The ties to the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd run deep for Genevieve Crasilli, who has spent 91 years affiliated with the parish on Coram Avenue in Shelton. Crasilli was christened and married at the church, and over the years she ran the youth group, sang in the choir and helped out in the kitchen. Giving back to the church was something her mother, Adeline Powell, instilled in her from an early age. \u201cIt\u2019s your church,\u201d she would tell her daughter. Crasilli remembers walking about three miles each way to church, and also recalls that her mother made sure that any friends who stayed overnight would also attend church the next day. \u201cThey went to church with us,\u201d Crasilli said. \u201cOur friends were welcome to anything that went on at the church.\u201d 'A very welcoming community' That quality isn\u2019t lost on the Rev. Ballard Dorsee, priest in charge at the church for the past 15 years. \u201cIt\u2019s a very welcoming community,\u201d said Dorsee, who conducts services at the church on Wednesdays and Sundays. On a recent Wednesday, he shared a light lunch with several church members and friends, including Crasilli, her son Bill Crasilli, Carol Durrschmidt, George Hilton, and Claire Norris. Many years ago, Genevieve Crasilli was Durrschmidt\u2019s Sunday school teacher. \u201cEverybody\u2019s connected,\u201d Bill Crasilli said. Durrschmidt\u2019s grandmother belonged to the church\u2019s first congregation that broke off from St. James Episcopal Church in Derby in 1897. \u201cThey wanted their own church,\u201d said Durrschmidt, and built Good Shepherd church at today\u2019s 182 Coram Avenue location. The 1957 fire But misfortune struck in 1957 when the building burned to the ground. The fire, caused by faulty electrical wiring, left just the outer stone wall standing, said Dorsee, and also spared the pulpit and the altar. Crasilli recalls the reaction of the congregation. \u201cThe first thing we did was to say, \u2018Something has to be done. Let\u2019s do it.\u2019\u201d The church was rebuilt within two years, and memorial painted glass windows have been installed over the years since then. A few pieces of the original Tiffany widows have been preserved in the sanctuary wall. \u2018A lay-oriented parish\u2019 \u201cThis is a very interesting parish,\u201d Dorsee said. \u201cIt is a lay-oriented parish. The programs and ministry are run by the laity. I\u2019m just along for the ride. These are really very delightful people.\u201d The present warden, Richard Alcutt, leads the lay ministry, said Dorsee, who describes the ministry as \u201cindividual and corporate, led by one person and many people.\u201d \u201cThe laity is strong,\u201d said Hilton, a retired Methodist minister who preaches at the church from time to time. \u201cThe life of this place is dependent on the lay people. There\u2019s quite a vitality here.\u201d Norris, a 50-year member, is chairman of the altar guild, which oversees preparation of the sacraments and sets up the cr\u00e8che at Christmastime. Church members also wrap scores of gifts that are distributed to students in need in the school system. Parishioner Roberta Lengyl, a school nurse, is in charge of the distribution. \u201cAs the need arises, people come together,\u201d Dorsee said. A 'down-to-earth' approach \u201cThere\u2019s an openness here that you might not find in other churches,\u201d said Hilton, who was attracted to the parish by its \u201cdown-to-earth but scholarly preaching.\u201d \u201cWe have a gift, and that gift is Jesus Christ,\u201d Dorsee said. \u201cHis spirit makes itself known in the congregation. It reinforces that gift in the midst of a broken world.\u201d Dorsee conducts a healing service each week on Wednesdays at noon, which is part of a Eucharist service. The service includes the laying-on-of-hands. Healing has played a central part in the lives of parishioners who have recovered from \u201cthings that look debilitating,\u201d said Dorsee, and it has played a part in his own life when he was close to death several times. \u201cAt age 21, I had equine encephalitis and I was wounded during the Korean War,\u201d he said. In 2011, he suffered a burst aneurysm, but received life-saving treatment at St. Vincent\u2019s Medical Center in Bridgeport. Dorsee is a member of the Order of St. Luke the Physician and has conducted healing services in all the parishes he has served. Congregation challenges Dorsee describes Good Shepherd as \u201ca regular, irregular church.\u201d It\u2019s part of the Episcopal Diocese, and is the only Episcopal church in Shelton\u2019s downtown area. As with other churches in older, urban neighborhoods, it faces the challenge of attracting a congregation from all over Shelton and from other nearby communities such as Ansonia, Derby, Seymour, and Stratford. In contrast, St. Paul\u2019s Episcopal Church in Huntington Center draws most members from its immediate area. \u201cAll the residents from Huntington feed into it,\u201d Dorsee said. The Coram Avenue neighborhood is more transient, with more apartment dwellers and people who move out of town more frequently, Norris said. The church is financed through its endowment, gifts and offerings and through the Good Stuff thrift store located in the former rectory. The thrift shop is an outreach service, Dorsee said, serving people in financial difficulty and stocked with donations from the community. The thrift shop is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Positive community impact The Good Shepherd congregation is small, with 35 to 40 people attending on Sundays. As with many churches, there\u2019s a declining membership and fewer attending from the younger generation, Dorsee said. \u201cIf the parishioners would invite their children and grandchildren, we\u2019d have to build an addition,\u201d he quipped. But the Church of the Good Shepherd still has an impact on its members and the Shelton community. A recent series of meetings, Adult Spiritual Discussions, focused on biblical questions, and the annual Cookie Express Christmas Fair in November remains a popular event. \u2018This place was packed with people from all over the community,\u201d Dorsee said. For longtime church members like Durrschmidt, the church is a central part of their lives. \u201cI feel at home here,\u201d she said.