Trinity Baptist Church will be celebrating 70 years of ministry in Kerrville on March 29.
The congregation still includes three members who were charter members of the church.
Current Pastor John Wheat said they also are embarking on a building project that will double the size of the church facility.
Pastor Wheat said “Blessed to Bless” is more than the name of their capital campaign; it’s a movement among those who understand “we have been blessed to be a blessing.”
He asks them, as they approach “Commitment Sunday” on March 29, to keep praying about the amounts they will commit to “Blessed to Bless,” and notes those amounts should be in addition to their regular tithes and offerings, as he also will do.
Their project is to add 20,000-plus square feet of new space to their buildings on the east side of the current worship center, taking up part of that parking lot.
The addition will house a new youth ministry space, an adult education space, an expanded foyer, a main gathering space, and 80-plus added parking spaces displaced by the new building.
Fundraising goals are set in three potential phases, starting with $1.5 million and growing from there.
The morning services on March 29 are expected to include past staff members. Wheat said he thinks he’s the sixth pastor, and they have invited two past pastors, Bob Schmelikof and Bill Blackburn, to join them.
One charter member is Cynthia Brehmer Coldwell.
Her memories of early church services came from her teenage years.
“One Wednesday evening during the pastor’s sermon, my friend Beverly Peterson and I were whispering on the back row. We had no idea our delightful teenage conversation was disturbing anyone, until we heard (Pastor) H. Marshall Smith interrupt his sermon to call us by name to come on down and sit on the front row. We were mortified.”
Coldwell said Beverly is the granddaughter of Trinity’s first church secretary; and Cynthia was the daughter of the church’s first musical accompanist.
Another charter member, Joyce Taylor Barton, provided an early memory of her own.
“My parents, older sister and I became charter members of Trinity Baptist Church on April 5, 1950.
“As Trinity grew from meeting in a home to building the church on Bluebell, the young people’s group grew. Having several piano teachers and enough voices, music was a way to encourage young people to participate as part of the adult choir. I remember a woman stood behind me in the choir whose voice was very deep. I did not understand why she continued to sing. As my voice has deepened, I now know that she loved to sing and was welcomed by Trinity then as today to sing. My sister played piano for church services as a student.
“Alto Frio Baptist Encampment was near and a group from Trinity attended that first summer in 1950. Sleeping on cots under tents was common. Adult sponsors suffered the same heat, bugs, snoring and also prepared meals for our church group.
“Leaving former church friends as a seventh grader to become a charter member was the bad part. The good part was that I tagged along with my older sister and three or four older girls who also were charter members. Relegated to a far corner of the back seat of a car, I learned that local girls after church services were of interest to young male camp counselors wanting to strike up a conversation at “The Grove.” The game was to entice “them” to follow and then promptly lose them on hard-to-maneuver roads. Seems pointless today, but it was a harmless bit of summer fun at the time.
“A bit of trivia interest – the Sunday Bible class we now attend was led in a class reading material with a quote by James F. Strange of the University of South Florida. An early member of Trinity Baptist Church and a Tivy ’55 class member told me years ago that she and her husband were spending time on an archeological dig in Israel. I contacted her. The quote was by her husband who taught at Schreiner (University) 1961-63. They were married 57 years before his 1982 death, and most of his career was spent excavating a site called Sepphoris, about 5 miles from Nazareth.
“Nurtured by Trinity Baptist Church in its early years and contributing information to a current Bible study – amazing,” Barton noted.
“Those founders were willing to help establish Trinity with faith, time and money. They were teachers, music leaders, faithful workers and believers. Trinity Baptist Church today seems to be following those who laid the way and practiced their faith,” Barton said.
Nita Chenault Ernst is the third charter member that they will recognize.
Coldwell said the land for the new church (now the chapel) was donated by dairy farmer G.L. Richardson, and she remembers staying overnight at their home with their daughter Mary Beth, where his wife insisted everyone rise early for breakfast, after Mr. Richardson had milked his cows, and then he read a chapter of the Bible before they ate. “He was the Christian leader of his family,” Coldwell said.
She also remembers being baptized in Turtle Creek. She remembers one church service on Sundays for all generations and said, “The older people were very important to me.”
Wheat agreed, though they have three Sunday services now, it’s not the church building but the people in it.
According to the local history book by Clara Watkins, “Kerr County Texas 1856-1976,” Trinity Baptist Church, located in Blue Bell Hills, was organized April 11, 1950, with 177 original members. When the charter was issued in September 1950, the membership was listed as 266.
The first meeting of the congregation was on the Schreiner Institute campus, where Robbins-Lewis Memorial Auditorium was used until March of 1951, when the congregation moved into its own building of native stone in Blue Bell Hills.
Coldwell remembers her mother complaining of the cold during services in that pavilion, not closed in for weather.
In 1955, Trinity Baptist had a membership of 464 with a fully graded program for all departments.
The first unit of the church was erected in winter 1950-51, and was occupied it March of 1951. The second structure, the Youth Building, was completed in 1952. A third building, at Alto Frio Encampment near Leakey, was completed in 1953. This building had a varied use for all groups in retreats and summer encampment activities.
Watkins wrote then, “Future plans for the congregation call for the erection of additional buildings for the educational program and also an auditorium. The church owns three and one-half acres in addition to the pastor’s residence.”
During the first five months of Trinity Baptist’s history, the Rev. H. T. Tinsley served as supply pastor. In September 1950, the Rev. H. Marshall Smith took over the pastorate and was continuing to direct the work five years later.
In an historical calendar published in 2006 by the Kerr County Historical Commission, there’s a one-page history of the Union Church, its founding and uses into the late 1990s.
That history said the Union Church was constructed in Kerrville, and sold to the “Union Church Association of Kerrville” by Capt. Charles Schreiner for $70. The building was then located at the northeast corner of Main and Clay Streets.
In the agreement, the Missionary Baptist congregation had services there the third Sabbath of each month.
That history is accompanied by an illustration titled “Union Church Family Tree” that shows the First Baptist Church congregation that first worshiped there (starting Dec. 24, 1885) eventually “birthed” Trinity Baptist Church and at least six other Baptist congregations in and around Kerrville.