A Closer Look
Trinity Episcopal Church
Celebrating 175 Years in Janesville, WI
Story and Interviews by Teresa Nguyen
Love God. Love People. Show it.
A Look Back
In 1844, even before Wisconsin’s statehood, little Janesville was nestled on the banks of the flowing Rock River with a mere population of 200. Under the guidance of Reverend Thomas J. Rugar, the community’s first Episcopal congregation was formed. The Rev Rugar later became Janesville’s first postmaster, and a well-traveled east side street was named after him.
Coming up the Court Street hill from downtown, one can’t help but notice the beautiful, iconic stone buildings gracing the northeastern skyline. Christ Church had once stood at the top of that hill. In the early 1900’s the
A display of historical items from the Janesville congregation
congregation of Christ Church joined with the original Episcopalian parish, which was on the west side of the Rock River. In 1930 Trinity Episcopal Church was built at the top of Courthouse Hill and later renovated in 1978.
1964 saw the construction of Ortmayer Hall, located on the corner of East Court St. and Atwood Avenue. It continues to evolve in its uses, always serving the community.
Fast forward 175 years. On this warm September weekend in 2019, the bright morning sun reflects golden beams in the church windows facing south. One feels the damp of fall in the air. The smells of delicious dishes cooking in Ortmayer Hall wafts on the breeze between the buildings. Inside the sanctuary, smiling faces wearing “Celebrating Love” t-shirts and warm lighting from the ceiling welcomes the congregation and its visitors. The spirit of kindness is felt in hugs and seen in the smiles, heard in the greetings and noticed even in the eyes. Coupled with this human warmth is a holy spirit one truly senses in this magnificent place of worship.
Greeters welcome parishioners in their new church t-shirts
The bell is rung by pulling on a long, dangling rope near the front door, letting all know that it is time. This special weekend is one of celebration, recognizing 175 years of mission and ministry in Janesville. It is a celebration of what has passed before and a look to the future ahead for this congregation. It is marked with the regal brass sounds of the First Brigade Band and celestial voices of the church choir, proudly the first "vested choir in the West".
Excitement fills the air! For an entire century and three quarters, the good people of the Episcopal church have gathered to praise God, sing, pray, eat and volunteer together in Christ’s example. Their mission is to “Love God. Love people. Show it.”
And that they do.
Ed Schultz rings the church bell
I’m a big believer of the communion of saints…that there is this vast communion of people who have gone before us. They have deposited all of their prayers and all of who they are into this sacred space. I believe this is a celebration of all of that, of who we are today. In the midst of the current meanness in society, THIS is a celebration of love in the here and now. It is faith, absolute faith!
I don’t know how long these substantial buildings will last. They’re old. Will any of the physicality of this be here in another 175 years? I don’t know. But that’s not what this is about. This is about the faith and the people. It’s about what causes them to know that God loves them today and will love them tomorrow.
The Reverend Kathy Monson Lutes
This 175th – The Meaning
The Reverend Kathy Monson Lutes
Inspiration to Serve
My husband said that when he first met me, he knew I would someday be an ordained minister. I was raised Catholic and there was nothing for me to see that would ever lead me to believe that this was something I could do. When I was a child, I told my mother that I was going to be a priest. How does a little Catholic girl come up with THAT?
As a couple, we had been living in Minneapolis, attending my Catholic church and his Congregational church every Sunday. We enjoyed being a part of those communities of faith. But it was time to look for what we really wanted.
My friend married in the Episcopal church and I was a bridesmaid. The rector of the church made us feel so welcomed, inviting me to participate. When Rick and I decided to try attending St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, that same priest greeted us Sunday morning and said, “I’ve been waiting for you two to get back here.” It was a place that really held our hearts.
