Founded in 1856, our church has a considerable presence and history in the area. A detailed history is provided here.
The founding of our congregation is credited to Adaminna Faber Birckhead, a Danish immigrant. On a rural piece of land provided by the Birckhead and Ridgely families, the work to erect a building began in July of 1856. On March 26, 1857, Bishop William R. Whittingham consecrated “Trinity Chapel,” a modest wooden structure fronting Washington Boulevard (more commonly known today as Route 1).
Trinity Chapel first served as a “chapel of ease” for Christ Church, Guilford (known today as Christ Church, Columbia). The Reverend Alexander X. Berger (1857-1865), serving in the dual role as the Rector of Christ Church and of Trinity Chapel, is considered our first Rector. With Berger’s 1865 resignation, Trinity’s congregation petitioned the Maryland Diocesan Convention for admission as an independent parish with the right to call its own rector. It was successful when in 1866, the Convention granted Trinity Chapel permission to separate from Christ Church. Trinity became a parish in 1869.
The Reverend Theodore Gambrill (1866-1871) led the newly organized Trinity Church, a small, diverse parish of laborers, farmers and small merchants. The early years of the parish were characterized by evangelism focusing on nearby families and assisting travelers along Route 1, the main road from Baltimore to Washington at that time. Sunday schools for both white and African-American children were established and “missionary” work conducted in areas of Howard County. The parish erected a chapel and a Sunday school building at Pfeiffer’s Corner in 1871. [This chapel was demolished in 1938, and the Sunday school building converted to a thrift and gift shop in 1980.]
The year 1890 brought changes to Trinity Church, the main church building. The congregation enhanced the church building by adding a fieldstone extension on the front, re-orienting the main entrance, and adding additional seating. These revisions changed the appearance of the church into the building that one sees today.
Financial resources apparently became constrained during the twentieth century. A series of rectors served in a part-time capacity; some worked second jobs in the secular arena to supplement their income. This was the case with two of our longest serving rectors; Charles Fosbroke (1919-1938) operated a dairy farm and George Van Bibber Shriver (1945-1969) worked in the insurance industry. Yet, despite limited funding, the parish continued to reach out to the community with an emphasis on religious education. During Reverend Shriver’s tenure, a small bus was purchased to facilitate the activities of the Sunday school.
The encroaching commercialization of the Route 1 corridor, however, presented a major challenge for the parish during the 1960s. As early as 1962, the Reverend Noble Powell, Bishop of the Diocese of Maryland, recommended that Trinity consider relocating elsewhere. Such a move to a more residential area might have stimulated opportunities for growth. A congregational vote finally was held in March 1973, in which a majority of members present voted to move the parish to the edge of a nearby, growing area—Columbia. The vote was overturned later that same year by a coalition of members and influential non-members interested in the preservation of the historic church building. Yet, the events surrounding these opposing decisions sowed the seeds of continued discontent. The congregation witnessed a 40 percent turnover during the next ten years.
The communal spirit of the parish, however, regenerated with time. An infusion of cash donations in 1974 allowed for the renovation of the main church as well as work on the rectory. The money also helped to underwrite fund-raising activities, such as community-wide dinners promoting fellowship opportunities among the members.
The ministry of Reverend John Steiner (1993-2013), our most recent rector, marked yet another transitional period in our parish history; Parish demographics changed as an influx of new members, many with no previous ties to the Episcopal Church and living beyond the proximate area, were attracted to Steiner’s ministry. Father Skip, as he was more commonly known, was noted for his brief, but pithy, sermons and his emphasis on outreach. Aided often by his wife Carolyn, Skip led the congregation in social service projects focused largely on housing, both locally and elsewhere. He shepherded the construction of a new building for the use of the Sunday school and general community. With his approval, the church opened its parish hall as a temporary winter shelter to the area’s homeless. His ministry to children and those with physical limitations also highlighted Skip’s tenure at Trinity.
The Trinity Church congregation, for over one hundred and fifty years, has ministered consistently to the needs of those in the greater community. Though always small in numbers, its diverse members continue to reach outward to “Seek Justice, Love Kindness, Walk Humbly with God.”