OVER 175 YEARS OF HISTORY
More than 175 years ago the cornerstone of Palm Lutheran and Reformed Church was laid in the 700 block of West Main Street. That worship space was shared by the two congregations for over 50 years until the church at the corner of E Main and N. Chestnut Sts. was built in 1902 by the Reformed congregation. At a congregational meeting held prior to the dedication of that church, the name Trinity Reformed Church was chosen because the meeting was held on Trinity Sunday.
The congregation grew rapidly, from 80 members in 1902 to 580 members by 1959. Rev. Warren Adams, who served Trinity from 1950 to 1958, saw the need for new construction, but met resistance. However, after the leadership of interim pastor John Boyer and under new pastor Robert Townsley, a vote taken in 1960 saw 82% of those voting in favor of building on the edge of town on land donated by Mr. and Mrs. Norman Rothernmel.
Three hundred people attended the groundbreaking service for this building on Trinity Sunday, June 17, 1962, and when the building was dedicated on November 24, 1963, 680 names were on the membership roll.
Current Trinity members recall the 7-months-long 125th anniversary of this congregation in 1970, the highlight of which was when the Lutheran and Reformed congregations held a joint service. The service started at Palm Lutheran and featured a sermon in German by Rev. Gerhard Dietrich, and then both congregations walked to Trinity to hear Rev. Robert Townsley deliver the same sermon in English. Trinity then had 777 members.
Pastor Townsley served until 1975 with Rev. Edward Charrot becoming pastor in 1976. The congregation continued to grow, and from 1978 to 1984 Rev. Timothy Dewald was assistant pastor at Trinity in addition to serving at Hill Church. Rev. Jeffrey Whitman became associate pastor in 1985. Membership climbed to over 900; however, factional problems arose and both pastors resigned in 1992 and disillusioned members left. Rev. Bruce Farrell served Trinity from 1993 to 1997, but many members were not ready to accept the changes he recommended, although our Teal hymnals came into use during this time, replacing the reformed church hymnals dating to 1942. A series of interim pastors followed.
Reverend John Binkley was called in 2000 and served Trinity to 2008, working to unify the congregation. During his tenure the Palmyra Caring Cupboard was started and our involvement in Palmyra Area Cooperating Churches increased, including representation on the board of Interfaith Manor. The congregation also decided one service instead of two would help unify the members. Another series of Interim pastors followed.
The interim pastorate of Amy Shultz for 8 months in 2011 marked a turning point for Trinity. Not only was she our first female pastor, she encouraged us to look at commonalities, not differences, and gave a fresh perspective on our work as a church. Later in 2011, Rev. Julia Beall became our pastor, building on Rev. Shultz’s work. We developed a more outward view, tried new forms of worship, and became more welcoming to the community’s use of our building and to being inclusive. Borrowing from Julie’s message in “The Story of Trinity”, “From a congregation begun by sharing space in a borrowed church we became a congregation proclaiming we’ve got a space for you!”
When Julie left in 2017, we were spiritually prepared for calling Rev. Donte Jones as our pastor, eager to have his perspective on witnessing the Christian life in the 21st century, Trinity is becoming a more diverse and welcoming community. Much has changed in the 174 years of our congregation, but the gospel message remains the same. As Rev. Townsley states in the 125th-anniversary booklet, “We must not look back with a desire to return to those days and ways of the past but must use the same forward-looking spirit that guided our forefathers to look to the future and to keep abreast of new ways to serve our generation. We must use our modern facilities, new methods, and (up-to-date) materials to keep the ancient truths of the Gospel just as meaningful and relevant to our day as (the technology that surrounds us).”