On July 9th, Trinity Episcopal Church at 484 Lime Rock Road in Lakeville, CT, will begin celebrating their 150 years as a parish. Events will continue for the rest of the year and into 2024, but will commence this Sunday with the rededication of the church’s cornerstone and the blessing of Trinity’s new Mary Chapel. In light of this commemoration, it’s time to take a look back at the history of this church and reflect on its impact on the community today.
Parish historian Geoff Brown, who also serves as a verger and communications director for Trinity, describes how the church first came to be. He shares that in the early 1870s, US senator and head of the Barnum & Richardson Company, William H. Barnum, and his wife, Charlotte Burrall, built Trinity Church in Lime Rock, which initially served as a mission of St. John’s Church in Salisbury. Barnum and Burrall were parishioners of the latter, and wanted a safer, shorter commute for themselves, their workers, and their families.
Geoff says, “While most churches are founded by a congregation that organizes itself, calls clergy, and eventually raises the funds to build their church building, Trinity turned that practice on its head. […] It made sense to build ‘a church of their own’ in Lime Rock, and that is what they did – hence, Trinity Church!”
Designed by upcoming New York City architect Henry Martyn Congdon and built by renowned stonemason Isaac Newton Bartram, the church did not form a parish organization until its third year in 1875 and was, at the time, largely “an unprofitable subsidiary of Barnum & Richardson.” Geoff explains, “Trinity is in a very real sense the only part of the historic iron industry that is still in operation, still under the same management, and still bearing the same name.”
This industrial nature of Trinity’s inception was very much reflected in the town of Lime Rock as a whole, which was dominated by the iron industry and Barnum & Richardson. “As the company fared, so fared the church,” Geoff remarks. This connection is certainly evident in one of Trinity’s most remarkable milestones. The largest number of people to gather at one of the church’s religious services was for William H. Barnum’s funeral in 1889, with even Grover Cleveland in attendance; Barnum “was instrumental in the election of Grover Cleveland to the Presidency,” Geoff notes. “The church was said to be filled to capacity with hundreds of others waiting outside in the cold rain.”
Following WWI and Lime Rock’s economic depression, the church lived on thanks to part-time clergy from surrounding churches (Christ Church in Canaan, St. John’s in Salisbury, and the Salisbury School). WWII brought with it an economic upturn, and when the war had ended, the economy allowed Trinity to acquire full-time clergy again.
Geoff points out that physically, not much about Trinity has changed: “For the most part, the original church building appears much as it did in 1875.” That year, which saw national economic depression, was reflected in architectural decisions such as “filler glass” windows in place of elaborate (costly) stained glass designs; restoration of all the stained glass windows began in 2021 and was completed a year early in 2022. The church’s location has expanded in structural layout and land acreage over the years, too. In 2001, Trinity also made the major choice to remove its old blue pipe organ that, while beautiful, was no longer functional. Doing so created room for the Mary Chapel, which is being blessed this weekend and will honor the last remaining wooden Celtic cross that used to adorn the church’s roof. If you are interested in learning more about the church’s history in light of its 150th year celebration, Geoff Brown has written Trinity Lime Rock in Context – A History, available on Amazon, which goes into more depth about the parish’s past.
While many of the church’s attributes can be sourced from its architecture, Trinity’s Rector The Reverend Heidi Truax and Senior Warden Linda Lloyd explain that “in a very real sense, the church is not the building. Instead, it’s the people,” whether it’s “those who occupy the pews on Sunday morning, those who are on the books but we see only occasionally, [or] those hundreds or thousands of miles away whom we see only via Zoom and who watch via live feed on Sundays.”
Through its offerings, Trinity seeks to encompass everyone that it can. They illustrate that in addition to fostering a respectful space for families and young people to learn about faith, Trinity is also one of just nine Episcopal parishes in the state with a ministry to the region’s Latino community. “We are blessed to have on our staff The Reverend Felix River as our Hispanic Missioner. He holds a Misa at Trinity each month and visits parishioners in their community.”
Trinity’s local engagement also includes juried art shows, support to the NY Cycle Club on Memorial Day, a women’s AA group, and visits to nursing homes. A classical music and concert group, Crescendo, has been located at Trinity for 20 years now. The church also has a historically positive relationship with Lime Rock Park (LRP), just across the street. “We see more drivers, owners, mechanics, and spectators of Lime Rock Park in our pews than you might expect. Our Rector blesses the drivers on major race days each year,” The Rev. Heidi and Linda say.
Furthermore, Trinity helps the surrounding neighborhoods through a number of volunteer activities. The church assists local food pantries, supports building projects, and donates to local organizations. They explain that even children are given the task of choosing which of the area’s groups the parish’s collected thank offerings will support.
As Linda and The Rev. Heidi describe, Trinity strives to be inclusive and maintain a church community that accepts all. “Whether you seek a deeper connection with the divine, a chance to explore Lime Rock’s heritage, or simply a welcoming community to call home, Trinity Church warmly opens its doors to you. One mandate by the Barnum family when the church was opened was that everyone would be welcome here. They are.”
In addition to the July 9th festivities, there are numerous other events to anticipate. On September 15th, there will be an opening reception for the Trinity Juried Art Show, and on the following day, there will be a history walk of the church, cemetery, and grounds with the guidance of the Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area. On October 28th and 29th, Crescendo will be celebrating their 20th anniversary with concerts. December 2nd will see the lighting of the community Christmas tree, and more events are to be expected in 2024, including the anniversary of the building’s consecration in November and two Trinity-centered art shows.