Trinity has been serving the Van Wert community since 1863. We have a rich heritage and are proud of the role we have played in the ongoing ministry of Jesus Christ to redeem the world to God. We have had several names and few different buildings, but this mission has never changed. This history is divided into three parts: History of the United Methodist Church, History of Trinity United Methodist Church, and Our Mission. The first section is brief, but gives you some perspective on our denomination. The middle section is the longest one, dealing specifically with Trinity’s history. The "Our Mission” section explains why Trinity exists -- what our people are all about.
1738 - John Wesley’s Aldersgate experience in England -- the beginning of the “Methodist Society” of members of the Church of England.
1784 - Methodist Church begins in America in Baltimore, Maryland. Francis Asbury appointed as the first bishop.
1800 - United Brethren Church formed in Frederick, Maryland, under the leadership of Phillip William Otterbein and Martin Boehm.
1803 -- “Evangelische Gemeinschaft” (Evangelical Community) formed in Berks County Pennsylvania under the leadership of Jacob Albright.
1889 - United Brethren Church splits over the issue of secret organizations into United Brethren in Christ (Old Constitution), now headquartered at Huntington University, and United Brethren in Christ (New Constitution).
1946 - Merger of United Brethren in Christ (New Constitution) and Evangelical churches. Denomination name changed to Evangelical United Brethren Church.
1968 - Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren denominations combine to become United Methodists.
As you can see from the above timeline, the United Methodist Church is ultimately a combination of three denominations -- Methodist, Evangelical, and United Brethren (New Constitution).
The Evangelical Church was the original denomination at this location, although it was then called by the German name, “Evangelische Gemeinschaft” (Evangelical Community).
1863 - Van Wert Mission of Evangelische Gemeinschaft (Evangelical Community) established, meeting in second story rooms in downtown Van Wert.
1872 - First church building. It was built on the present location facing south (Crawford Street).
1873 - Parsonage built to the east, adjacent to the church building.
1881 - English replaces German at Sunday night services.
1914 - New building, facing Walnut Street, dedicated on January 11.
1946 - Merger of United Brethren (New Constitution) and Evangelical denominations.
Our name changed to Trinity Evangelical United Brethren Church.
1957 - Educational unit dedicated.
1964 - New parsonage built at present location (northeast corner of Crawford and Cherry).
1968 - Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren denominations combine. We become Trinity United Methodist.
1971 - Old sanctuary is remodeled.
1975 - Parking lot completed.
1991 - New sanctuary completed.
2006 - Old sanctuary renovated to become “The Gate.”
The Van Wert Mission of the Indiana Conference of the Evangelical Community was formed in 1863. Rev. George Hertel was assigned to the St. Mary’s Circuit, which included several churches in Indiana and Ohio.
With four families (eight members), the Van Wert Mission met in second story rooms in downtown Van Wert. The eight members were Mr. and Mrs. Chilcote, Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Hertel, Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Haffen, and Mr. and Mrs. George A. Hertel. German was the only language spoken at these services.
In 1872 the first building was constructed. We do not know the cost. It sat at the northeast corner of the Crawford Street/Walnut Street intersection, with the main door facing south (Crawford Street).
The pastor, J. Keiper, continued to preach in German, although English was becoming more common among the people.
In 1873 a parsonage was completed east of and adjacent to the church at a cost of $700.
This translates into “Church of the Evangelistic Community.” This is the inscription on a stone is now on the west wall of the basement inside The Gate. Later, it seems, the name of the denomination evolved into “Church of the Evangelistic Association” and, still later, the “Evangelical Church.”
In 1881 Pastor B. F. Dill reported that, “The old harassing language difficulty has been removed, and there is now English preaching every Sunday night.” We don’t know why he referred specifically only to “Sunday night” in this statement.
Parsonage was moved 25 feet farther eastward.
The Great Van Wert Flood occurred in March of 1913 and almost certainly damaged the church building. This may or may not have been the reason for a new structure, which was begun that year. The parsonage was moved eastward 25 feet to make room for the new church building. The new building, facing west (Walnut Street), was dedicated on January 11, 1914. The cost was $17,000.
The church elder at the time was S. H. Baumgartner; his name is on one of the windows. The pastor was F. J. Stedcke; his name is also on one of the windows. The program for the dedication lists as members of the building board and trustees: Jacob Mohr, John C. Albright, George J. Wise, Wm. Hertel, Jr., Walter Murphy, Elmer Stripe, William Hagerty, and Edwin S. Baxter. The parsonage trustees were Gottlieb Mohr, S. L. Rider, and Jacob Trim. By this time, the church was officially called the First Evangelical Church.
