Trinity Church to celebrate its 175th anniversary
ROME — Trinity Church, 215 W. Court St., is celebrating its 175th anniversary in April, and the congregation plans to honor its legacy with a three-day event.
Trinity will host the Rome Area Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours reception at the church from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, April 13. Trinity will offer a tour of the facility and exhibits will be presented on the previous anniversary celebrations dating back to the 75th anniversary in 1923, said the Rev. Karen Marshall, pastor.
In the lounge of the church, exhibits comprised of photographs and historical documents in both German and English will be displayed recognizing the past and present organizations within the church dating back to 1911. During the evening, chamber members will be able to enjoy some German food while touring. Music will be provided by Aaron Browka, musical director at Trinity Church.
Meanwhile, a program detailing the stained glass windows and their meaning will be held at 1 p.m. Saturday, April 15. The Rev. Frank Graichen will explore the history of stained glass windows and the symbolism represented in the windows at Trinity. Following the program, refreshments will be served in the lounge where a display can be viewed highlighting the history of organizations within the church. Graichen served as pastor of the church from 1996 to his retirement in 2019.
Trinity Church was built in 1870 by the Court Street Methodist Episcopal Society and was known as the Court Street Church. After it was purchased and sold several times, on April 15, 1928, it became the new home of Trinity Evangelical Church. An extensive renovation was completed both inside and out before the move from the previous church on South James Street. The entrance and the stained glass windows on the entrance were changed with additional windows installed. Two windows in the sanctuary had memorials painted on them in tribute to the late Rev. Meisenhelder and late Rev. A.A. Juergens.
In Fellowship Hall, the first two windows dedicated were to the departed members of the Ladies’ Aid Society and Adam and Elizabeth Stein. Eventually, all the windows in the church were dedicated with the last tribute in May 1939 to Karl Nittka, age 13, who had passed away April 10, 1938 from peritonitis caused by a burst appendix.
On Sunday, April 16, the church will host a special service beginning at 10 a.m. to include a photo taken of attendees. There will also be a dinner, a time capsule and a program presented by the Master’s Touch Chorale of Syracuse. Some of these will be open to the public. A time capsule created during the church’s 170th anniversary celebration will be opened, with additional letters and memorabilia to be added inside.
There also will be displays set up celebrating the past anniversaries and activities that have been offered to members in the past.
Melody Milewski is the activities director and historian at Trinity Church. Her family has belonged to the church for many generations. Milewski collected and displayed personal collections of photographs and church memorabilia, including special activity programs and confirmation certificates. Several photos and documents even belonged to her grandmother and sister.
“I have the love for history in my soul, and being involved with the history of the church — I’ve always enjoyed that,” Milewski said. “My family has spent six generations here, so it’s very important and special to me, and I hope it carries on.”
As part of the 175th anniversary celebration, Milewski said the church will pay tribute to two of the longest-standing members — one age 101 and the other age 95.
“We had a birthday party for them back in October, then they will be honored that day (Sunday) as well,” Milewski explained. “They’re still active members and participate in activities we have.”
Church activities have supported several community organizations over the years to include Feed Our Vets, the Ride for Missing and Exploited Children, the American Cancer Society, Alzheimer’s Association, Abraham House, Rome Humane Society and Blessings in a Backpack, just to name a few.
Marshall will soon celebrate her first anniversary at Trinity Church. Having come from Syracuse, Marshall said she would often serve as “substitute” pastor at the Rome church when Graichen was on vacation over the years.
“It’s amazing how Mel had all this stuff and put it all together to showcase” for the church celebration, Marshall said. “She does so much work for us here, and has coordinated everything for this event. The church is so grateful for that.”
Considering that Trinity is one of the oldest churches in the city, Milewski said the fact that the church is able to remain open and continue to serve its community is special because, “we’re able to sustain ourselves.”
“We have a list of organizations that we support outreach into — and we’re proud we’re still able to do that,” she said.
Later in the year, Milewski said she hopes to release a book within the congregation that gives an extensive, detailed description of Trinity’s history. That way, she has something to pass on to her grandson and the next generation of parishioners.
The book “is something I want to leave for those who come after me,” Milewski said. “If I don’t write it all down and give it to the church, it will be lost. I want to pass it down.”
“It’s so important to share our roots and how we’re moving forward — and how we’re open to everyone. Our anniversary celebration is to celebrate our past and those who began this church, because without them, we wouldn’t be here,” added Marshall.
A brief history
The history of Trinity Church begins in Rome, where, according to the first census in 1800, the town had a population of 1,479 with an estimate of 300 people residing in the village.
In March 1848, 22 men representing 20 families gathered at the session room of the First Religious Society of Rome (later the First Presbyterian Church). Under the leadership of the Rev. Alexander Wetzel, who was also the pastor of a church in Verona, a church was established.
The people of the newly formed church named themselves the United German Evangelical Lutheran Congregation of Rome and had no relationship or connection with any particular denomination. They were adjusting to the American culture and many of the men were poorly paid laborers in the mills and foundries of this thriving community. Parishioners knew little English and mostly spoke in their native tongue and church services continued in German and English until the unexpected passing of the Rev. Gerhard C. Sennewald in September 1961.
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