Trinity Episcopal Church celebrates 175 years

Published 2:41 am Saturday, May 30, 2009

When Trinity Episcopal Church was founded in 1834, Demopolis was in its 17th year as a city. Andrew Jackson was President, and there were only 24 states in the Union.

On Jan. 31, 1834, Trinity Episcopal Church, one of the oldest churches in Demopolis — if not the oldest church — was founded. The membership decided to mark its 175th anniversary on June 7, which is marked as “Trinity Sunday” on the Episcopal calendar, an appropriate day for a celebration.

“On Sunday, we will have a special service of baptisms and confirmations,” said the Rev. John David Barnes, the rector of the church. “In the Episcopal Church, the bishop has to be present for confirmation services, so this will be his yearly visit.”

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Bishop Henry Parsley of the Archdiocese of Alabama will be on hand to help the church mark its anniversary celebration.

The church will have a reception on Saturday and another on Sunday, with the Sabbath reception being an on-grounds picnic.

“It’s mainly a time for people to come back and see people they haven’t seen in years,” Barnes said. “It’s a chance to see other churches in the area — small churches — that don’t often get a lot of attention with people they remember from their childhood, and to have a reunion time. It will be a big service with the bishop present. It will be an exciting weekend for people.”

Marking its 175th anniversary, the church is the third-oldest Episcopal church in Alabama.

“The church I came from, St. Thomas in Huntsville, was excited because they were celebrating their 50th anniversary,” Barnes said. “When I tell them that I’m at a church that is celebrating its 175th anniversary, their eyes get big.”

Among the longtime parishioners of the church are Frank Rutledge and Katherine Grayson.

“Frank is a wealth of knowledge because he has been here almost all his life,” Barnes said. “He told me that there was once a swimming pool, basically right where my office is! He said there was a well that fed it, and when the city drilled a well somewhere nearby, it dried the water source up.”

The oldest part of the church is the nave, which dates to the time when the church was rebuilt after being burned by federal soldiers in 1865.

“It’s an honor to be in a place with this much history,” Barnes said. “Looking at all the service books that show the various kinds of services conducted and all the people who were baptized or buried at the church — long lines of Christians who walked in this place before. It’s a real honor to be in a place that has that kind of a long history, and I’m proud to be in that story now.”

Founded two years after the building of Bluff Hall and nine years before the building of Gaineswood, the Trinity Episcopal Church continues its spiritual service to the community. Now just 25 years from its bicentennial, the church has a rich history and a long future ahead.