A History of Holy Trinity Parish
by Estelle Hinde
For all its years, Holy Trinity has been located in the City of Decatur. In 1892, a small congregation of thirteen families formed the first Episcopal congregation in the area. In 1893, a small frame church was built on the northeast corner of Trinity Place and Church Street, where Phillips Towers now stands. Parish status was attained in 1920 with 128 communicants.
When the Diocese of Georgia was split into two in May of 1907, the Rev. C. A. Langston was our rector, H. L. Parry was senior warden, Don Donaldson was junior warden, and E. H. Wilson was secretary and treasurer. M . Parry was delegate to the first council of the new Diocese of Atlanta in November, 1907.
In 1925, the Rev. Charles Holding became our rector and led the church for 19 years. Although the original church had been enlarged, the parish soon outgrew it. In 1928, Holy Trinity purchased its present property. A parish house was built, the upper floor to serve temporarily as a place of worship until a church could be erected. This further construction was delayed for many years.
The year 1945 brought many changes: World War II ended, our servicemen came home to raise their families, and the community grew tremendously. The Rev. C. Harry Tisdale became rector that year and led the parish through that new growth.
In 1951, a new church was finally built. It is now Tisdale Hall. The building that is now the Comer Center was built in 1958, joining a corridor and classrooms that had been built earlier to connect to the parish house. Also during this decade, Holy Trinity sponsored three missions: St. Michael and All Angels in Stone Mountain, Holy Cross in South Decatur, and St. Bartholomew’s on LaVista Road. Other property surrounding Holy Trinity was purchased, and included what is now the playground and Trinity House. Two houses were purchased on the opposite side of Sycamore Street, but were later sold.
Fr. Tisdale was forced to retire in 1963 because of severe rheumatoid arthritis. He was succeeded by the Rev. William Littleton.
Following the Rev. William Littleton, the Rev. Jack Hopper became rector in early 1967. Just a few months later, on Sunday afternoon, July 9, a fire struck Holy Trinity. It was later determined that it probably started in lights behind the stained-glass windows over the altar. The 1928 building was gutted, and other structures sustained damage. The parish accepted Decatur First United Methodist Church’s offer to use its old church, and some Sunday School classes met in Glennwood School. This was a stressful time for the parish; in addition to the changes wrought by fire, it was using the new trial liturgies, among other changes.
The decision was soon made to rebuild on our same property. On November 1, 1970, after more than three years’ absence, the congregation was back in its own space.
After the Fire
The return to our own buildings after over three years away because of the fire was revitalizing to our congregation. Services were first held in the old church (now Tisdale Hall), and the new church proper was first used on Christmas Eve, 1970. The stained glass windows along the side walls of the old nave were moved to the new nave. The following spring, a new organ was installed. Our daily kindergarten resumed in the education building, and all classes and offices were in full operation. Our kitchen was–and still is–the envy of other churches.
The Rev. Jack Hopper retired in 1975, and the Rev. Richard Milner, who had been our curate, was chosen the new rector. During his tenure, the Counseling Center was established. The use of the new prayer book began, as did the expanded use of laypersons, including layreaders, chalice bearers, and lay pastoral callers.
One of our members, Bertie Pittman, was endorsed as a postulant, and she became the first woman from Holy Trinity to enter the priesthood.
Fr. Milner left Holy Trinity in 1979.
The 80s Bring More Changes
The Rev. Francis Daunt arrived in September, 1980, from the Diocese of Georgia, and began the practice of members approaching the altar during The “Prayers of the People” for prayers on their behalf. Outreach grew under Fr. Daunt’s guidance. A women and children’s shelter, under the Decatur Cooperative Ministry, was opened in the 1957 Education Building and remained there from 1986 until 1997. The Decatur Emergency Assistance Ministry (DEAM) housed its offices there also.
In May, 1986, Holy Trinity celebrated the consecration of the debt-free church. Since 1984, signers have interpreted the main services and some special ones. Large print books have become available. An elevator was dedicated in 1990, and an automatic entry door makes the church accessible to all. Fr. Daunt was called to Baton Rouge in 1989.
Into the 90s
The Rev. Philip C. Linder began his work as rector of Holy Trinity Parish in November of 1990. His leadership resulted in renewed parish vitality and growth, and many young families bacame a part of our congregation. Finances were put on a firm foundation, and needed repairs were completed. The parish hall was re-carpeted, and the Gaylord Room was refurbished. The lay pastoral callers and ministers program was strengthened, calling on shut-ins.
The parish celebrated its centennial in 1992 with pomp, ceremony and fun. The Holy Trinity Centennial Scholarship Trust was established as a legacy of these 100 years, and provides grants for the pursuit of theological education.
Fr. Linder called the first woman priest to Holy Trini ty as his assistant, the Rev. Dena Cleaver-Bartholomew. Another woman assistant, the Rev. Susan Latimer, led the building of our labyrinth–the first in the area. The 1998 Capital Campaign raised funds for renovations, and further improvements began. Fr. Linder was called to become dean of Trinity Cathedral in Columbia, South Carolina in 1990.
A New Millennium
With this new century, the Rev. William T. Deneke became our rector, with the request to encourage spiritual growth. Strong lay leadership continues to be encouraged. Our mission statement was changed: “To open hearts to God; to open doors to community.” Holy Trinity reaches out to the community with such activities as hosting a city of Decatur voting place and allowing outside groups to use our space.
The Capital Campaign was extended in order to renovate the 1957 Education/outreach Building, which was then named in honor of the late Rev . Hunt Comer. Fr. Corner and his wife came to us after retiring from St. Michael and All Angels Church in Stone Mountain. We were also able to furnish DEAM with more suitable space in our facilities.
To enhance our Lenten devotions, Stations of the Cross were placed around the plaza. Two new windows have added Beauty to our building: one, of engraved glass, in the chapel honoring women; and just recently, a large stained-glass window honoring children overlooking Tisdale Hall (Tisdale Hall had been so named to honor the late Rev. Harry Tisdale, a former rector, and his wife, Virginia.).
Outreach continues with several work/mission trips to Honduras under the sponsorship of Honduras Outreach. We are also involved with the extensive renovations in New Orleans, needed following the 2005 hurricanes. We have also worked with St. Anna’s Parish there.
A greater focus on children’s ministries led to innovative programs, which include a new playground and the establishment of a week-day preschool.