150 years for Trinity
State’s second-oldest Methodist Church to celebrate with 1800s-style picnic July 17
Trinity United Methodist Church, 701 N. 20th St., the second oldest Methodist church in Colorado, will celebrate its 150th anniversary with a picnic Sunday, July 17.
Well-wishers are welcome to join the event, which will start at 11:30 a.m., right after Sunday service.
Food dishes fitting the period from the 1860s to the 1900s are being encouraged, and some folks will be in old-time costume, according to Helen Nelson, the head of the committee that's planning the anniversary.
“I'm so excited about this,” she said. “A hundred fifty years is a long time to be a church in one place.”
Trinity today has about 115 members, with special focuses on its Tuesday afternoon food pantry for the indigent and a partnership with the Colorado Springs Indian Center (CSIC) and the related White Bison Wellbriety program, which have offices in the building. Jerry Boles, who is part Navajo Indian, has been the pastor since 2003.
In years past, church records show that the Trinity congregation has fundraised for mission projects, including leper work and clothing and bedding to Korea.
The church's beginnings are tied to the earliest history of Colorado City. In 1861, just two years after the town was founded, the First Methodist Church of Colorado City was started, under the leadership of John Chivington. A short time earlier, he had helped create the state's first Methodist church in Denver, Nelson said. (He was the Methodists' Presiding Elder for the territory that would later be known as Colorado.)
A listing could not be readily found of the longest-lasting Colorado churches, but Trinity is only three years younger than Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Conejos (1858), which is believed to have been the first church in Colorado.
Chivington would soon give up pastoring for soldiering, attaining the rank of colonel and becoming a lead figure at the battles of Glorieta Pass (Civil War, 1862) and Sand Creek (Plains Indian wars, 1864). A possible clue to Chivington's impending career change was his habit of placing his six-guns on the pulpit when he preached, according to church records.
Boles, the current pastor, sees irony in the church having been started by the man whose actions at Sand Creek led to it officially being called a massacre. Now, he observed, “The epicenter of Native American ministries is right here in Chivington's church.”
A well-known Westside name in the church's formation is Howbert. William Howbert, a missionary and the father of early Colorado City political/financial leader Irving Howbert, is credited with helping unite local Methodists even before Chivington's arrival when he unsuccessfully called for a religious service in 1860 at the hanging of a horse thief.
Another colorful reverend from the church's early days was Father John Dyer (1864-67), known as the “snowshoe itinerant” for his willingness to walk up to 100 miles just to meet with small groups wanting to hear him talk about God.
A less dignified distinction applies to Rev. O.P. McMains, the pastor from 1867-68, who, according to church records, is “remembered as the minister who fell off his horse in a creek near town (probably Fountain Creek) and lost his flask of communion wine, which was later recovered, empty!”
In its earliest days, the Colorado City church had no permanent location and often met outside - the Garden of the Gods was a popular site - until its first chapel was built in 1866 on Colorado Avenue, between what is now 26th and 27th streets. Church records state that “a common address for the church at that time was 'across the road from Jake Schmidt's saloon.'”
In 1901, church members found a new home, building a church at 23rd Street and Pikes Peak Avenue.
“Trinity” officially became the church's name in 1917, by order of the Methodists' district superintendent after Colorado City was annexed into Colorado Springs. “There is no longer any Colorado City church,” reads the blunt district statement, as quoted in church records. “The church has been added to the list of Colorado Springs churches and will hereafter be known as Trinity.” As a result, the “first” appellation was given to the Colorado Springs church, which in fact had started later.
An addition, which was connected to the 23rd and Pikes Peak sanctuary, was built just east of it in 1941 to provide more room for church activities. It was initially called the Annex, later renamed Fountain Hall in honor of its chief benefactor, Dr. A.S. Fountain.
In 1961, a century after the church's founding, Trinity moved to a new, larger location on the side of a gentle hill at 20th and Henderson, where it continues today (plus a multipurpose building added some years later).
The new building retained some of its structural history, with faces from its 1901 and 1941 building cornerstones laid into the sanctuary, church documents state.
According to long-time church member Karon Burch, the main reasons the congregation decided it was time to leave “Old Trinity” at 23rd Street were shortages of parking and interior space. She recalls even having to go elsewhere for Sunday School at times as a child.
Note: Fountain Hall still stands, being used for a business. Trinity's 1901 church was torn down years ago, with the space now used for off-street parking.
Trinity had the second name change in its history in 1968. It stemmed from the national merger in 1968 of the Evangelical United Brethren (an American Protestant church) and the Methodist Church. This resulted in the word “United” being added, making the official full name Trinity United Methodist Church.
Jeanne Downing has been a member of Trinity since 1936, when she was 11 years old. “I've sung in the choir since I was 15,” she said this week. “I still do, but not as well.” She added with a laugh, “But they have to take what they get.”
Another long-time member (since 1968) is Retired Air Force Colonel B.E. Tillotson, who flew 31 B-29 missions during World War II, including 13 over Tokyo. He is proud of volunteering for “almost every position in the church except preacher,” he said.
Shirley Sansen, a member since moving to the area in 1960, recalls that there were still just the two Methodist churches at that time (a situation that has since changed). She's enjoyed her time at Trinity. “It's been very interesting the way it's gone,” she said, with her longest involvement being with the church choir.
One of Downing's favorite memories, as she recounted in a recent church newsletter, was being part of a youth group that went to a camp near Palmer Lake for a week every summer. “Youth groups from all over Methodist district were there,” she writes. “We had our own cabin and it was called Hilltop. Our days were filled with classes, free time, evening fellowship, music and laughter.”
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