Rev Kathy Monson Lutes recieves a Proclamation from the City of Janesville, Wisconsin
Proclamation from the City of Janesville, Wisconsin
One day, that priest, George Martin, handed me the Book of Holy Orders and said, “Kathy, I think this is something you need to look at and consider.” Meanwhile, we were living our lives, had our two boys, they were baptized there, we taught Sunday school and enjoyed the congregation. I had been a teacher and, when the person in charge of education resigned, I took on that position. Eventually, I was the Assistant for Family Ministry. I loved it, doing everything short of saying mass.
About 10 years into my marriage, the rector at that time said to me, “Kathy, you can no longer ignore this call.” A discernment committee got together and listened to me, asked questions and discussed the roles of ministry. It was a graceful experience. They listened deeply to what I felt I was called to do. They recommended me for Postulancy, the first step.
It’s been a life-long process, it’s grown deeper. Being wife and mother completely and accurately informs my ministry. It’s all wrapped up together in how God calls, guides and uses me in my work.
Coming to Janesville
We had been in Minneapolis, to Texas, back to Minneapolis and then to Rapid City, SD. You begin to feel the change in the force. Our children were grown and we were feeling a bit restless.
In 2013, I was away on sabbatical for several months, went to Norway, did some travel with the family, and spent the last four months by myself in the UK. I went into a little shop and saw a banner that said, “How well did you love? How well did you live? How well did you learn to let go?” At that time in our lives, it was really a matter of letting go. It became evident that it was time to look!
Then, in 2014, my mother died. I had been so focused on getting back to Minneapolis to where she and my family were living. But, once she was gone, I was free to look anywhere.
When I saw Janesville, Wisconsin on the listing of openings, I said to Rick, “Hey, what do you think about pursuing southern Wisconsin?” He said, “Let’s look at it!” I had conversations with the people here at Trinity through written communication and video conferences, etc. Rick and I came and had good conversations with people here.
There were a couple of key pieces in order for me to choose this location. I wanted to come to a place that already had significant conversations about same gender unions. I didn’t want to start that work from scratch, which I had done previously. People here at Trinity were well on their way through that conversation and we concluded it was right for us. The church leaders eventually called with an invitation for me to be their priest. That was around 2015.
This is truly a great community.
Changes over the Years
My own very presence shows change. It’s been really good here, though. People seem quite happy with all that I bring, with all of my femaleness.
One of the many, beautiful stained glass windows at Trinity Episcopal Church
The Episcopal denomination has embraced the blessing of same gender unions. I believe we’ve been very loving, caring and compassionate about bringing those who might disagree with that into a place of understanding.
People have come and gone from Trinity for all sorts of reasons. I’m certain that some have gone because I’m here. There is a woman who has been a member of this congregation forever and her family have been members forever. She was adamantly opposed to the full acceptance of people who are gay.
For me, being able to engage in conversation with her has been very meaningful. To embrace the differences we hold, but to say, “You and I love God. You and I love this church. That is so much more important than whether or not we can agree on who is welcome.” It was a profound experience to be able to say this. God calls us to be inclusive, to figure out how to love each other even when we don’t agree. I told her, “I love you. So, there’s no reason for you to have to go somewhere else. We can live in this together.”
She stayed. And she turned out to be one of my biggest supporters! She has changed profoundly. I believe she has been loved back into herself and loved by God.
Another sweet memory is of a young mother who had recently a baby. She had been a member of this church her whole life and served as a eucharistic minister. One Sunday morning, she had her baby with her, put on her robe and brought her son in his car seat onto the altar to serve. It was a profound moment knowing that she trusted me to welcome her just the way she was.
Meaning in Service
The simplicity of our mission statement is profound. We want to show God’s love to all people we meet, to be able to share that Good News outside the walls of this church. God’s healing and reconciliation in the world is what we are always about. Our purpose is in loving others.
Research does show that people who are searching for meaning in their lives often find it in the deep mystery of liturgy. It really fills the heart and the soul and allows time and space for discovering God and to be discovered by God. One of the ways this church has done well is to provide really wonderful music. We want to be able to continue with wonderful and excellent liturgy that feeds the people who are present here and those who plan to be here.
However, none of that matters if we don’t love our neighbors outside the church, as God calls us to do.
