
with more time and effort is
great.”
Natalie told youth and elderly people
from the Church on the Hill
about the civil rights conference in
2009, so that they could get involved
with it, and for this, she is
very proud. She also participated in
youth-corps training on diversity,
as well as “bridge-building” in various
schools. Lenox Memorial Middle
and High School (LMMHS) has
been faced with social issues centered
around race and bullying, and
Multicultural BRIDGE decided to do
a day-long training in March of
2014 to try and diminish those issues.

She is very proud that church
members had the chance to be involved in the training. “It expanded all of our horizons,” she said.
Natalie has been a facilitator in
schools, a fundraiser and advocate
for BRIDGE, and wears many other
hats. She brings a love of fundraising,
encouraging others, giving, and
building relationships to our organization.
She helps to put everyone’s
vision in action, and has a serene
ability to see beyond what is in
front of her and make connections.
One can find Natalie at every type of
event BRIDGE holds, from movie
showings and book signings to
school mentor and race task force
meetings, showing her support and
sharing her knowledge with others.
In all that she does for BRIDGE, she
is seen as a “sacred activist.” She
brings together her faith, and justice
for each person based on God’s
destiny with a need for social justice
and equity in our society. Multicultural
BRIDGE allows her to do
the work she believes is sacred
work, and that she feels passionate
about, which she has experienced
for her entire life.
“I am passionate about this fabulous
endeavor that is Multicultural
BRIDGE, it enhances my life in every
way, and I am honored to be a
part of it,” she said.
Every event that Natalie has done in
collaboration with Multicultural
BRIDGE would not be possible
without the support of our generous
donors! Thank you! (GN)