Holy Trinity Episcopal Church
1412 W. Illinois, Midland, Texas 79701
"Let this be a story, abounding with the details that have gone into our growth, the humble labors and personal generosity that have become a tradition here. Because this is a proud moment in our history, we could gloss over the steps in our background, but it is such a good time to count our blessings ONE by ONE. It is an inspiration to the present to know the struggle of the past, to understand that five or ten people can build a church!"
~ from a handwritten history of Holy Trinity, 1948
Finding Midland, Texas at the end of a long, dusty West Texas road on October 5, 1884, Bishop W. B. Elliott first held Episcopal services here. Midland was then largely a cattle town, still some 35 years away from the discovery of oil, which was to change the area and the landscape, forever. Finding the people a hardy and spiritually hungry bunch, a priest residing in San Angelo began to come to Midland for occasional services, and during 1900-02, the priest from All Saints’ Church, Colorado City, ventured here on the Texas and Pacific Railroad to minister to the people and conduct morning and evening services.
By the early 1910’s (with a county-wide population of only around 2,000) an Episcopal mission had existed for a few years, and our Diocesan Directory lists 1910 as the year of our founding. Bishop Edward Arthur Temple recorded official visits to the Midland mission in 1911 and 1913. This mission appears to have died out in the World War I years. On April 29, 1929 the Bishop of the Missionary District of North Texas, Rt. Rev. Eugene Cecil Seaman met with Episcopalians in Midland and celebrated Holy Communion in the private dining room of the new Scharbauer Hotel. In June of that same year, Bishop Seaman organized a mission in Midland and Rev. William H. Martin, Vicar of St Mary’s in Big Spring, Texas, began coming to Midland to conduct regular services. The mission, named Trinity Chapel, thrived with a small group of dedicated women and one active gentleman Jon P. Butler, and the continuous history of "The Church of the Holy Trinity" had begun.
In these early years of Holy Trinity and the first oil boom, altar linens were often made from discarded linen oil maps, and Lay Readers were constantly running off to "sit a well" at the last minute. Worshipping originally in a small frame building at Wall and Colorado, that building was moved to the present location at 1400 W. Illinois in 1935, and the present building was constructed in 1939 - with few frills - at a cost of less than $10,000. Indeed, the opening that was later filled by our beautiful, blue-toned Rose Window was covered by beaverboard until 1941. While the church was being built, the congregation worshipped in an old shoe repair shop in a small tin building downtown on Sunday afternoons. In 1939 the temperatures soared and the dust blew hard.
Yet these were rich, exciting, fine years for Holy Trinity. The Women’s Auxiliary (now Episcopal Church Women) was founded in 1929, and was instrumental in nurturing the fledgling Trinity Chapel. In 1936, the Women’s Auxiliary began a spring style show that became a popular Midland tradition, as well as the Auxiliary’s major fund-raiser, and provided significant funds for mission and outreach in the community. The style show was held in the Crystal Ballroom and mezzanine of the historic Scharbauer Hotel - a bustling place where local cowboys and visiting oil men would make oil deals during the week and carouse on the weekends - until it grew so large the women moved it to the Yucca Theater. The style shows were suspended during World War II, but continued for a few years in the late ‘40’s and ‘50’s, and later evolved into the "Bit o’ Britain Tea". Another popular Midland event also sponsored by the Holy Trinity women during that time was a dressage at the Midland Polo Club. After an evangelistic preaching mission in 1934 led by the Rev. B. Howden of Roswell, New Mexico, the Church School (Christian Education Department) began. The Men’s Club, which still meets faithfully every Wednesday morning for Holy Eucharist at 7:00am followed by a hearty breakfast, began in 1939.
Trinity Episcopal Chapel-1940
The 1940’s and ‘50’s saw major growth. The congregation attained full parish status in 1943, under the leadership of the Rev. Robert J. Snell, becoming the sixth parish in the Diocese (at that time, actually a "Missionary District," as we were not self-supporting as a Diocese until 1958). A small pipe organ was purchased and installed in 1942, and the current parish hall and Sunday School classrooms were built. In1956. Holy Trinity parishioners founded St. Nicholas’ Church, now a strong parish of this Diocese, donating the land and the building.
The congregation founded Trinity School in 1958. Trinity School, begun as a kindergarten and first grade school on the church premises, has since moved to its own campus in Midland, and serves pre-school through twelfth grade with over 600 students. Though no longer owned and operated by Holy Trinity Church, the school is still Episcopal Church-affiliated, with daily chapel conducted according to the Book of Common Prayer. School by-laws require an "Episcopal Class" of Trustees, which include Holy Trinity’s rector.
Continued growth of Holy Trinity Church in the 1960’s and 70’s called for expansion and remodeling of the property, including more education and worship space, as well as space for more offices, classrooms, a children’s chapel and bookstore. A new wing was added in 1968, and the interior of the church was enlarged in 1974, mainly by adding the east and west transepts, and making provision for a new, much larger, pipe organ. In 1976, a bell tower and carillon were added, and remains a familiar part of Midland’s skyline.
West Texas roads - and true history - are not without their bumps and difficult stretches. And so it is with Holy Trinity. The Diocese of Northwest Texas held a trial of our Rector in 1966 over misuse of church funds; some ten years later, Holy Trinity experienced sharp conflict and discord over another Rector.
The Rev. Sam Hulsey became Rector in 1978, and two years later the parish celebrated with him as he was elected Bishop of the Diocese of Northwest Texas. After the resignation of Rev. Sam Hulsey, as Rector, Holy Trinity called as its seventh Rector the Rev. Dr. Allen Whitman. Despite a serious oil "bust" in the late 1980’s, parishioners rallied to build another education building, dedicating it in 1990. Rev. Dr. Allen Whitman’s term as Rector ushered in a period of unparallel growth and happiness for Holy Trinity and its parishioners.
Following Rev. Dr. Whitman’s retirement in 1992, the parish called the Rev. Stockton Williams as its eighth Rector. Rev. Williams served through 2001. During Rev. Williams’ time at Holy Trinity a major building project was started. In the late 1990’s a Long Range Planning Committee had recognized the potential and need to expand Holy Trinity’s physical property. This expansion included the purchase of seven important pieces of adjoining property and additions of new offices, a new choir and hand-bell facility and bookstore.
Following Rev. Williams’ departure, the Rev. Dr. Mark L. Cannaday was called in February 2003 to be Holy Trinity’s ninth Rector. Rev. Cannaday retired on February 29, 2008. During Rev. Cannaday's tenure, National Church issues created an upheaval within Holy Trinity, prompting two thirds of its membership to leave the church.
Holy Trinity has recently called its tenth Rector, Father John Wedgwood-Greenhow. Energized about starting over, yet realistic, Holy Trinity’s present congregation is unified with renewed spirit. And in the words of the stated mission of Holy Trinity, "In all that we do, we hope to share the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ with all people", knowing that Holy Trinity and its history will continue.
I will dwell in thy tabernacle forever. And my trust shall be under the covering of thy wings.
For thou, O Lord, hast heard my desires, and hast given an heritage unto those that fear thy Name.