History of Trinity United Methodist Church

In the year 1907 a small group of Methodists in our section of Richmond Hill, facing the lack of public transportation and the difficulty of walking to a Methodist Church in the Morris Park area, which involved crossing unpaved muddy streets with no sewers, and other generally difficult travel conditions, discussed the then remote possibility of establishing a local church.

The seed was planted and began to grow. Services were held, first as prayer meetings in the homes of members, followed by the rental of a little-used German Presbyterian church building, and then in a store on Jamaica Avenue. Thus was born the "Jamaica Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church of Richmond Hill, Long Island." A retired minister, The Rev. Dr. Theodore F. Clark, served as our pastor for the first year. Andrews Church in Cypress Hills presented some old hymnals, a member of Richmond Hill Baptist Church made a gift of a pulpit Bible, and some pews which had been stored in the basement of a Brooklyn church were moved into the store space. Later in 1907 the church name was changed and became incorporated as "Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church of Richmond Hill." The word "Episcopal" was dropped in 1939 when The Methodist Episcopal Church, The Methodist Episcopal Church South, and The Methodist Protestant Church reunited after 120 years and became "The Methodist Church," and with the merger with The Evangelical United Brethren Church in 1968, our denomination became "The United Methodist Church."


But back to Trinity's history. Late in the year 1907 the lots on which our church now stands were purchased and plans were made for construction. The cornerstone was laid in July of 1908. Services continued to be held in the store on Jamaica Avenue until in late Spring a large tent was erected on a vacant lot across the street from the construction site. Services were held there until a severe storm one Saturday night destroyed the tent. The men of the church worked through the night moving chairs and boarding up the window openings and on Sunday morning the first service was held by lantern light in the doorless, windowless building. Meanwhile, construction continued and on January 31, 1909, Trinity was formally dedicated by Bishop Daniel A. Goodsell. Our beautiful stained glass windows were donated and installed. It is interesting to note that in the earliest days the congregation faced the west side of the sanctuary where the large stained glass window is located.

In 1912 the church was wired for electricity and our first organ was purchased for $500. It served until 1925 when our present organ was installed and dedicated.
The decade following World War I was an active one for us at Trinity. In addition to acquiring our new organ, the Parsonage was purchased, eliminating the need for rented accommodations for our clergy. Our present pews were acquired and installed in the present-day seating arrangement.

As a sidelight, Miss Evelyn Saurbrun (later to become Mrs. Stanley Wetmore) became our organist and choir director in 1923, a position she was to hold for the next forty years.
In accordance with the long standing Methodist tradition of itinerancy among its preachers, since the time of Dr. Clark we have had a number of pastors in our pulpit. Their tenures have ranged from as little as just a few months to a dozen years. Each of them in some way has, along with the congregation, helped build the firm foundation that is Trinity's today.

The nine years during which the Rev. Dr. Ernest Wall occupied our pulpit were momentous ones. The highlight of the year 1943 was the occasion when we paid off our original 1907 mortgage. We took on a project of major proportions during his pastorate when the extension to our church building was constructed and finally completed in 1949. "Trinity Hall" became not only our Sunday School area, but was to be the scene of many happy events, ranging from church dinners to plays over the succeeding years.

A New Revised Standard Version of the Holy Bible for our lectern was presented to Trinity by Mr. Alexander Andrew in 1959.

After a stay of five years the Rev. Eugene Haaf was transferred in 1963 to Hampton Bays on Long Island and the Rev. Wayne S. White was appointed to Trinity. However, after the summer months Rev. White left to accept a position at Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Arkansas. During the following hiatus of several months the lay leader assumed some of the duties, both administrative and in the pulpit, until early in 1964 when the Rev. Mervin F. Hill came to us from Asbury Church in Yonkers.

The Rev. George Shepherd retired in 1983 and the Rev. Kenneth W. Prill joined us as a part-time pastor and brought with him a youthful and enthusiastic family, all of whom took active roles in the life of Trinity. During his stay with us Rev. Prill completed his seminary training, received his Deacon's orders and was ordained Elder in 1989. We almost lost him in July 1991 when he was kidnapped and shot but, through a miracle, he survived. His attackers, who had murdered two other people, were captured, tried, and are now serving long prison terms.

When Rev. Prill was appointed to serve two churches in the Moriches on Long Island, he was succeeded in 1992 by the Rev. Karen A. Burger, who had the distinction of being the first woman pastor at Trinity. During Rev. Burger's tenure our Youth Group continued to flourish and our music was enhanced by her musical talents and the voice of her husband, Ronald Burger.

Upon Rev. Burger's transfer in 1996 to the Monroe United Methodist Church in Connecticut, we welcomed Rev. Grace C. J. Ross as our new pastor. During her tenure our music program grew, assisted by her talented husband, Donald Ross. We also welcomed our new musical director, Timothy Mallard, in 1996, and a music institute was begun by Mr. Ross and Mr. Mallard which included free lessons to members of the community. Pastor Grace also initiated our first Vacation Bible School which has continued to be a successful community outreach program. These new uses of our fellowship hall inspired a capital fund drive and extensive renovations were completed.

When Rev. Grace Ross moved to Schenectady in July 2000, we welcomed the Rev. Ieva Zadina and her husband, Togo Oppusunggu. We were delighted to discover that we had another musical couple. During her tenure we welcomed several new members. We also welcomed the Gae Myung Presbyterian Church and La Iglesia Lluvias de Gracia to share our worship space. Under the leadership of Pastor Ieva, we celebrated our 95th Anniversary and published our first pictorial directory.

In July 2005, when Rev. Ieva Zadina moved on to become the Chaplain of the Brooklyn United Methodist Church Home, we were blessed to welcome Rev. David Ball, his wife, Minister Faith, and daughters Tiffany and Ebony. We were also delighted to welcome Faith's mother, Irma Peters, our newest soloist! Pastor David has brought a new energy to life at Trinity. Although "part time" he does nothing less than a full time job for Trinity and for his other charge, Community United Methodist Church, Middle Village. We were pleased to be celebrating our 100th Anniversary under the leadership of Pastor David T. Ball.

Record of Pastoral Leadership




MAILING ADDRESS: 85-08 108th Street, Richmond Hill, NY 11418 • (718) 737-6787 • info@TrinityRichmondHill.org
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