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Church History

Historical Notes of Statesville’s Episcopalians




... Trinity Episcopal Church moved from Walnut Street, where its people had worshiped for 90 years, to our location at Center and Henkel Streets.  At that time the people of Trinity extended an invitation to the people of the Church of the Holy Cross, an African-American Statesville congregation, to join in ministry from this new site.  That invitation was graciously accepted, and our joint ministry has continued from that time … thus, the two crosses in our procession and the Holy Cross Room. 

What follows is some of the history of these events.

As we grow, Trinity looks for a new facility

After having worshiped at our location on Walnut Street for 90 years, an important topic of discussion at Trinity Church in the second half of the 1960's was the possibility of a new building.  An increasing number of communicants, along with a growing Sunday School and kindergarten, all demanded more space.  A site on Henkel Road, donated by A.W. Fanjoy, was selected for the new facility in April, 1966, and fourteen months later, on June 18, 1967, ground was broken.  Elmore construction agreed to the project for a total of $252,626.  W.L. Allison Jr. chaired the building committee and Thomas A. Fanjoy led the building fund campaign.


As construction on the Henkel Road facility proceeded through the first half of 1968, questions naturally followed.  What would become of the beloved Walnut Street Church which had served Trinity for nearly a hundred years?  Its

importance as a spiritual home produced a deep desire not to see the building deconsecrated, but maintained as a place of worship.  An initial plan explored with Mitchell College the possibility of lending the building to Mitchell in exchange for its upkeep.  A hope was, with this arrangement, that the church could also be used by area ministers as an ecumenical chapel.  The college however, felt the building to be too small to be of use, and declined Trinity's offer.


That spring a group of Quakers approached Trinity's vestry about purchasing the Walnut Street property, including the Parish House and Coble House.  Following a month's negotiations and the subsequent approval of the Diocesan Standing Committee, Trinity conveyed the property to the Friends Meeting for $20,000.

Trinity and Holy Cross merge

As the largest group of Episcopalians in Iredell County, the people of Trinity asked, "Should we not include the other Iredell Episcopalians as we occupy a new building?"


It happened that St. James in Shinnville had no clergy presence as 1968 began, and Suffragan Bishop Moore expressed hope that that congregation might worship at Trinity.  After some investigation Trinity Rector Frank Fagan reported to the Vestry in April that, as the minutes read: "...some [St. James members] are already attending services at Trinity and others are expected to attend here when services are discontinued at St. James."  No further mention appears of this considered merger, but St. James remains a vital, family-sized congregation still.


The third group of Episcopalians in Iredell County in 1968 was the congregation of the Church of the Holy Cross, an African-American mission.  In the fall of 1967, Trinity Rector the Rev. Frank Fagan led a vestry discussion regarding problems in the operation of Holy Cross.  The Washington Street building was in disrepair, and service times were erratic.  As the discussion concluded, Doris Griggs moved that Fagan be authorized to discuss with the members of Holy Cross whether they would like to attend Trinity Church, with the understanding that if they chose do to so, they would be welcomed.  The motion passed, 6-2.  Exactly what kinds of discussions ensued is unclear, but in May, 1968, Fagan reported to the Vestry that he had met with the Holy Cross Mission Committee and told them that he would be unable to continue serving Holy Cross after Trinity occupied its new facility.  The vestry minutes continue: "He extended to them an invitation for the Holy Cross congregation to transfer to Trinity.  The vestry discussed proper procedure for following up this invitation...."

On July 29, 1968, the Trinity Vestry extended a formal invitation to the warden and mission committee of Holy Cross to "join with Trinity Parish."  The letter recalls the decades-long association between the two churches and reasons that, with Trinity's expanded space, "there is no necessity for maintaining two Episcopal Churches in Statesville."  The letter concludes: "We welcome the congregation of Holy Cross into the life and work of Trinity Church.  We incorporate the history of this mission into our own....We thank God for His love and guidance and we beseech His blessing upon this union."


The response from the Holy Cross Vestry came on August 3 with the desired acceptance:  "The Mission Committee and congregation of Holy Cross Episcopal Mission do hereby prayerfully accept your invitation to unite with Trinity Parish....  It is our prayerful desire that Holy Cross Episcopal Mission members bring not only our bodies, but ourselves as well as our alms."


