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Trinity Episcopal Church, Fort Wayne
For photographs, see:
Trinity Episcopal Church Archives website
For parish registers, see the following links from Familysearch. A free registration and login is required for access.
Parish Register, Christ Church (1839), Trinity, 1844-1853
Parish Register, 1839-1888
Parish Register, 1889-1923
Parish Register, 1923-1947
Marriage Register, 1924-1941
Marriage Register, 1941-1961
Register of Communicants, 1948-1964
Baptismal Register, 1948-1974
Vestry Minutes, 1839 (Christ Church); 1844-1878
Vestry Minutes, 1879-1912
Vestry Minutes, 1913-1931
Vestry Minutes, 1932-1947
Vestry Minutes, 1947-1952
Vestry Minutes, 1953-1959
Vestry Minutes, 1960-1970
The Episcopal Church in Fort Wayne can trace its origin to the tireless efforts of Rt. Rev. Jackson Kemper, Missionary Bishop of the Northwest, who arrived in town in 1837 to assess the feasibility of establishing a church. Fort Wayne was then a remote frontier outpost, and the Episcopal Church found itself a weak competitor at that time in the mission field. Two years later Kemper sent a missionary, the Rev. Benjamin Hutchins of Philadelphia, and established Christ Church, but the parish folded in less than a year for lack of support. Most parishes in the new Diocese of Indiana were located in central and southern part of the state.
A few years passed until the spark for a establishing a church reignited. Peter P. Bailey, a merchant from New York City, settled in town and missed the services of his former church. Together with several other lay leaders, he persuaded Kemper to send another missionary, the Rev. Benjamin Halsted of New York and previously of New Harmony, Indiana. Together they organized Trinity Episcopal Church on May 25, 1844. The church faced many initial financial and recruiting challenges and met initially in the county courthouse until it could raise funds for building a small, wood-frame chapel at the corner of Berry and Harrison streets. They bought an organ with four stops – the first documented church organ in town.
Trinity’s earliest members came from several groups, including area residents who had been Episcopalians in the East, English and Canadian immigrants, and newcomers to the faith, many of them community leaders, who found the liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer intriguing, its sermons intellectual, and the atmosphere of the church not overly judgmental.
During the Civil War under the second rectorate of the Rev. Joseph Large, who returned at the vestry's request, the vestry and lay women together raised funds to construct a new Gothic Revival edifice in an acclaimed design by Charles Crosby Miller of Toledo, Ohio. The building included split-faced sandstone walls with limestone trim and painted glass windows of English design, most of which still survive in the church. The edifice was completed in 1866 and consecrated two years later by Bishop Joseph Cruikshank Talbot after the parish had raised additional funds for a new organ. The church was nestled in what came to be known at the West Central Neighborhood and was surrounded by large Victorian-style houses.
The parish grew steadily through the late nineteenth century. Several rectors, including the Rev. Colin Campbell Tate, William Naylor Webbe, and Alexander Seabrease, preached a strong Social Gospel message, advocating for outreach to the poor, temperance, and women’s suffrage. Many members of the congregation were well-educated and supported a variety of reform efforts, including advocacy for a city parks and boulevard system. In 1892 Seabrease and the vestry redecorated the church with a new pulpit (intricately inlaid with brass cartouches), a marble baptismal font with a brass eagle cover, an eagle-shaped lectern, marble altar, and a silver communion service, all of which are still in use. A vested choir of men and boys made its first appearance and became popular.
The Diocese of Michigan City was created in 1898 in the top third of Indiana. Trinity, as the largest parish, exercised much influence. The Rev. Edward Wilson Averill, the first to be called “Father,” arrived in 1904 and built the church into a program-sized parish. His successor, the Rev. Louis Rocca, redecorated the nave in the 1920s with a décor that many considered ornate and garish with deep reds, blues, and gold. He also added a rood screen. During the Great Depression of the 1930s the Rev. James McNeal Wheatley, the most Anglo-Catholic rector in the church's history, led the parish successfully in paying off its mortgage through a period of austerity and brought the congregation through World War II.
During Wood’s tenure the neighborhood around the church began to evolve. Though the owners of some of the old houses, especially to the west of the church, restored them to their original finery, they divided others into apartments for lower-income housing or converted them to offices. Many others were demolished to make room to parking lots. Since then, a strong preservation movement has involved in the city to protect the remaining historic homes, and Trinity stands inside a local historic district with covenants surrounding the protection of its external appearance.
