Trinity Lutheran Church: A Growing Ministry 100 Years (Trinity Lutheran Church)

By Patricia Edwards
Trinity Lutheran Church

Trinity Lutheran Church has a warm, peaceful, and loving atmosphere which has been passed down from generation to generation. Family roots can be traced back to the founding fathers that were determined, by faith, to build a church in which to worship. Trinity, as a family, has withstood tragedy and gained strength throughout the years. It is important to understand the history of Trinity; the past has molded our church into what it is today.
In the late 1800’s Swedish immigrants settled in the Centerbrook area to build a better life. They sought the council of K. A. Martin of Middletown to arrange for church services to be held in Centerbrook. The Swedish Evangelical Church was founded in the fall of 1892 with the Reverend Lindberg presiding as the church’s first minister. The Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church was organized on February 16, 1898. The original church committee stated, “With renewed hope in the future, it was resolved on January 7, 1907, to build a new church. A fund drive was made from members and friends.” By July 10, 1907, John Sjögren had laid the foundation and Lewis Carlson contributed his skills of cementing and the cornerstone was placed. Upon completion of the building the committee concluded, “Establish thou the work of your hands, yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.”
Services were spoken in the Swedish language until the 1940’s. Members consisted of 34 adults and 12 children. Sunday school was held in the minister’s home. Once confirmed, the students were presented with gold leaf Bibles written in Swedish. During the summer months ice cream festivals were held and Chinese lanterns were hung for decoration. Since there were no freezers or electricity, the ice cream had to be made by hand. Other activities included lawn parties, strawberry festivals, penny auctions, and fairs with fishing wells for the children to fish for prizes. Later, groups were formed such as, The Luther League for youth, a Ladies Sewing Society, and a Couples Club. Due to small membership, and the Pastors of The Bethel Swedish Lutheran Church in Deep River and The Swedish Lutheran Church dividing the services between the two of them, it was decided to merge the two congregations, and in 1949, Trinity Lutheran Church was formed, bringing services spoken in English.
The Bethel Church transferred a bell which was donated by the Talita Kumi Ladies Society in 1906. Some time after the merger, Trinity became the mother church, giving birth to a new parish in Old Saybrook. Many members transferred to Old Saybrook due to rapid growth there. Although the membership was shrinking at an alarming rate, Trinity would survive this set-back and grow again. The Anderson family has been very active in the church. For many years Dick Anderson cleaned and maintained the church as well as act as Financial Secretary. His father used to stoke both wood and coal furnaces for Sunday worship with Dick by his side helping. On March 20, 1973, an arsonist set Trinity ablaze. The old church was burned, leaving the foundation intact. Offering plates and a record book dating back to 1898 were miraculously spared. Despite its cover being slightly charred, the record book is still in good condition. Shortly after this devastating event, the decision was made to rebuild under the leadership of Pastor Frederick Teichmann. “We can if we will” became the slogan which transformed the hearts and minds of the congregation. Preparation to rebuild was soon underway, and once again, members and friends came to aid with many churches as well. Joint services were held at the Ivoryton Congregational Church until Trinity reopened. In the meantime, a story surfaced of a missing copper box containing the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church’s history and other articles. Harry Shenning translated the documents from Swedish into English and a copy can be found in the Trinity History Book. This scrapbook was compiled by Edith Varney, grand daughter of John Sjögren. Edith Varney and Pastor Teichmann placed a new box and cornerstone into the wall during the rebuilding. Trinity reopened and was dedicated in March 1977. Within three years the bell was returned to the church and placed on stones from the original wall. The inscription on the bell reads, “Donated to the Lutheran Bethel Church by the Talita Kumi Young Ladies Society – 1906.” Bethel is Hebrew for “House of God,” and Talita Kumi means, “Maiden arise.” This house of God certainly did arise, resurrected from the ashes of the old building to the beautiful new building that stands today. In May of 1980, the bell tower was installed, completing the church. Within five years the mortgage was paid in full and burned. On October 24, 1984, Heritage Sunday, Pastor Teichmann was honored for his dynamic role in the rebuilding of Trinity. Words alone cannot express the invigorating spirit which this faithful, determined man possessed. Those present for this special occasion were Bishop Harold Wimmer and former Pastors Harry Peterson, and William Sieberg. Song and laughter echoed through Fellowship Hall. This was a joyful, reminiscent day indeed.
For the past several years Trinity has been led primarily by part-time pastors. Presently, Trinity has a full-time pastor, Reverend Dr. James Leipold. He has been doing a great job since he arrived in October of 1990. Pastor Jim’s vibrant personality keeps his sermons alive, especially the children’s sermon. There are currently two services with communion served every Sunday and coffee hour following the services in Fellowship Hall. This is a good time of fellowship that allows members and friends a chance to peruse the Trinity History Book, reminisce through Trinity Family Albums, and catch up on current events.
Many committees are involved with the ministry, upkeep, and special celebrations such as, Property, Evangelism, Worship and Music, Parish Life, Christian Education Finance, Stewardship, and Benevolence. The Young-At-Heart ministry is strong and acts as a bridge to the youth and service agency to the church. Every year the Sunday school students receive gifts on Palm Sunday from the Young-At-Heart and in the fall, students present the Young-At-Heart members with a special craft. Children participate in a Christmas Pageant on Christmas Eve, host a Palm Sunday breakfast, and end the season with Bible Baseball. The youth also collect money for Heifer Project International, Church World Hunger, and various mission projects. John Newman spearheads an annual tag sale in June which all proceeds go to help others in the community. Trinity also has a picnic every summer at the edge of the river. Community outreach projects consist of Habitat for Humanity, visitation of shut-ins, Christmas gifts for the needy, and sponsorship of a child in Thailand, and a weekly soup kitchen. In the recent years Trinity began a Night of Thanks Banquet to recognize members who serve their Lord and church above and beyond the normal call of duty. At this banquet, a member or a couple is awarded the Trinity Service Award. The first recipient was “Mr. Trinity” Dick Anderson.
Trinity’s current congregation consists of 192 confirmed members, 45 children and is steadily increasing. Building expansion will be bought with a special 100-year celebration fund drive. Sunday school space, handicap access, balcony, and pews are major areas of concern in this phase of rebuilding. There are many obstacles, but rebuilding is not new to Trinity. “We can if we will!”
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