Bishop Fraser blessed the union, and the Standing Committee approved the conveyance of the Holy Cross property to Trinity, from which it was sold to Statesville Plywood & Veneer the following year.  Within a short time, Holy Cross members participated in all aspects of the life of the enlarged Trinity family, including Vestry and choir.


On Saturday, September 28th, at four o'clock in the afternoon the new Trinity Church was consecrated by the Right Reverend Thomas A Fraser, Bishop of North Carolina, and the Right Reverend William T Moore, Suffragan Bishop of North Carolina.

The history of Holy Cross Church

The Episcopal Church of the Holy Cross was started on December 7th, 1887, by the Reverend J. H. Griffith, Jr.  In August of 1898, a Sunday School was started; and a year later, the Bishop confirmed twelve people. Around this time the Holy Cross congregation moved from an old storehouse to the Good Samaritan Hall on Garfield Street.


Diocesan records show that in 1900 the congregation acquired a piece of property on Washington Street, where they constructed a church building. According to the Diocesan Journal of 1901, the cost of the facility was around $400.


The Rev. T. Bailey, Deacon-in-charge, was succeeded by the Rev. Primus Alston and a succession of short-term priests. In 1911 Archdeacon H. B. Delaney took charge of the congregation and served until 1918, when he was consecrated "Suffragan Bishop in charge of the colored work."  Bishop Delaney has perhaps become best known as the father of the famous Delaney sisters.


For the next fifteen years, Holy Cross was served by lay and ordained leaders.  In 1934 the Rev. John Walter Herritage was named Priest-in-charge and served until his death, which was the result of an automobile accident in early 1952.  In March of that year, the Rev. Ralph Kimball, Rector of Trinity Church, Statesville, took charge of Holy Cross at the request of the bishop.


Holy Cross's Washington Street facility needed extensive repairs at this time, and the congregation undertook a renovation program in the fall of 1952.  Rotten wood under the church was replaced and underpinned with brick. New windows and doors were purchased, and asbestos shingles were placed on the outside walls. New wiring and lights were installed. The ceiling was refurbished, and the walls were covered with board and painted. The senior warden of

Trinity, A. W. Fanjoy, gave a new floor.  Last, a new stove and a new rug for the sanctuary were purchased.  On February 4th, 1953, Bishop Baker held a service of thanksgiving for the restoration work on the church.  In December, 1953, an electronic organ was purchased; it was fully paid for in less than a year.


In April, 1954, Bishop Penick organized the congregation as an "Organized Mission" and on May 11, 1954, Holy Cross was admitted into union with the Convention; its representative, Mr T. S. Kimbrough, was given a seat and voice at that convention.


Retired Bishop the Rt. Rev. F.A. McWin served Holy Cross from November, 1954, until January 16th, 1955. Following the Bishop, various clergymen served the congregation for short periods until the Rev. Downs Spitler was assigned to Holy Cross as a part of the Associated Missions, comprising churches in Cooleemee, Fork, Mooresville, Iredell County, Rowan County, and Salisbury.  Spitler served Holy Cross until 1964, when the Rev. Frank Fagan, Rector at Trinity, assumed the role of Priest-in-Charge.


On May 31st, 1967, a letter of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of North Carolina stated that Holy Cross was thereby reduced to an "Unorganized Mission" due to a decrease in numbers.  The 1966 Parochial Report lists only 22 communicants, of whom only 15 were adult.


In August 1968, the mission committee of Holy Cross accepted the invitation of the Vestry of Trinity Church to merge the two churches.  When services began in the new church on North Center Street on September 8th, 1968, services at Holy Cross were discontinued, and the two churches became one.


(From notes by Alice Ramseur, member of Holy Cross and later Trinity.)

The move to Henkel Road

A new, larger facility, and the merger with Holy Cross brought new people and new energy to Trinity Episcopal Church.  1971 Vestry minutes note a large Confirmation class of thirty-one.  A new rector followed the completion of the building program as well.  The Rev. Frank Fagan accepted a new call early in 1969, and the vestry called the Rev. Clay Turner from his Rocky Mount congregation in the late spring.  But, as does each decade, the 1970's brought its own set of challenges as well.


