The holy seal: Metal detectors placed at entrances of Trinity Church and St. Paul’s Chapel

The new metal detectors and mandatory bag checks Trinity Church caused longer lines to get in, but most visitors didn’t seem to mind.
Photo by Milo Hess

BY COLIN MIXSON

Call it the guardhouse of the Lord.

Visitors to Downtown’s two oldest churches must now go though some painfully modern security procedures

Trinity Church has installed metal detectors at the main entrance to its Broadway parish out of an abundance of caution about the perils of the earthly world, which has too often made Lower Manhattan icons targets of terrorism, according to the venerable church’s rector.

“A shepherd’s heart wants to keep the sheep safe, and we live in a dangerous world,” said Rector William Lupfer.

Beginning Mar. 1, the church’s main entrance at Broadway between Rector and Cedar streets took on the aspect of an airport security checkpoint, with visitors having to wait in line to pass through metal detectors and open their bags for a security guard before opening their heart to the Lord.

The same security procedures were put in place at Trinity’s nearby sister church further north on Broadway, St. Paul’s Chapel, which had served as an open-door staging area and first-responder haven in the aftermath the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

Photo by Milo Hess
It is now apparently necessary to remind visitors that they are not allowed to bring weapons into the church.

The church’s new security checkpoints are not a response to any specific threat, but rather the product of a long and deliberate process that included input from the congregation, according to a spokeswoman for the parish.

“There is no imminent threat to Trinity or St. Paul’s, and planning for these new measures has been in the works for some time,” said Trinity spokeswoman Barbara Dimajo. “That said, Lower Manhattan is considered to be one of the country’s top terrorist targets.”

The new security measures may exacerbate waits to get into the historic churches for services and other ceremonies, but the hassle is worth it to protect some of Downtown’s most iconic institutions, according to one church volunteer.

“You’re talking about a cherished landmark,” said Louie Rueda. “The inconvenience is worthwhile.”

Others said the extra security was worth it to ensure the church remained a sanctuary for parishioners, who could keep both eyes to heaven, and not feel the need to look over their shoulders.

“It’s good,” said Downtown resident Sweetheart Fajbon. “It will keep the people safe.”

Not everybody agreed that the metal detectors were warranted, especially compared to the comparatively modest security setup of Midtown’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Midtown — which features guards and the occasional bag check, but no metal detectors — to protect one of the most famous and highly visited churches in the nation, according to one Trinity buff.

“St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the gold standard. It’s the most famous church in America and they don’t have metal detectors,” said Arthur Piccolo, president of a the Bowling Green Association, and frequent visitor to both Trinity Church and St. Paul’s Chapel. “Why would Trinity not say, ‘What does St. Patrick’s do? Lets do what they do.’ ”

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