The photo above is courtesy of trinitychurchelmira.org
Trinity Episcopal Church in Elmira held its final service on Sunday, September 6th, but leaders are confident that the historic congregation’s witness to love and justice will continue. From around the country, online and in-person, Trinity’s members, friends, and current and past clergy came together to share in worship, celebrate Trinity’s ministry, and say farewell.
A highlight of the closing service was the socially-distanced procession of Trinity’s freestanding altar to a new home one mile away at Grace Episcopal Church in Elmira. Members of both congregations joined in procession, which was led by faithful members of Trinity’s altar guild. “The altar is the heart of the worshipping community,” says Trinity’s rector, the Very Rev. Wanda Copeland, “and to take it to another congregation, it will continue to have life…The legacy lives on and the people whose prayers this altar has absorbed all of these years will then be carried with it.”
The altar is just one example of how Trinity’s leaders have worked hard to share the parish’s assets in meaningful ways that honor and extend the love they’ve found in the community. They’ve passed on a handsome set of handbells to St. David’s Episcopal Church in Barneveld, north of Utica. And the Trinity Thrift Shop, a centerpiece of the parish’s community outreach efforts for six years, held a giveaway over the summer. Neighbors shopped for free for items they could use. “We weren’t out to make money, and we could help people down on their luck,” says Judi Brayer, longtime thrift shop volunteer and senior warden of Trinity.
In 187 years of ministry, Trinity Episcopal Church has been a home and a community support for many in the Elmira community. Beyond the Thrift Shop, Trinity hosted meetings of the local Boy Scout troupe for 30 years, offered community meals including a free Saturday breakfast and Wednesday Lenten Luncheons, anchored the annual Elmira C.R.O.P. walk. Many people grew up in and through the church’s extensive choir and music program. (Learn more about the church’s history here.)
Through it all, it’s the people and relationships that have mattered most. Since Trinity’s vestry made the decision to close in early 2020, they’ve made many hard decisions and worked hard, all amidst real grief. “The love you’ve experienced as a community really comes into play at a time like this,” says Copeland, noting that members and friends of Trinity have pitched in to support one another throughout the difficult year. “It’s such a wonderful witness of love and compassion and we’re still in this together.”
As for what’s next? Trinity’s leaders hope that members will stay connected to God’s love in this new season. “I want people to find peace wherever they go,” says Brayer. “And hopefully they find that same sense of belonging that they’ve had at Trinity.”
After 187 Years, Trinity Episcopal Church Set to Hold Final Service (video) Reporter Cody Carlson grew up in the church and returned to Elmira for this special report, via WENY.
Trinity Church final service, via WETM
Elmira landmark Trinity Episcopal Church set to close after 187 years, via Star-Gazette