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Stonington - A survey of 279 parishioners of St. Michael the Archangel parish has found that 71.7 percent of them favor building a new church on the parish's property in Pawcatuck.
Just 16 percent of respondents prefer repairing the existing church, while 12.2 percent favor building a new church on another site, possibly in conjunction with other area parishes. Some also suggested that they stay at St. Mary Church in the borough and combine the resources of the two parishes instead of rebuilding.
Parishioners were asked to fill out the survey after the parish was forced to close its church building in April, when an engineering firm found that the roof and ceiling were structurally unsound and that it would not be safe to continue using the building.
Since then, St. Michael's parishioners have been attending Mass at St. Mary. A report summarizing the results of the survey were distributed to parishioners at last weekend's masses.
Of the 200 who supported the new church option, there was a "strong feeling" that other problems would be discovered during the repair process and that building a new church would be more cost-effective.
They also said that a new structure that meets building codes could be built for approximately the same cost as repairing a church. Some also suggested adding a modern kitchen and a multipurpose area for both the parish and school.
Church pastor the Rev. Dennis Perkins, who could not be reached to comment Tuesday, had said that one of the important factors in the decision will be the ability of the parish to raise the money for the work.
The survey found good news on that front, as many parishioners said they would financially support the church. Many were not only willing to extend their capital campaign pledges but possibly increase them. Some who did not originally participate in the campaign said they would like to start, while others said they would be willing to donate their time and talents as well as pray for the parish.
A small group of parishioners is now being put together to develop a plan and cost estimates and answer questions such as how long a rebuilding project would take. When their work is done, they will present the plan to parishioners for their input.
Perkins has stressed the decision is not up to him or the diocese but to the people of the parish.
The report that accompanied the survey results reminded parishioners that the buildings are "merely here to support the mission of St. Michael Parish."
"The true heart of St. Michael's is our parishioners," it stated.