Trinity’s strong Anglo-Catholic liturgical model began to evolve in the 1970s during the rectorate of Wood’s successor, the Rev. Dr. C. Corydon Randall. A Broad Church model with strong lay leadership and a new sense of openness replaced the older style. Randall instituted the commission system of parish administration, increasing both lay participation and outreach. He also opened the communion rail to all baptized Christians and invited women to preach, serve on the vestry, and brought girls into the acolyte corps. Together with several church leaders in 1977, he helped found Canterbury School, a private, independent school for grades kindergarten through six that used the church classrooms for several years until moving to its own quarters in 1980. It has become an acclaimed educational institution in the state. Randall also spent much of his rectorate renovating the parish buildings, spearheading a capital campaign, creating endowments, and having the church entered on the National Register of Historic Places. After leaving Trinity in 1988, he served parishes in San Diego, California, and Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Now retired as Rector Emeritus, he and his wife returned to Fort Wayne and are members of the congregation. He often leads the Friday Morning Study Group and occasionally the Adult Forum, teaching on Old Testament topics.
Randall’s successor, the Rev. Frank H. Moss III, built upon Randall’s legacy of reform and openness. In 1992, he brought the first woman priest to the diocese, the Rev. Robin Thomas, to serve as Trinity’s curate. He also continued to build the endowments. Under the leadership of its precentor, Wayne Peterson, the church’s musical offerings continued to enjoy local acclaim. Trinity became with the Royal School of Church Music that has as its motto, “I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.” Many in the congregation recognize and appreciate Peterson’s spiritual, as well as musical, gifts. Moss left in 1999 and later served churches in Massachusetts and Oregon before eventually retiring to Oregon.
Trinity’s eighteenth rector, the Rev. Dr. Thomas P. Hansen, arrived in 2006 from Nebraska. Hansen inaugurated a labyrinth ministry, initially using a canvas inside the Great Hall and later constructing a permanent labyrinth of stone on the western side of the parish grounds. Through local press coverage it has sparked interest from Christians of other denominations. In 2010 the parish led a successful capital campaign to replace its aging boiler and heating system. It later received several large bequests to refurbish and replace its organ and build a new handicap-accessible entrance and carport on its western side. As a downtown parish the church has become involved in a variety of outreach ministries, including Wellspring Social Services, the Associated Churches Food Bank, the West Central Neighborhood Ministry (led by five parishes including Trinity), and Habitat for Humanity. Its clergy participate regularly in an annual interfaith Thanksgiving service. Traditional liturgical music and hymns, expertly presented by its choir, remain a strong part of the parish DNA, and Peterson, who has served more than 30 years as precentor, regularly leads the parish in a variety of special concerts and events in addition to Sunday morning worship. As retired Bishop Edward S. Little has commented, “Trinity is very Cathedralesque.” Hansen announced that he would retire at the end of 2016, though he plans to remain in Fort Wayne and stay active in the diocese. He has said that leaves the parish in a strong position for new growth and vision. In 2017, the parish called the Rev. T. J. Freeman to be its 19th rector.
Benjamin Hutchins, 1839
Benjamin Halsted, 1844-1846
Joseph S. Large, 1848-1854
Caleb Alexander Bruce, 1854-1855
Eugene Charles Pattison, 1856-1858
Stephen Henry Battin, 1858-1863
Joseph S. Large, 1863-1872
Colin Campbell Tate, 1872-1879
William Naylor Webbe, 1879-1888
Alexander Washington Seabrease, 1888-1904
John Newton Rippey, (interim) 1904
Edward Wilson Averill, 1904-1923
Louis Niccola Rocca, 1923-1930
Joseph William Gubbins (interim), 1931
Charles Noyes Tyndell, 1931-1932
James McNeal Wheatley, 1932-1947
Peter Langendorff (interim), 1947
George Bartlett Wood, 1947-1971
Chandler Corydon Randall, 1971-1988
David Gurniak (interim), 1988-1990
Frank Hazlett Moss III, 1990-1999
Henrietta Brandt Lavengood (interim), 2000
Rebecca Ferrell Nickel, 2001-2004
Robert Askren (interim), 2004-2006
Thomas Parker Hansen, 2006-2016
T. J. Freeman, 2017-
John D. Beatty, Beyond These Stones: A History of Trinity Episcopal Church, Fort Wayne, Indiana. Fort Wayne: Trinity Episcopal Church, 1994.
