TRINITY UNITED METHODIST CHURCH (Across from the Broadway Fountain)
Trinity United Methodist Church has stood as a symbol of grace and generosity in the center of Madison’s Historic District since 1873. The beautiful Gothic Revival architecture with the tallest bell tower in the city is located across the street from the historic Broadway Fountain erected in 1886. This location near Fountain Park has led to a symbiotic relationship between Trinity and the community. Much history is represented in this church.
In 1803, the Louisiana Purchase opened the “Midwest” to settlers. Lewis and Clark explored the new territory and, in 1805, southeast Indiana was ceded by Native American tribes to the United States government. With the opening of this new land, camp meetings were popular ways to worship the Lord. Locally, Neville’s Grove was the place for Methodists to attract new members.
In Madison, the church began in1807 with circuit riders. With the development of steamboat traffic and John Paul settling in Madison, a foundation was established for churches to become more permanent. In 1814, Methodists met in a home on the corner of Second and East Streets. In December 1816, Indiana became a state and the first church, St. John’s Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC) was constructed in Madison.
In 1824, Madison was incorporated as a town and, in 1837, as a city. During this time, in 1831, St. John’s (MEC) was vacated and Wesley Chapel (MEC) was built in the middle of town. Both African Americans and Whites attended, but they were segregated. In 1831, the Underground Railroad became active in our river town. There was a lot of turmoil in the church in the 1840s. Locally, in 1840, the African Americans began their own African American Episcopal church on Walnut Street. There was much division in the remaining white congregation. In 1841-42, one group formed a separate church, Roberts Chapel (MEC). Nationwide, Methodists divided into northern and southern branches over the slavery issue in 1845.
With unrest continuing, in 1847 Wesley Chapel (MEC) divided into Wesley Chapel (MEC) and St. John’s (MEC). In 1867, they reunited and Trinity Church (MEC) (not our current church) was founded, then they separated again in 1868. In 1869, Roberts Chapel (MEC) and Trinity Church (MEC) combined to form the Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1872, the cornerstone was laid for the church building at its current location. The first service was held in 1873, and the building was dedicated in 1874. In 1881, The Wesley Chapel (MEC) joined with Trinity ME Church. In 1898, the first pipe organ was installed. In 1925, the primarily German Grace Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC) united with Trinity (MEC).
In 1939, the Methodist Protestant Church, Methodist Episcopal Church, and Methodist Church South united to become The Methodist Church. A merger with the Evangelical United Brethren Church and The Methodist Church denominations in 1968 led to the final name of our church, Trinity United Methodist Church.
In 1967, The original building was expanded with the construction of the education wing, nearly doubling the area available for use and adding the convenience of a second entry onto Main Street. The addition of a commercial kitchen and adjoining dining room in the lower level, several meeting rooms upstairs and down, as well as becoming handicapped accessible greatly expanded space for both church and community use. The church can serve as a storm shelter for downtown residents when tornadoes threaten. In 1974, when several of our elementary schools on the hilltop were severely damaged by a massive tornado strike Trinity hosted classes and school meals for dislocated students. For many years Trinity has hosted AA meetings. Jesus’ Closet provides clothing and shoes for anyone in need. The church was home to a Nursery and Day Care in years past and those facilities remain intact.
Trinity often hosts community musical events taking advantage of the wonderful acoustics in the Sanctuary, improved by the addition of beautiful ceiling beams shortly after the original construction. The original organ was replaced by an outstanding instrument with 2,384 pipes in 1991. The Madison Performing Arts program often schedules highly talented musical groups, such as the Louisville Brass, in the Sanctuary. We have hosted many choirs from all over the Midwest, as well as being the site of the community choir’s performance of Handel’s Messiah. Because of the beauty of the Sanctuary and proximity of the Broadway Fountain, many weddings are held at Trinity. If the décor of the dining hall were improved caterers could easily use it for receptions.
Contemporary Worship Service is held in the Park between April and October as the weather allows. We participate in other community functions, such as providing water and restroom facilities for Farmers’ Market (the longest continuing Farmers Market in the nation-200 + years) on Saturday mornings, the monthly Music in the Park performances, and the Hispanic Festival each fall. The doors are open wide onto the park for Trinity’s Halloween Trunk or Treat Costume Party and, most recently, the Broadway Churches’ Community Picnic. During the Christmas holidays, the church has been included in the Tour of Homes, sharing lovely holiday décor inside and out. On Christmas Eve, Trinity Church is the place to be.
The generosity of church members has allowed Trinity to maintain the exterior of the building as years passed. However, the interior has need of improvements and repairs in many areas. There is a Trust Fund, replenished primarily by Memorial donations; however, these funds are not sufficient to meet the demands of both updating and maintaining this beautiful historic structure as it was intended. Especially as the congregation ages, the church is in need of financial support beyond what the congregation can provide.
Trinity United Methodist Church is the beneficiary of a proud tradition. Beginning with a Methodist prayer meeting, continuing with a congregation being formed and developing from the merger of three Methodist churches, Trinity is the recipient of a significant heritage.
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