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Trinity Episcopal Church

By Lona Hart

It was faith that brought Francis Reno, an itinerate preacher, and his family, to the frontier wilderness of Western Pennsylvania in the year 1799. It was the faith of the Bishop White Prayer Book Society in Philadelphia, that sent him forth and it was the faith of those early settlers that kept alive the rites and usage of the traditional Episcopal service, in the days when this was the gateway to westward emigration. In the years of the first half of the nineteenth century, additional support for this faith came from other clergymen who from time to time came out from Pittsburgh.

By 1850, the village of Rochester had surpassed 1,000 people but Episcopalians still had no regular minister or church building. On Ascension Day, May 29,1851, the first Episcopal parish was organized from a group of about 20 families. In August of that year, a cornerstone was installed on a lot which had been acquired at Vermont Avenue and Adams Street. However, no building was erected on that site because a subsequent survey established a street right-of-way through that property. The faith of Trinity people had been put to an early test.

For the next four years services were held in the school house. Then, in 1855 a lot was given at Jackson Street and New York Avenue. Through a succession of picnics and church suppers, funds were raised and a 24' x 60' stone building was erected at a cost of $800.00. Faith was working well.

The "Panic of 1873" which plunged the nation into economic chaos provided another test of faith. In that year, floors and windows were repaired, walls were papered, and a new reed organ was purchased. As so often would happen, in the years that followed, the money for these needs came forth from dedicated parishioners... quietly... unexpectedly... and accompanied by expressions of faith.

By the turn of the century, the original building had been supplemented by a new sanctuary, a bell tower, and a permanent rectory.

Other amenities, such as electric lights, were added in keeping with the times and by 1914 the total church properties were evaluated at $22,500. The last mortgage was burned in 1948 and Trinity members paused to reflect on almost one hundred years of faith at work.

The pause was not to be for long.

In a changing world, Trinity found itself also facing change. In 1952, in the midst of a strong and steady rise in communicants, Trinity became a full fledged independent parish. Under the leadership of its dynamic rector, Eugene Marsden Chapman, Trinity was responding with vitality. A shift in population gradually brought about a condition whereby almost 90% of the members were living in the Beaver Area. The time had come to look forward, not backward, and the decision was made to relocate in Beaver.

Thus began another great test of faith for Trinity. A rectory was purchased at 235 College Avenue and here, for two years, a chapel room was used for services. During this period the old property in Rochester was sold and the present property at 4th and Beaver Streets was acquired from the Lutheran congregation who had moved to their then-new church. The tiny frame chapel, with its third-hand assortment of furnishings was its own incentive for pushing forward with building plans.

The first meeting of the architectural committee was in March, 1956. Work was underway byJuly 28,1957 and the first service was held in the new church on July 27, 1958 - exactly one year, less one day, from the ground breaking.

If this were not sufficient evidence of faith at work, it was emphatically supplied by the task of furnishing the church. As the building began to take shape, and with no solicitation, a wave of gifts and memorials rolled in, providing the means to completely furnish and equip the new church.

The old frame chapel and house continued to be used as the parish hall and sunday school until July 23, 1963. Then, ground was broken for the new parish house. A further demonstration of faith that made this possible was the response to the Diocesan Centennial Episcopal Advance Fund campaign of 1966. Faced with the challenge of meeting an assigned quota of $11,400 for this drive, while at the same time raising money for a new parish house, Trinity members responded by pledging a total of $32,000. This was equally divided between the Diocesan Fund and the Building Fund.

Still another specific demonstration of faith was the very generous bequeath by the late Viola Collins to the church she loved so well. By this means the mortgage indebtedness was significantly reduced, the rectory was renovated, a new Allen organ was installed and property adjoining the rear of the Church was acquired.

As from the beginning in 1799, faith continues to work at Trinity Church. The physical beauty of our Colonial style Church is enhanced by the needlepoint kneeling pads at the altar rail and other needlepoint adornments in the sanctuary-the result of the dedicated handwork of many women under the direction of Mrs. Graham Shaddick.

On June 13, 1976, the parish family of Trinity Episcopal Church gathered to celebrate its 125th anniversary. Dwight L. Neglia, rector at that time, said that we are most thankful for and indebted to those people who have given in a sacrificial manner of their time, talents, and treasures for us to be able to worship in a beautiful building that is a symbol of what faith in God can do.

The spirit of faith is a highly communicable disease and there are many indications that faith at Trinity continues to be contagious. We have only just begun to serve. Trinity Episcopal Church now has 256 active communicants. Our church building is also a symbol of our love for this community and we join you all in looking backward with pride and forward with faith and hope. Who but God can know where faith may lead us all in the years to come.

Trinity Episcopal Church

Corner Beaver and Fourth Streets