Town officials voted last week in favor of closing the street in front of the Congregational Church of New Canaan for 90 minutes on Sunday mornings so that the faith community may gather and worship outside while maintaining social distancing.
The Police Commission voted 3-0 in favor of the measure, which will apply to the short one-way stretch of Park Street atop God’s Acre from 8:30 to 10 a.m. Sundays.
Deputy Chief John DiFederico, who received and presented the church’s request to the Commission, called it a “very reasonable request.”
“Most other churches in town have their own property and have the ability to expand outdoors into parking lots and what not, but the Congregational Church does not have that luxury,” DiFederico said during the Commission’s May 20 meeting, held via videoconference.
“It is very easy to detour around,” he said. “It is not a state road or anything like that, so it would not be too difficult for us to manage. I don’t even know if we would need to station an officer out at that intersection. Maybe the first day to see how it goes. But I think it would be very easy and not impactful to traffic in town.”
Chair Paul Foley, Secretary Jim McLaughlin and Commissioner Shekaiba Bennett voted in favor of the street closure. (Foley said he himself is a church member, by way of full disclosure.)
Bennett said, “I think it’s a good idea ,because you definitely want people safe, and especially if they do not have the space.”
It wasn’t immediately clear just when the outdoor Sunday services would start. For now, they are being held online. The Congregational Church likely would try the new system for the summer, though it probably would not be able to continue once the weather turns cold, Foley said.
DiFederico said representatives from New Canaan’s faith community are in communication with each other as much as possible to ensure “everybody has a level playing field and everybody is on the same page.” The Community Baptist Church on Cherry Street is working with the Congregational Church and others to find a suitable location for Sunday worship, he said.