Pastor Tanya Sadagopan gives Rev Kathy Monson Lutes a plaque depicting neighboring First Congregational Church, which will be celebrating their 175th in 2020.
Serving the Community
I learned that before the Ortmayer Building was built, there was a house on that corner. The house contained a thrift shop for many years, which Trinity ran, so that others could buy for less. ECHO, the local food pantry, was also housed at Trinity. And G.I.F.T.S. Men’s Shelter was the brainchild of a number of people from Trinity, in partnership with other churches, and the G.I.F.T.S. daytime resource center was housed here for quite some time before they acquired their new building. We are always involved in charity and outreach at Trinity.
The Future of Faith
All of this could go away, and it might. But God’s love for humanity will not. The most important thing is that we’re telling the story. I have deep sadness for those who don’t know the story of God’s love for God’s people, the story of God walking with humanity, with each and every one of us in this time and in this place…the story of life, death and resurrection. Those who have never heard the story are increasing daily.
I think it is in part due to what gets Tweeted out there. There is this suspect brand of “Christianity” that has nothing to do with being loved by God or loving one’s neighbor. Who would want to be a part of a judgmental group of people who don’t care about anyone but themselves? I feel this contributes to declining church attendance. I hardly use the word “Christian” anymore, but rather talk of “people who follow Jesus”.
Is it about keeping religious observance alive? No, it is about living fully and completely. The message of God’s love is so incredibly important. Each and every one of us are welcome in God’s sight. It’s about loving our neighbor.
I’m not giving up. It’s the most important thing we can do in this day and age; to tell the story of God’s love.
Morning sun on the windows of Ortmayer Hall on the corner of E. Court Street
and Atwood Avenue
God loves each and every one of us and nothing changes that fact. God even loves those who call themselves Christian and don’t act like it!
Excitement about the 175th Celebration
We have been talking and preparing for so long. I’m exhausted! But this celebration is beautiful; it’s glorious! I’m not interested in replicating what has been. So, I made a choice to not use the prayers from the 1695 Prayer Book. I love that we can trace it back to the pre-reformation. And I appreciate the decades and centuries of our history. What’s really important is taking that with us bravely into the future with faith.
What’s Next for Trinity?
God continues to bless us with this facility. We are having conversations about how Ortmayer Hall can continue to serve the community, whether through a daycare, a community hub for small businesses who need just an internet connection and place to bring a laptop. We don’t know yet. I dream of what will happen there, how we will give to the community and participate in our neighborhood. We’re on the cusp of something, engaging in heartfelt conversations about what the next year will bring.
As for me…I’ll stay around, I love it here. These are amazing people!
Interim Director of Music
I had been a member of the Episcopal Church when I lived in Memphis, from 1984 to 1995. A while after I’d moved up here, I really missed that connection, so I started going to Trinity Episcopal in the summer of 2009. The first Sunday I was there, after the service, Thelma Wilcox came up to me and said, “You can sing! You need to join the choir.” That’s how I joined the choir.
As far as involvement goes, I’ve been a member of the choir and I’ve served on the Vestry Board for three years. I was asked to run and became the Senior Warden, which is the equivalent to the President of the Board. I did that for two years.
Keith Steinbeck at the Trinity Episcopal Church keyboard
I used to stay overnight with the G.I.F.T.S. Men’s Shelter when it was at our church. Additionally, I’ve done some marketing and designing and worked with JAX Custom Printing to create church posters. For 13 years I worked in marketing for an x-ray company, so bring that experience with me.
Like a Family
The Episcopal Church stems from the Church of England after independence from England. Trinity’s mission is, “Love God. Love People. Show it.” Our church is like a family. What I like about the Episcopal church, unlike others, is that there is no guilt. The funeral services are more like a celebration of life, not so depressing. You can go into any other Episcopal church anywhere and you will feel welcomed. We can also talk about faith without sounding like we’re preaching.
