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NORWALK, CONN: Grace Episcopal Church Faces Possible Closure

NORWALK, CONN: Grace Episcopal Church Faces Possible Closure
Grace Episcopal Church in Norwalk, which has been a part of the city since 1890, is facing the possibility of closing due to mounting expenses

by Alfred Branch

Grace Episcopal Church, one of three Episcopal churches in Norwalk, is facing the possibility of closure due to mounting bills, the Rev. Lois Keen said.

Although the church won't close next week or even next month, the possibility of closing within a year to 18 months is real because the church, located at 1 Union Park, struggles to take in more money than it spends, Keen said.

Grace Episcopal has been a part of Norwalk since 1890, and the congregation has gathered at its current location since 1964.

Over the past four years, the church has been fighting a losing battle as many of its parishioners have taken financial hits of their own and cannot afford to donate as much or as often, according to Keen. She has been the pastor at the church for more than six years.

"Financially, it looks like we can't stay open much longer," she said. "Unlike the rest of mid-Fairfield County, many residents of Norwalk and this congregation are not made up of a lot of money."

The Norwalk YMCA, which is closing at the end of the month, ran into similar financial difficulties.

Much of the church's savings were wiped out overnight, Keen said, with the crash of the stock market in 2008. But that event also decimated the 401(k)s and pensions of many of the church's elderly members.

But demands have increased for services, such as English classes provided by Literacy Volunteers, at the church. Grace Episcopal also recently served as a temporary facility for some of the programs offered by Family and Children's Agency.

These efforts drive up maintenance and operational expenses, and Keen said it now costs about $1,000 per day to run the church. That money pays for a part-time secretary, part-time music person and her full-time position, in addition to heating, cooling and powering the 48-year-old building.

The church does not pay rent on the building, which is owned by the church's overall governing body, but individual congregations pay for expenses and upkeep, Keen said.

"All Episcopal churches are feeling the pinch," she said.

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