1830 – 1900

Three years before Elkhart became a village, Methodist “circuit riders” were visiting this area. By 1832 a ten member Methodist class was meeting in a log home at the northeast corner of Second and Jefferson Streets. As Methodism grew, they utilized the schoolhouse, Masonic Hall, and other available space.

In 1845 Presbyterians built a small church at 2nd and High. Four years later the Methodists assumed their debt and organized a union Sunday School in return for joint church usage. A Methodist “circuit rider” preached there every 4th Sunday. A year later a full-time Presbyterian minister was secured, and the 50 Methodists decided to build their own church.

Havilah Beardsley sold them a plot across 2nd Street at Franklin in the spring of 1854, and they began cutting and hauling building materials to the site. The first brick was laid August 20, 1855. But 3 destructive storms meant rebuilding, and the church was not completed until 1862. Three years later Rev. B.M. Beamer became their first full-time pastor.

Methodism grew rapidly. A larger church was dedicated on the same site on February 10, 1890. At the same time the members were sponsoring a new sister church called St. Paul’s north of the river. The pioneer church became Trinity. Eight years later they bought the adjacent lot at 2nd and Franklin and built an imposing parsonage to replace a small one at the rear of the church which was constructed in 1874.

1900 – 1960

In 1912 Trinity sponsored a second sister church south at Indiana and Main Streets, Simpson Memorial. Within a decade, Simpson claimed 309 members, St. Paul had 291, and Trinity had 1105. Talk of an addition to our building began. It accelerated after a damaging fire in 1924, resulting in completion of an educational annex containing auditorium, gymnasium, and classrooms at the west end of the repaired church.

By 1955 a burgeoning Elkhart High School consumed the rest of the block and overflowed into rented space in Trinity’s building. A century after the first Methodist brick was laid on 2nd Street, we contacted to sell our property to the schools.

A stranger named Alida Havens contacted the church and offered to sell us her 17.4 acres of land running from Jackson Boulevard south to the railroad tracks. In March 1956 purchase was completed. On October 11, 1959, an enthused congregation, under the leadership of Rev. J. Vergil Siberal, broke ground for the new Trinity. Christmas Day 1960 we joyously celebrated our first worship service in our newly completed church. Today the bell from the 2nd Street bell tower calls us to worship from our courtyard and the old cornerstone stands nearby, reminding us of our heritage. The Alida Havens memorial fund annually brings the added blessing of outstanding Lenten speakers.

Lay member E.B. Barnes began planting our lovely shade trees shortly after purchase of the East Jackson site. His widow later sold us the senior parsonage on East Jackson Boulevard. Dr. O. Wayne Paulen’s family was first to occupy it.

A second pastor had joined the staff during Rev. Siberal’s years at Trinity. As we acquired the small homes along our frontage, one of them became the associate’s home. It later was moved farther east, occupied by Rev. and Mrs. Ross Richey, and sold. For a time we owned a small Witmer St. parsonage. Later we purchased the Superior Blvd. parsonage, and for our third pastor, the home on Wood Street.

1960 – 1980

One of Trinity’s most dedicated laity served for several decades as church secretary, hostess, financial assistant, office equipment mechanic, recruiter, and chief cook. The church, she said, was “her life, not a job!” 1968, the year that Emaline Nye retired, was also the year of union for United Brethren and Methodists. We became Trinity United Methodist Church while we adjusted to Emaline’s retirement. After her death we purchased the Emaline Nye Handbells to memorialize her.

In early 1966 another dedicated laywoman, Rosemary Dashiell, and our associate pastor’s wife, Pat Weeks, opened Trinity’s Nursery School in the west wing of the church. Rosie was its director for approximately two decades before assuming responsibilities as the church business manager. The school, which offers 1/2 day programs one to 4 days a week for 2 to 5 year olds, now enrolls about 120 community youngsters.

Other lay community outreach efforts in the ’60s and ’70s included working with inner city children through Urban League programs, and restoration of an old So. Sixth St. home for purchase by a low-income family through H.O.M.E.