Someone asked me once what the church was like, and the answer was something like, “It’s Catholic light”. Women can be priests. There’s no guilt. Women can be acolytes. There’s no confessional and you pray directly to God, so there’s that Protestant part of it. Communion is every Sunday if you wish, and not just one Sunday a month. Another difference is that communion is open to all people, whether Episcopalian or not. And we’re open and accepting of everyone which, for me, is important.
We have a banner on the alter that says, “Love wins.” Another is a hanging piece that describes what it means to “Love thy neighbor” and not just those neighbors who are the same as us.
We do a lot of special projects, such as the Pancake Supper and participating in the Janesville Jolly Jingle weekend. Last year we had a St. Nicholas exhibit and we were on one of the trolley stops!
Changes in the Church
The church went through many social changes over the years starting with segregation and how they dealt with that. Down in Memphis, during the garbage strike in the Civil Rights era, the head of St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral parish marched with the church cross.
The Episcopal church ordained the first gay bishop, Gene Robinson, in the 1990’s. Since then, the Episcopal Church of the United States had their first female Presiding Bishop, Bishop Schori. Her successor is Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, who gave the sermon of the last royal wedding. He is coming soon to Fond du Lac to give a speech. If you don’t walk away feeling uplifted from hearing him speak, then you weren’t listening!
A lot of the churches tried to leave when they accepted the first gay bishop. But they found out that the church, as a whole, owns the buildings, they’re not owned by the groups attending the churches.
There were physical changes, as well, such as when the altars were brought forward. That upset people. Trinity Episcopal brought the altar out toward the front. It’s still above the congregation, but now the rector does the communion ceremony facing the people, instead of facing the wall.
One thing all religions have in common is the people’s passion. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it holds people back.
Celebrating Trinity’s 175th!
Planning the 175th has been exciting and I’ve been a part of the organizing. We wanted the dinner to be a plated meal, served to the tables. I was able to secure students from Craig, Parker and Rock University High School to help serve the meal. We plan to donate to their student clubs. We gave them dinner and they served the food, kept the coffee and water filled and cleared the tables. We’re grateful for their time and willingness to be there for this special occasion.
This church has been around for 175 years! It merged with another church, but kept the Trinity name. It was the first church in the old Northwest which had a vested choir. We’re proud of that. There’s a lot of history with the church music.
Trinity Episcopal Choir performing on the JPAC stage for the G.I.F.T.S. Shelter Me concert in 2015
It has seen a lot of changes, both in the Episcopal church overall and in Janesville, yet it has still survived. It’s just very exciting to be sharing this history! We were happy to invite all. Many had never been to an Evensong service, which is either sung or chanted. There’s very little spoken, except the Apostle’s Creed. It’s a very moving service. To have the First Brigade Band there is very exciting, too.
Thelma Wilcox retired this year and this celebration was her last weekend. I am serving as the interim Director of Music until we can find our full-time director. I will play piano for the Taizé and the Acoustic Musicians. We have an organist play for the 2nd and 4th Sundays, that’s when the choir will sing and I will be directing. I hope to also continue to help with marketing and posters and such. If I can find the time, I’ll volunteer for Meals on Wheels. We like to donate to G.I.F.T.S., as well.
Of course, one of the bigger goals is to see the church thrive, to see new members. We want to keep the church going!
My mother was a Churchill. She had belonged to the Church of England in England and came to the United States through Canada. They came by sleigh, but Lake Michigan was open so they had to sell the sleigh to hire a boat. The man who brought them by boat was supposed to take them all the way to Edgerton across the land, but he wanted more money.
So, the family left the women in the woods and the men walked the rest of the way to make a settlement.
I was baptized at Trinity Episcopal Church in 1939.
Edna shaving her head for a Relay for Life bet.
Trinity Episcopal Church Volunteer
Adel Smith with a frontal she made for Trinity Episcopal Church
When I was a little girl, we lived in Milton and my family was poor. We only had one car, which only my father knew to drive. My father was embarrassed to come to church because he only had bib overalls. So, a good family friend would drive my sister and I to church every Sunday.
