Trinity Through the Years
Trinity Church of Austin is a new name for an old congregation.
In 1946, the fledgling Trinity Methodist Church began as a project of a Sunday School class at Hyde Park Methodist. Deeming the area north of 45th Street as “too far for children to travel for youth group” and hoping to prevent the siphoning off of area youth to Ridgetop Baptist, the idea to plant a new congregation closer to 51st Street quickly became a reality.
Trinity Methodist met for the first year at Ridgetop Elementary School, thus beginning the congregation’s longstanding tradition of supporting Ridgetop families at holiday times. It moved into what we now call “the old Trinity building” as the first-phase construction at northeast corner of 50tht Street and Evan Street. Others phases of construction added an additional Sunday School wing and eventually a new sanctuary. Today, that space is the Griffin School.
The main sanctuary was dedicated in 1955 during a time of growth for the church and the neighborhood. Trinity survived largely because of the commitment of its women’s circles and its very active role in raising money for United Methodist district missions.
Velma Miles, Trinity member and wife of 1960s Austin Police Chief Bob Miles, wanted to give back to the community. She began the local chapter of Reading is Fundamental, which today is known as BookSpring. She was also the founder and director of the Montopolis Friendship Community Center, in keeping with her desire to make Austin a better place.
When pastor Susan Sprague arrived in the mid-1980s, Trinity began a series of beautification efforts to renovate and expand the building and grounds. Susan was able to help the congregation articulate a five-year plan, bring in quality music direction, and create the kind of community that could be begin to see themselves once again as a relevant faith community for the surrounding neighborhood. Susan also ushered in an era of Trinity serving as a teaching church to more than 10 interns since 1987.
In 1988 the congregation was ready for “this young guy with wild ideas”—now our lead minister, Sid Hall—to begin moving the congregation into its present state as place welcome to all that sees itself as an agent of change in our wider Austin community and the world.
Steps Towards Inclusivity—and Home
During Sid’s tenure, the congregation has taken several important steps. First, in 1990, it was proposed that Trinity begin exploring what it would mean to become a Reconciling Congregation. That passed in October of 1992 with nearly 80 percent of the church voting in favor of outwardly affirming our welcome of LGBT persons.
In the fall of 1992 the Austin Chronicle Reader’s Poll awarded Trinity “Best Parents’ Night Out” and “Best Progressive Church.”
That same year Trinity started an alternative worship celebration based on the theology and nature-based structure of Creation Spirituality. Since the alternative service attenders wanted the worship to be in the round and the Trinity building did not have enough space to do this, Trinity rented the main room at Hancock Golf Course a few miles down the road for their 9 am service. During the years of between 1992 and 1999, that service grew at about the same rate as the more traditional style service in the Trinity sanctuary. After seven years of having two services at different locations, the congregation voted to bring both services under the same roof. To accommodate the two services, pews were removed in favor of creating a modular, multi-purpose space. Trinity’s worship evolved into the circle of equals that greets participants on Sunday mornings to this day. (Removing the pews took longer than becoming Reconciling!)
In 2010, Trinity UMC returned to the space that had launched it in 1946, assuming the upkeep for the building and grounds that had been home to the generous and warm congregation of Hyde Park United Methodist Church. Trinity launched the first major capital campaign in decades and did extensive renovation to the old Hyde Park building to make it their own. The new space quadrupled Trinity’s parking spaces and tripled the worship and educational capacity.
With a church service that began in the old Trinity building and ended at the former Hyde Park edifice at 40th & Speedway, the spirit of Trinity returned home and lent slightly more radical feel to the combined congregation known today as Trinity Church of Austin.
Co-Affiliating with the UCC
In 2012, with an uncertain future for LGBTQIA+ persons in the UMC, Trinity sought to expand and deepen its call to Austin’s queer community by exploring what it would mean to co-affiliate with the United Church of Christ (UCC). After several years of research, dialogue with people in the UMC and the UCC, in 2015 Trinity voted by an overwhelming majority of members voted to become a Union Church, affiliating with the UCC while also remaining UMC.
This pairing provides us with greater local control on issues such as how we minister to those of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Come visit us and be part of our next chapter.