Counseling center could open in former Shelton church space

Photo of Brian Gioiele
Christian Counseling and Family Life Center has plans to purchase property at 183 Howe Ave., the former home to Trinity Lutheran Church.

Christian Counseling and Family Life Center has plans to purchase property at 183 Howe Ave., the former home to Trinity Lutheran Church.

Brian Gioiele/Hearst Connecticut Media

SHELTON — Christian Counseling and Family Life Center, now in its 41st year operating in the city, is one step closer to moving into a new home. 

Officials with the nonprofit agency, now located in temporary space on Ripton Road, are seeking to purchase property at 183 Howe Ave., formerly Trinity Lutheran Church, which held its final service Sept. 26

The sale is not final, as the Planning and Zoning Commission must approve a special exception to allow a nonprofit service to operate in the old church offices. The commission, at its most recent meeting last week directed staff to prepare a favorable resolution, which will be voted on at a future date. 

Brian Kelahan, the center's board chair, told the commission the agency has not held any in-person sessions since the onset of the pandemic. 

“Now we’re looking to get back to in-person,” said Kelahan, a move which requires the acquisition of the Howe Avenue space. 

Christian Counseling and Family Life Center would use the separate education building at the rear of the property, which has been used by TEAM Inc. in the past. Kelahan said the agency has no use at present for the church building, outside of possibly using the basement space for board meetings or training. 

“Our intent … is to occupy the education building as soon as possible as we prepare to return to in-person counseling sessions after more than two years of tele-health operation,” the agency’s application states. 

In the education building, Kelahan said the lower level would have a reception area with five therapy rooms. He said the upper level, which is a much more wide-open space, could be used for group therapy sessions. 

Christian Counseling and Family Life Center had been located at 25 Church St., in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, for decades before vacating the space at the start of the pandemic. The agency moved to Ripton Road, which was always meant to be temporary until a permanent location was found, Kelahan said.  

“We have no plans to change any aspect of the overall site,” the application further states. 

Christian Counseling and Family Life Center, which has received funding from the city for a decade, according to Kelahan, provides behavioral health services to clients throughout the Valley and surrounding communities. 

The agency has two co-executive directors, 11 therapists, a psychiatrist, and four psychiatric nurse practitioners, plus an administrative staff. Few of the staff are full-time, and some, the application states, will continue to meet clients remotely. The agency’s hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Friday. 

Trinity Lutheran Church recently agreed to merge with Immanuel Lutheran Church in Oxford, a partnership that will officially begin this week. 

Stephen Wilko, Associate to the Bishop for the New England Synod, confirmed the church began looking into selling the building some two years ago, and most recently found a buyer in the Christian Counseling and Family Life Center. 

Trinity Lutheran Church Council President Diane Rivers said when the decision was made to sell the building, it was important to find a buyer that shared the congregation’s values. She said the agency was the perfect choice. 

“I strongly believe that (Christian Counseling and Family Life Center) shares our values,” she said.