I remember sitting in the back pew, thinking it was such a beautiful place. I would daydream about the pretty little girls in their dresses and pretty shoes and how someday I would have those. I had a crocheted dress made by my mother. She would extend it as I got taller and I would change the slip under it with a different color each year. I was embarrassed, though, because I only had brown stockings and high-top brown shoes.
It’s important to me now to give to others, to take care of them. Giving is my thing.
I was married twice in this church. My first husband, my boys’ father, sang in the church choir. After we divorced, I married my current husband, whose brother was the priest here, Father Smith. We’ve been married 38 years now.
My oldest brother was a carpenter and built an altar for Trinity. He got his skills from my dad who was a wood carver, Carl Klemp, one of the craftsmen who carved the intricate woodworking in the auditorium at the old Janesville High School, now the Janesville Performing Arts Center.
The buildings of Trinity Episcopal Church, Janesville, Wisconsin
My sons grew up here at Trinity. To this day they are still in touch with their youth group and others from the congregation.
I have sung in the choir and also sew and embroider the frontals for the church. I made a swag that goes between the arms of Jesus that says, “Love Always Wins”. I’ve also made frontals for other churches, too. I just love doing it. In fact, I made Reverend David’s stole, his first Alb, a priest’s robe, and the suit he wore to his wedding.
I’ve made stoles for many others and churches in Delavan and Racine have frontals I’ve made. Some of my stoles and vestments have gone as far away as California and the Carolinas!
Every Thursday, a group of us called “The Prayer Shawl Ministry” knits shawls. We knit and crochet them, and they are taken to those who need one, those who are sick or in the hospital. Prayers are sometimes said when they are created, with the different stiches. They are made with a lot of love. We’ve been doing this for 30 years now!
We have a mission in the mountains of Haiti. The women often have their babies out in the woods, but we try to encourage them to come to the clinic. We make about 35 baby blankets every year and they take them to Haiti. Once a year, the blankets are taken down there. If the mothers come to the clinic, they get a baby blanket as a gift.
This is a special church. Everyone is welcome here and that’s important to us.
I have been attending Trinity Episcopal Church for 54 years!
Some of the ways I’ve been involved are as a Sunday School teacher, an Altar Guild and a Lay Eucharistic Minister. My husband, Bill, and I bring communion to Trinity shut-ins. We also purchase and bring gifts to the residents at St. Elizabeth’s Nursing Home. The gifts are made possible from the Birthday Offering donations from Trinity’s parishioners.
Another enjoyable way I volunteer is working in Trinity’s church yard and prayer garden. I plant and weed flowers during the growing season of the year. I also help with Trinity’s meals for the G.I.F.T.S. Men’s Shelter.
My favorite projects have been working with the children and teaching Sunday School.
Trinity Episcopal Church Volunteer
That’s near and dear to my heart. I also love working in the flower beds around the church, enjoying the beautify of nature that God has provided for us. Volunteering has been a way for me to get to know my brother’s and sisters in Christ. We spend time together and work as a Trinity team to reach people in our church and in our community.
My hope is that what I do will make me a better person and somehow help someone else.
Celebrating Trinity’s 175th Anniversary
It’s a historic event for Trinity Church to celebrate 175 years of existence in the city of Janesville. This wonderful event brought back many clergy, friends and parishioners who have moved away. They came to celebrate together once again as a family.
The most memorable part of this two-day event for us was the 10 a.m. service on Sunday. The First Brigade Band and the Trinity Church Choir provided such beautiful music. We also enjoyed Reverend David Boyd’s wonderful sermon.
As long as my health lets me stay involved in these volunteer roles, I will do so!
Marlene volunteering in the Ortmayer Hall kitchen for the 175th celebration dinner.
The Reverend David Boyd
The Call to Pastoral Ministry
Like many ordained people I had a sense of call at an early age. Not having been raised in the church, I had no context for that sense of call. I pointed my life toward coaching and teaching.
