Trinity Episcopal Church
Trinity Church had its humble beginnings as a mission in 1859, and weathered several eras of hard times when the congregational membership dropped below the ability to remain self-sustaining within the Diocese of Tennessee. However, the faith of the people who remained was strong and now Trinity parish, at 150 years of age, has a growing congregation whose hearts are being transformed by God’s grace and who continually appreciate and are in debt to those generations of faithful Anglicans who remained steadfast in the faith before us. What follows is a brief description of our heritage and history since our early founding.
“I commenced services here in January last and found few acquainted with our Prayer Book or Church.” Those were the documented thoughts written by the missionary Rev. Thomas A. Morris after moving from Alabama in 1859 to Winchester, Tennessee, where he held the first Episcopal services in a room at the courthouse. He had only one communicant when he arrived, a Mrs. Julia Hancock. Together they forged the creation of the Trinity Episcopal Church.
The Rev. Morris was determined and patient. By June of the same year, 11 communicants were added, 52 people in Sunday school, and eight teachers. However, since the members were all female, he wrote, “not having male communicants, we have not yet organized a Parish.” By the end of that month, Mr. William H. Tomlinson was confirmed in the room at the courthouse, followed shortly thereafter by four other men, so a Parish was organized and admitted into the Diocese in 1860. By that time there were a total of 26 communicants.
The first permanent home for Trinity came when the congregation purchased the original building of the First Cumberland Presbyterian Church, which was located on what is now the northwest corner of North Jefferson Street and Third Avenue, NW. That building lasted until the War Between the States. The Northern Federal Army occupied Winchester in 1863 and at that time Trinity’s building was used as a hospital for their injured troops. The records which remain of the Civil War years are incomplete and vague, although it was reported by Bishop Charles Quintard that the church in Winchester “was destroyed by fire during the War, and once again services must be held in the courthouse.” On May 4, 1868 the Rev. Franklin L. Knight was placed in charge of Carrick Academy. He also took charge of the Church Services and held them in the Academy since a church building was not available.
The Rev. Henry Harrison Sneed, a theological student from Virginia, wrote, “The Parish is still without a Church [building]…but vigorous efforts are being made to secure the amount necessary to build a neat brick church and high hopes are entertained…” He made a trip North for the purpose of raising funds and was cordially received. Contributions of several hundred dollars were the result. In 1870 he wrote that “one thousand dollars was subscribed last summer at home and three hundred dollars abroad, for the erection of a church building, in addition to which fifty dollars have been received”. By 1871 there were 49 communicants.
On July 16, 1872 Bishop Quintard wrote that “the foundation of Trinity Church in Winchester was laid with the Rev. Henry Harrison Sneed, the Rev. Edwin Wagner, the Rev. George C. Harris, and the Rev. T.A. Robertson (Deacon-in-Charge of the Mission) present”. That foundation and building are the current home of Trinity Episcopal Church.
On January 1, 1873 the Rev. J.S. Parks became Rector and held services for about two years. His pastorate was a blessing to the people and he contributed liberally to the building of the Church. Above all others the Parish was indebted to the generosity of Mr. Ashton Butterworth, a manufacturer who lived in Franklin County. He had just finished building the Church when his factory was destroyed by fire, a disaster which forced him to return to his home in England where he died soon after.
The building was completed in 1874 at its present location at First Avenue NW and Vine Streets. All debts were paid in 1876; and Bishop Quintard consecrated Trinity Church in Winchester on the 16th of November that same year.
As with any small Church that stands the test of time, Trinity faced problems. From 1876 to 1882 service attendance declined until 1884, when the Parish was dropped from the diocesan rolls and made a mission. The Mission was placed in the charge of the Rev. Dr. Henry Ripley Howard of St. Barnabas in Tullahoma.
Due to the efforts of students from the School of Theology in Sewanee who revived interest in Trinity, Trinity once again achieved Parish status in the Diocese of Tennessee in 1899 with 62 communicants.
During World War 1 the Parish was again without a resident priest and fell under the supervision of the Rev. James Reding Helms. The post-war religious slump found Trinity with the smallest congregation since its beginnings with only 19 communicants. By the 1930’s, Trinity once again began to grow. The Rev. Charles Leonidas Widney, rector of the Otey Parish in Sewanee from 1930 to 1941, was Priest-in-Charge of Trinity.
In 1941 the Rev. Edmund Dargan Butt began his ministry at Trinity, and was the first resident priest in twenty years. From 1947 until 1956, the Rev. George C. Harris was Priest-in-Charge and was succeeded by the Rev. James H. Newsom Jr. During the charges of the latter two men, the Trinity Memorial Parish House was planned and constructed with the help of the Vestry. Fr. Harris left Trinity in 1959 and was succeeded by the Rev. Ben F. Binkley who served as Priest in Charge from 1960 to 1966. Fr. Binkley was followed by the Rev. Walter Glenn Norcross who served from 1966 to 1977.
Under the leadership of the Rev. Walter G. Norcross Trinity regained the ability to be financially self-sustaining and in 1972 was re-admitted to Parish status in the diocese of Tennessee. At this time the parish grew to about 180 baptized members with approximately 65 adults and children in Sunday school. Following Fr. Norcross, the Rev. Ronald B. Sutherland became Rector in January 1978 and remained through 1981. In 1980, the church added two offices and two additional rooms onto the Parish Hall. The Rev. C. Scott James began his ministry as Rector at Trinity in 1982 and remained in this position until 1996. The Rev. Samuel R. Clarke followed Fr. James and served Trinity from 1997 through 1999. Rev. William D. Midgett was called to serve Trinity from 2001 through 2007. Trinity utilized supply priests and has been by blessed by those serving the church. Throughout the tenure of these clergy and the faithful giving and sacrifice of its lay membership, Trinity was able to retain its Parish status. The supply priest continued through from January 2008 until February 2010.
Father James C. Pappas III accepted the call to become Priest-In-Charge at Trinity in February 2010.
Beginning in January 2011, Trinity Winchester joined the Southeastern Tennessee Episcopal Ministry (STEM) with Father Bill Barton as Priest-In-Charge.
As we continue to grow in our commitment to live out our baptismal covenant, to focus on prayer and mission, and to humbly serve Jesus Christ as Lord in this part of his vineyard, we believe our active ministry will continue to grow correspondingly. We welcome and invite all to come, visit, and worship the Lord Jesus Christ with us in the Trinity tradition, and to become a part of God’s community here at Trinity Church, Winchester.