Salisbury’s Trinity United Methodist Church to mark 150 years

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There’s an appealing vitality at Trinity United Methodist Church, the stately landmark on Route 50 at North Division Street.

Every Sunday, as many as 800 people combined attend the three services where the Rev. George Patterson is careful to deliver sermons relevant to modern life, yet where history is acknowledged and revered.

This Friday and Saturday, the 150th anniversary of the church will be observed with a combination of social, religious and historical elements, with the latter extending back to the Civil War days.

An old-fashioned picnic supper on the church grounds is planned for Saturday, Sept. 24. It’s open to the public, but tickets are required.

In the sanctuary, there will be a time capsule ceremony, with instructions for the next generation to open the vessel in 50 years, in 2066. Inside there will be a cookbook, items from Sunday school classes and a piece of music commissioned for the anniversary.

At 6:30 p.m. Saturday, the play Upon This Rock will be presented. The Rev. Dean Defino, associate pastor at Trinity, wrote it.

On Sunday, Sept. 25, District Superintendent the Rev. Fred Duncan, will give the sermons at the 8 a.m., 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. services, complete with organ music, brass and the church choir.

Members are excited about the celebration.

“We have good music, a good pastor. Rev. Patterson is a wonderful pastor. There’s a lot of vitality in that church,” said longtime member Roy Perdue, who is chairman of the anniversary weekend.

During the years, the faithful have loyally rebuilt the church after sweeping fires destroyed the buildings and, during construction, gratefully accepted space offered by other churches.

“Together with faith, courage and open hearts, Trinity’s members and families have made the dreams of her early founders come true,” according to the church’s history, gracefully written, with detail, and posted on the website.

Today, Trinity has more than 1,200 members, making it one of the largest congregations on the Shore.

The Rev. Patterson, who is quick to call his service “a joy and privilege,” attributed Trinity’s success to meaningful worship.

“People come and maybe consciously or unconsciously they are asking the question, ‘What’s in it for me?’ The music, the sermon, the scripture, those things have to speak to what we face today,” he said.

Dr. T.J. Mumford, church historian, said the days when the Civil War ended “seems like such long time ago and yet we’re so closely tied to that history.”

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The Rev. George Patterson

“We need to remember the history, see what they’ve done, how they’ve built on that and what our future is going to be,” he said.

He’s pleased with the Rev. Defino’s play, saying it “captures the church as it relates to whole continuum of Methodism, going back to John Wesley and others.”

Wesley, a theologian born in 1703, is credited with founding the Methodist religion.

The final scene of the play emphasizes the need to pass the torch to the next generation and a young church member will accept that torch.

“I am so proud of our background and our history and all the sacrifices our founding fathers and mothers gave to the church. We rejoice in that. We have several members attending now whose ancestors were members of this church,” Mumford said.

There are more than 100 50-year members and one who joined in the 1930s.

“My Mom sent us to confirmation classes at Trinity when I was 13 years old and at the completion of the classes I became a member,” said Wicomico County Executive Bob Culver.

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The Rev. Dean Defino

“I have always been grateful that she saw to it that we were raised in church. Today I look out of the window from my office and see the beautiful structure that I have been a member of for 51 years,” he said.  

Each year, about 20 people are baptized, an indication, Mumford said, “the church is keeping its older members and there’s a young group also participating.”

Surely they, too, will hold history dear, recalling that in Salisbury, a year after the Civil War ended, “eight men withdrew from the Methodist Episcopal Church, driven by the desire to worship God as they saw fit,” according to the detailed history posted on the church’s Website.

Trinity’s founding fathers– James Cannon, Hugh Jackson, William B. Tilghman, Isaac Jackson, Henry Brewington, Levin J. Dashiell, William W. Gordy and Levin Dorman –had plans drawn for the first Southern Methodist Chapel, described on the Website as “a modest wooden structure to be built on the northwest corner of Bond and Water Streets.”

The Rev. Lecato was named pastor and, within a year, the congregation had 33 members. By 1885 membership more than doubled.

“Trinity was to be tried by fire three times in its history. In 1885, the first building burned. It was quickly rebuilt, only to be reduced to ashes by the Great Salisbury Fire in 1886.

“Not to be discouraged, Trinity members worshiped for a time in the Court House. Then, through the kindness of a neighboring congregation they met in the Presbyterian Auditorium. By 1887, the third building was erected. Later it would become the church home of the St. Francis de Sales Roman Catholic congregation,” according to the history.

Trinity’s “last ordeal by fire” was in 1940 and “left a badly damaged interior to be restored to its former beauty.”

Fortunately, the Tiffany mosaics at the chancel area and stained glass windows were salvaged.

Before 1939, when the unification of Methodism came, Trinity was the northernmost appointment in the old Southern Methodist Church. In September 1970, the Trinity Administrative Board officially changed the name from Trinity Methodist Church South, of Wicomico, Maryland to Trinity United Methodist Church of Salisbury.

Today, a humbly grateful Rev. Patterson is thankful “for all those who have gone before us who have served and sacrificed that we might be part of this vital ministry today.”

“We thank God,” he said, “for the privilege he has given us to carry on this ministry.”

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Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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