In my mid 20’s, I had an experience on a retreat and realized, for the first time, that Jesus was real AND that I was loved by God. That moment brought my call to the priesthood into immediate clarity. That was 40 years ago.
Growing up in Janesville
I greatly value the formation I received in Janesville through the public schools and through athletics. I had a number of wonderful, superior teachers and extraordinary experiences with coaches.
The Reverend David Boyd
They trained me and enabled me to receive an athletic scholarship to college. I also have very fond memories of the excellent music programs, both vocal and instrumental, all through my public-school years.
Memories of Trinity Episcopal in Janesville
When I was new to the Episcopal Church, I found such a warm welcome and inclusion. I have many, many great memories of worship - Feast Days, Christmas, Easter as well as a regular Sunday or weekday Eucharists.
In 1980, my wife, Cathy, and I became engaged kneeling at the communion rail after Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. I also had the privilege of serving with a full choir and orchestra in a fully scored Eucharist experience. The memorial services for both of my parents were at Trinity, among friends who loved them and those who have loved me.
Changes in the Church
The changes are manifold. One must remember that while God and the love of God are constant, the living God is constantly and continually being revealed and understood.
In my time, we have welcomed and embraced the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopacy.
The Reverends David Boyd and Kathy Monson Lute
The cornerstone at Ortmayer Hall, built in 1964
We have experienced both prayer book and hymnal revision. We have become inclusive of LGBT people, not just to our pews, but ordaining and marrying these brothers and sisters. We have claimed anew the need for the church to witness and serve our society in areas of social justice.
Celebrating Trinity’s 175 Years
It’s so lovely. My ordination was made possible and occurred in the midst of faithful people from Trinity parish. The rector at that time became my sponsoring priest to seminary. Trinity sponsored and supported me and my family while I was in seminary. I spent the year before beginning seminary as the sexton (janitor) of Trinity Church; perhaps the best training I had. Over the 35 years since I was ordained, I have been privileged to continue contacts with Trinity church and many of its members.
There are two primary foci as we celebrate this milestone. First, we look back at the history of this parish and at the many, the saints, who served faithfully to bring us to this time and place. As Christians we are a people of the story, the great story of God’s love for and involvement with God’s people, and the myriad of stories of the happenings and people in our history.
Secondly, we also must utilize a celebration like this to look forward and to be in a process of discerning God’s hopes and dreams for us as individuals and as the collective people of God. We must continue to BE the church.
Keeping the Faith
This is a big issue that has many aspects and as many answers. As I person of faith, I believe that our best course in life and faith is to be authentic; to lead in everything we do with the love, acceptance and inclusion of God.
A book of local Episcopalian baptism records from the 1800's
Trinity Episcopal Church Member
I’ve been with Trinity Episcopal for over 25 years now.
Earlier on, I was quite involved with the Church Guild. We had Wednesday School for the children, which was a busy time. I’ve always enjoyed being involved, especially that time when my kids were young. We gathered there with other families and their children. Still today, so many of us are in touch. The families came together with a joint purpose, we had great teachers and we had priests who were as equally good.
What I like so much about the Episcopal Church is the wonderful way the service is celebrated. It is patterned after the Church of England.
Even the wedding services are similar. I love what the church does. The Episcopal Church has evolved over the years. Some people get upset with change, but I think it’s coming along, and it still fulfills my needs.
Now I’m in a different phase of life. It continues to be a wonderful church and I’m still involved! I love my church.
When we had our 160th Anniversary, I helped to organize that celebration.
Now we’re at 175! I love the history behind everything. The event was fabulous - the services, the dinner, picnic and the wonderful First Brigade Band!
It felt like we really did celebrate 175 years!
The First Brigade Band performing for the 175th Anniversary at Trinity Episcopal Church
Trinity Episcopal Church Volunteer
I lived in California, then Skokie, Illinois, then Lake Geneva and Delavan. We moved to Janesville in 1978 and I immediately started attending Trinity Episcopal Church. I’ve been Episcopalian my whole life.
