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The rich history of Trinity UMC in Tallahassee given state recognition

The rich history of Trinity UMC in Tallahassee given state recognition

Missions and Outreach


Trinity United Methodist Church in Tallahassee calls itself the church with a heart. While that no doubt is true, it's also the church with a rich history of love, service, and faithfulness dating back nearly 200 years.

Select members of the congregation meticulously document that history and then make it available online to anyone. A quarterly newsletter called Crossroads, edited and founded by Dr. Pam Crosby, is like a stroll back through time.

Such dedication to linking today with the distant past is a labor of love, but it's also a daunting task. That may explain why it's too big of an undertaking for most churches. When it happens, though, it deserves a celebration.

That's what the state of Florida did when it declared Trinity was a heritage site. On April 11, members and leaders
Senior Pastor Wayne Wiatt at the dedication ceremony for the Trinity UMC state historical marker.
dedicated an official state marker erected in front of the church, honoring Tallahassee's first religious organization.

"I think it is just a tremendous symbol of pride for the people here. Many of our folks are second-, third-, and even fourth-generation residents of Tallahassee," Senior Pastor and North West District Superintendent Wayne Wiatt said.

"And for some, including myself, who were not connected to the history of Trinity, I think we all got a little teary-eyed.  It keeps our history alive, and to celebrate it."

Trinity's history began in 1824 when circuit-riding Methodist missionaries from South Carolina arrived in the Big Bend area of the Florida territory.

"On the fourth Sunday of September 1824, James Tabor and Isaac Sewell, who replaced circuit riders John Slade and John Twiggs, met with ten settlers—six white and four black—at the home of a Mr. Myers to organize the first religious organization in the new capital city," Trinity Vice-Chair of Historic Preservation Linda H. Yates wrote.

"The S.C. Methodist Conference took a bold step and created the Tallahassee District. Josiah Evans was appointed to be presiding elder and pastor of its first religious organization, the Tallahassee Mission. In 1825, a small wooden building was erected for worship services."

Florida didn't achieve statehood for another 21 years, and Tallahassee was designated the state capitol.

By that time, more settlers had arrived, and Trinity was well-established and even hosted Florida's first Annual Conference. The church placed a brass marker commemorating that distinction on the front door as worshipers enter the building. 

As Yates noted, "Trinity's story during the Civil War, Reconstruction, the Great Depression, World War II" is documented, preserved, and reminds members and pastors alike there that they are links in the chain of this great house of worship.

That's how the idea for the state marker came about.

"They saw other markers going up around the city and said, by golly, we need one too," Rev. Wiatt said.

While it might seem obvious that Trinity is deserving of such a distinction, making it happen is not a simple process.

After the historical group decided to pursue that honor, they needed someone with knowledge of navigating the complex state bureaucracy.

That person, as it turned out, already was in the building.

Bob Jones has attended Trinity since 2006. He loves the church.

"It seems to be a big tent. It's accommodating and friendly toward a great number of people," he said. "They're outgoing and a lot of trying to be involved with the community. It's just an open, caring congregation. I've been there for three pastors, and they've all been great."

Jones loves history and quickly found a home in Trinity's historical group. He also worked for many years in the same state department that would decide if Trinity got the marker or not. His office was next to the one occupied by a key member of the board that would rule on Trinity's application.

"He was the person who made it so fluid that we obtained the state marker," Trinity membership archivist Lynn McLarty said. 

The process, which took more than 18 months, required determination and patience. The state can be cautious about designating churches as historic landmarks, but Trinity certainly qualified.

But then, well, what words should go on the marker?

There is a strict limit on the number of characters that can fit in the space, and telling the history of a place as rich as Trinity in a maximum of 1,277 characters required what Wiatt called "extreme wordsmithing."

"They labored over that like they were delivering a child," he said.

Finally, after multiple reviews, additions, and subtractions, the text was set.

The marker arrived and was dedicated, and now anyone passing by the church campus can see for themselves how interwoven Trinity UMC is with the city it calls home.

And there is more to come.

Planning is already underway for the 200th-anniversary celebration in 2024. Trinity is working with city officials because Tallahassee's bicentennial is the same year.

"I've got visions of horseback riding into the chain of parks in front of the church," Wiatt said. "Maybe we can have horse-drawn carriages pull up in front of the church. It's going to be tremendous.

"I've been in ministry nearly 40 years and served many great churches. But I'll tell you what. There's something about Trinity. This place gets in your bones."

Joe Henderson is News Content Editor for FLUMC.org.


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