1980 – 2000

During the ministry of Dr. Mark Blaising we again outgrew our church home. In 1983 we began adding 12 classrooms, larger library and office space, parlor, beautiful chapel with bride and groom’s rooms, and the large narthex fostering fellowship. At the same time we tithed a portion of the cost to underwrite two new churches to serve the burgeoning African Christian community. We later supported the establishment of Africa University, and created the Rosemary Dashiell Scholarship there when Rosemary retired from Trinity’s staff in January 1991.

In the 1980’s we’d added a lay director of Christian education. This stimulated the development of numerous small groups for specialized needs, and Bible study in addition to the traditional work areas, United Methodist Women (UMW), United Methodist Men (UMM), and an ever-larger youth ministry. Our youth began regular mission workcamps in other regions. With a new music director, that ministry greatly expanded. We created a neighborhood latch-key program, and in 1991 we opened Riverview Adult Day Center, with a representative community board of directors.

By 1994 all available space was fully utilized. A “Futures Committee” had explored Trinity’s potential avenues of ministry, and a new building study committee was appointed to recommend precise needs to meet the challenges of such ministry. In the fall of 1998 construction began for a new sanctuary.

With our present inspired clergy, enthusiastic and creative program staff, and helpful office support, our dedicated laity are finding Trinity an exciting place to serve. In September, 1995 we completed our first Habitat for Humanity home. Spiritual strength continues to grow. We look forward with joyous anticipation to new areas of Christian ministry and discipleship leading into the next century of service to our Lord.

2000 – present

In July 2005, our church was already making its second trip the Alaska to work on Girdwood church. In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. A mission group went to Waveland Mississippi to work passing out water, food and tarps for tents. Another group chartered a bus and went south and offered aid to anyone who wished to relocate. Eventually 55 people came to this area that Trinity was involved in helping.

February 2006, Pastor Tom Thews led a work team down to Waveland Mississippi to work on rebuilding the Bird’s Chapel United Methodist Church and Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church. While there, the work team also helped renovate two homes. June 2006, Pastor Lore Blinn- Gibson went with the youth group back down to Waveland. While there they helped a woman, in Bay Saint Louis, make her mobile home livable again. Both work teams stayed in a Methodist church in Picayune.

February 2007, Pastor Mark Fenstermacher lead a work team back down to Mississippi where they worked on Heritage United Methodist Church in a suburb of Biloxi. In July 2007, another work group lead by Pastor Tom Thews went up to Alaska to continue work on Girdwood Church. The Spring of 2008, Pastor Mark Fenstermacher and his wife, Sharon, went to Nome Alaska to deliver a check for $10,000.00 from the Trinity congregation to help with the church’s $3,500.00 a month heating bills.

December 26, 2008, a group of Trinity youth left for Costa Rica on a mission trip. They helped a family start on building a proper home. Stairs leading upstairs was added onto the host church. They helped with a ‘Feed the Children” mission.

September 2007, Trinity Life Center was completed. A 35,000 square foot addition which includes a youth center with stage, a full sized, wood floor gymnasium, nursery school classrooms, playground, adult classrooms and improved facilities for Riverview Adult Day Health Center. This facility is utilized. One of the most popular programs is Upward Basketball. In the 2009 season, Upward Cheerleading will be added.

While Trinity is serving in other parts of the country and other parts of the world, our church is very involved right here at home. We help with Church Community Services, the CARES program.

Trinity United Methodist Church helped celebrate Elkhart’s Sesquicentennial with a free hog roast for the community and we hosted a classic car show. Trinity sponsored a basketball clinic in the TLC gymnasium with players from the women’s and men’s Notre Dame basketball teams. Approximately 150 grade school kids participated.

Trinity is a community of people who are growing in God, growing Together and growing in Service.

– compiled by Patricia L. Holcomb, Lay Leader 1998
– addition compiled by Shari Warlick, 2009