Rev. Colin Campbell Tate
Rev. Colin Campbell Tate was born in Louisville, Kentucky, on 26 April 1838, the son of John and Sarah Tate. The father was born in England and the mother in Ireland. As a child he moved with his parents to Milwaukee, and afterward attended the St. John's School in Delafield, Wisconsin. After attending Racine College, he went to Nashotah House to study for the priesthood, where he was undoubtedly influenced by the Ritualist views of the Rev. James DeKoven. Bishop Kemper ordained Tate to the priesthood in 1866.
Tate's first assignment came as assistant minister at Christ Church, Indianapolis, where he organized a school and a mission church called Holy Innocents. Tate was ordained a priest by Bishop Joseph Cruikshank Talbot of Indiana on 19 May 1867, and by the end of the year he accepted a call to become rector of St. Paul's Church in Columbus, Ohio. There he introduced a vested choir of men and boys that processed in behind a processional cross. The practice was popular in High Church dioceses, but it was opposed by Ohio's bishop, Charles McIlvaine. When the bishop ordered him to abandon it, he refused and was placed on trial at the American Church Union, a non-diocesan body designed to arbitrate in matters involving liturgical disputes. Tate had the confidence of his congregation, but decided to leave the Diocese of Ohio by the end of 1872, when he accepted the call to Trinity Fort Wayne. Bishop Talbot was more hospitable to Oxford Movement innovations and vested choirs.
Tate arrived in town with his wife Maria and their children, Wallace, Maria, and Colin. He was just in time to preach at Christmas Eve services in 1872. He began the new year by trying to instill a sense of discipline in the parish by encouraging the placement of limits on the amount of food and drink consumed by parishioners. This new asceticism may have had its roots in his training at Nashotah House, but the precise program he promoted is unclear. During Lent, he banned all church-related socials and attempted to kindle a new sense of piety withing the congregation by hosting a series of lectures by clergy from around the state. Tate planned his own sermons around the topic of temptation, looking successively at the temptations of the Prophet Joseph, King Davis, and Judas Iscariot. After Easter, he organized a choir, the church's first, which a church newspaper praised as being better than "the feeble performance of a quartette."
In 1873, in the wake of a national Depression, Tate spent much of the year focusing on a Social Gospel message, criticizing the church for not doing enough in Christian outreach and reaching the unaffiliated. He also became a strong advocate for temperance and decried the widespread abuse of alcohol in society. He also criticized the practice of pew renting, believing it promoted distinctions between rich and poor, but he made no changes to prevailing system at Trinity.
Tate was interested in promoting a High Church liturgy within the parish, and to that end, he secured from Lavinia Ewing Bond in 1874 the donation of a marble altar in memory of her late husband, Charles, the church treasurer. Constructed by Klaber and Company of New York City, the expensive fixture reflected his growing attention tot he way the Eucharist was celebrated. He also obtained a new silver communion set with two chalices, a tankard, and a paten, donated by Frances (Edgerton) Alvord in memory of her late husband.
Tate's evening sermons throughout the 1870s were often covered by the press and gave him the opportunity to preach on topics outside of the daily lectionary. A series of sermons given in 1875 featured such topics as "Religion among the Masses" and "Religion among Men." He was critical of the feminization of religion, saying that for many young men, going to church "is the equivalent to being as nearly like a girl as possible." He countered that view by emphasizing the masculinity of Christianity and the fact that Jesus preached more often to men than women.
In the late 1870s, Trinity was struck my lightning, but the ensuing fire did comparatively little damage except to a small section of the roof. In the wake of financial trouble in the parish in 1878, several vestrymen urged Tate to resign, which he did in July 1879 and gave a farewell sermon in August. After leaving Fort Wayne, he served parishes in Niles, Michigan, the Church of the Holy Communion in Chicago, and the Church of the Good Shepherd in Blue Earth City, Minnesota, where he organized a vested choir of men and boys. He died in Minnesota on 5 March 1904.