JH Rilling, the pastor from 1917 to 1923, wrote: “There have been no great revivals and large increases in membership, but there was steady increase and growth in all of the organizations of the church. The indebtedness on the new church is $5,150, almost unprovided for, has been paid. The Rally Day offerings the last five years have amounted to $1,694.51; the highest for one Rally Day, October 17, 1920, being $531.81.” (Note: The present-day value of that $531.81 is $6026.87.)
The Evangelical Church merged with the United Brethren in Christ (New Constitution) Church in 1946, and our name changed from the First Evangelical Church to the Trinity Evangelical United Brethren Church.
Notice that “Trinity” then became a part of our name -- a change which was unanimously approved by the congregation. This name avoided any confusion with that of the First United Brethren in Christ (Old Constitution), which, like all Old Constitution UB churches, was not a part of the merger. Calvary United Brethren in Christ (New Constitution) was a part of the merger and became Calvary Evangelical United Brethren; however, it no longer exists.
Also, in 1946, give or take a year, the church bought a Wurlitzer electronic organ, which was considered a great addition at the time.
The educational unit was built in 1956 at a cost of $132,000. It was dedicated on September 22, 1957.
A new parsonage was completed at the present location (northeast corner of the Crawford/ Cherry intersection) in 1964 at a cost of $26,000.
The Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren denominations combined in 1968. We became the Trinity United Methodist Church.
In 1971 we remodeled the sanctuary, costing $75,000.
The parking lot was completed in 1975. Prior to that, all parking had been on the street.
The new Allen Digital Computer Organ System was dedicated on May 16, 1976, at a concert presented by Ira A. Gerig, a music professor at Fort Wayne Bible College.
The present sanctuary was completed in 1991, costing $560,000. The cornerstone inscription is “Built to the Glory of God.”
In 2006 the old (1914) sanctuary underwent extensive interior renovations and became “The Gate,” a multipurpose area.
Under the leadership of Timothy Burden, our pastor from 2002 until 2011, we adopted the mission statement: "Connecting to God with others in ministry for the lost" to specifically guide Trinity’s actions and goals. Notice the four connections:
(1) Connecting people to God -- through inspiring worship and passionate spirituality. According to John 14:6, Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and the only way to enter into a personal relationship with God that saves and transforms lives.
(2) Connecting people to one another -- through fellowship, loving relationships that encourage and build one another up toward the goal of maturity in Christ. Trinity encourages small groups, accountability groups, care and nurture groups that are concerned for physical, practical, emotional, and spiritual needs of members and families.
(3) Connecting people to a ministry. We believe everyone in the Body of Christ has been given the Holy Spirit to empower them to serve others in some way. Using our spiritual gifts, prayer, and intercession, we all have the God-given ability and responsibility to serve. By this, we ourselves grow spiritually toward maturity, being “perfected in love.”
(4) Connecting people to the lost. With the heart of God for the lost, we will seek ways to connect with those who are hurting, lonely, lost, and the least, in order to offer them Christ as Savior and Lord. We will seek to reach the lost by demonstrating the love of God through practical needs, through missions, through friendship in the Name of Christ.
Our church has been especially mission minded -- in the community, the country, and the world -- down through the years. Pastor Lowell Nelson (1972-1980) placed especially high emphasis on foreign missions.
Through finances and prayer, Trinity Church and many individuals in the congregation support missionaries all over the world. From 1975 through the present, Trinity has given over 1.4 million dollars to missions. This does not include the money directed toward mission work that we support through our West Ohio Conference apportionment dollars.
Groups from Trinity -- from middle school age on up -- have taken the Great Commission to heart and traveled to Mexico, Cuba, Haiti, Appalachia, native American reservations in the West, and many other places.
Our people have taken leading roles in community ministries such as the Food Pantry,
Pregnancy Life Center, Celebrate Recovery, Bread and Bowl, Neighbor Link, Youth for Christ, Salvation Army, Grain for Groceries, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Gideons, Grief Camp, Cross Over the Hill, Hospice Chaplin, City Police Chaplin, Habitat for Humanity, and Cooperative Ministries.
John Wesley and the early Methodists were particularly concerned about inviting people to experience God’s grace and to grow in their knowledge and love of God through disciplined Christian living. They placed primary emphasis on putting faith and love in action. That is and will always be the hallmark of the Trinity United Methodist Church.
We confess that Trinity is an imperfect church filled with imperfect people. As such, we’ve had our share of adversity. With God’s grace, however, we have persevered and will continue to fulfill His calling.