I’ve been involved in many things. I’m one of the “helper bees”. Nobody wants to be in charge, but sometimes I’ll say, “Oh sure.” What’s nice is that I never have to gather a committee of people for clean-up. These people just appear; more wonderful people than I can name.
When we first moved here, I had a three-year-old, a one-year-old and a six-week-old!
Our children hadn’t been baptized yet, so I got involved right away and had them baptized, all three at the same time. Father Smith helped set it all up. He worked his magic on my husband, Gene, who was a lapsed Roman Catholic.
Father Smith was a person who empowered people. At that time in my life I was so young, around 27, when we got to Trinity. Within two years he had me as Superintendent of the Wednesday School. Who would have thought anything like that could happen?
The theme of Wednesday School was, “Each family a little church. The church a larger family.” I was involved in Christian education for many years until about five years ago. We would arrange the dinner by families, with moms and dads included. My husband and I would cook for 100 people!
I had taught Wednesday School, then Sunday School. We were introduced to The Worship Center, which is Godly Play. We were trained by founder, The Rev. Dr. Jerome W. Berryman and author, Sonja Stewart. It’s all very hands on for multi-aged learning through play. This year I’m getting involved again with the junior high and high school students. We want to get them into service projects and such.
I LOVE to cook! I never considered what I do as gourmet cooking, but I can cook for a lot of people. About 15 years ago or so we had to cook lunch for Episcopal Church women’s group which was close to 100 people! They were coming up to tell us “This was the best large meal we’ve ever had!” Last spring our organist resigned, so I put on a brunch for 120! Oh, my goodness, that was a lot. We’re going to do it again for Thelma Wilcox on October 13th.
For 30 years I was in the choir. However, since having a stroke, it has affected my voice. But I stay involved in other ways. Being on the Altar Guild and Director of the Altar Guild, since Betty Chimes passed away, has been the most profoundly spiritual thing I could do. People don’t realize that being behind the scenes of the sacred, Holy Eucharist is transforming. It’s my favorite thing to do.
The 175th Anniversary Celebration Dinner at Ortmayer Hall on September 21st, 2019
I love volunteering. It’s satisfying, and certainly not for personal glory. It’s fun and I love the fellowship of working with this amazing group of people! When I have people helping me, I trust them and they appreciate that. Things don’t rattle me too easily.
I’m the Senior Warden now, which is the head of our vestry. It’s my second year and it’s a three-year term. So, I’m kind of Reverend Kathy’s right hand person.
More importantly than bodies in the pews is encouraging and empowering the people that you have. The median age is older now. There aren’t as many young families anymore. Things are changing.
Trinity’s 175th Celebration
I was here for the 150th and it’s hard to believe another 25 years have gone by! Most importantly, it’s not just about where we’ve been, but what are we going to do moving forward. We shouldn’t forget from where we came. But, I’m proud of how the church has evolved. Within months of us moving here, we had the ordination of women, renovated the church and revised the prayer book. Some people left, but I think we really live “Love thy neighbor”. We accept everybody.
Shannon Ferfuson-Munns in period dress
And I’m so proud of how one of our members, Paul Benish, was instrumental in starting the G.I.F.T.S. Men’s Shelter. I kind of became a “G.I.F.T.S. groupie”, making breakfast and what not. A couple of years ago, before the new building was ready, the men had nowhere to go. So, Reverend Kathy allowed them to stay at Trinity. I love those guys like my own children, and they’re wonderful and working so hard. I give them so much credit. It’s one of my passions to help them if I can.
I will do everything I’m doing until I die! Unless something physically stops me. I remember after I’d had my stroke, the first time I was back serving at the altar, I was kind of stumbling and holding on to things. A few people said to me afterwards, “Paula, you almost made us cry this morning with your determination.” I pray to God my brain stays functioning. It’s hard to know what the future will bring.
I recently made a sign out of knotty pine that says, “Trinity Episcopal Church - Help make loving your neighbor great again.”