The occupation of a new building occurs over some time, and lasts well beyond the dedication.  Living in any new dwelling requires some getting used to, and church space is no different.  Decisions on the use of new rooms, as well as final touches to certain parts of the facility proceeded steadily.  


Within a year a proposal was made to begin a church library and name it in memory of Ben Watts, a long-time church treasurer and lay reader.  It was Watts who preached the final sermon at the church on Walnut Street when Frank Fagan was called away due to the death of his mother.  Watts died shortly after the move to Henkel Road. The motion passed and in July of 1969 the Ben Watts Memorial Library was dedicated in one of the new rooms in the education wing.  Over the next few years Bob and Ruth Dietz and Loretta Graham catalogued books for the library.  

The parlor, now the Holy Cross Room, was initially named the Fanjoy Room in memory of Abner Fanjoy, who donated the property for the church.


Both the nave and the parish hall were larger than any one space at Walnut Street and presented acoustical difficulties for some members.  A request for special microphones for the hearing impaired met with empty coffers at the time, although some years later a sound system was installed, with microphones at the pulpit, lectern, and altar.


The Trinity congregation welcomed the opportunity to offer its new space in service to the Statesville community. Various groups, including scouts and explorers, made use of the parish hall.  One relationship which has continued is with Alcoholics Anonymous, which has used the Trinity facilities since 1978.


There was a stirring of liturgical innovation in the 1970's, and one expression of that merits mention.  Making use of this new facility, The Rev. Turner celebrated at least two "folk masses," which is what contemporary services were termed in the early 1970's.  These were enthusiastically received and, according to one memory, "had people lined up along the windows outside the church."


Despite successful fund-raising and donated land, the Henkel Road facility came with a mortgage.  In 1971 discussion began around beginning a building fund to retire the debt.  Less than eight years later, in early 1979, the new building was paid off.

A Brief Timeline of Trinity and Holy Cross,

which emphasizes our facilities and improvements made to them

1858 – First Episcopal service held in Statesville in First Presbyterian Church.  Congregation named Chapel of              the Cross.

1862 – First baptismal service held in County Courthouse.

1875 – First church building constructed on Walnut Street by 28 members at a cost of $1,800.

1879 – Walnut Street church consecrated on October 16 and given the name Trinity Church.

1884 – Major improvements made to Walnut Street church with the addition of Gothic windows and one of                  the first pipe organs in Statesville.

1887 – Congregation for black Episcopalians founded and given the name Holy Cross Church.

1894 – Trinity Church status changed from self-supporting Parish to Mission due to decrease in membership.

1900 – Holy Cross Church constructed building on Washington Street.

1948 – Trinity Church regained Parish status.

1952 – Henkel Road property acquired.

1967 – Construction of new facility begun in June.

1968 – Congregations of Holy Cross and Trinity churches merged.  New facility dedicated on September 28                  and given the name Trinity Church.

1979 – Henkel Road mortgage retired.

1989 – Eighteen-rank Meador Organ installed and dedicated.

1996 – Nave stained glass windows installed and dedicated.

2005 – Original tile roof on the building replaced

2007 – To mark the 150th anniversary of Trinity Church, the Vestry decided to move forward

            with plans to renovate and enlarge our facility.

2008 – Following a feasibility study conducted by Wiltshire and Co., the capital campaign Answering God's                  Call to Love and Serve began.

2009 – A Groundbreaking Service for Church construction and renovations held on June 9.  The Right                            Reverend Bishop Michael B. Curry joined The Reverend R. Bradley Mullis for the dedication and                        consecration of the expansion of our new facility on November 22.

2010 – The Community Garden started at the corner of Armstrong and Center Streets, and it flourishes today.

2011 – The Farmer custom-designed organ console used for the first time on Easter Sunday, April 24.

2014 – The Parish Hall and the Kitchen completely renovated. Dedication of our refurbished space held on                    December 7.

2015 – The labyrinth added to our Community Garden site at the corner of Armstrong and Center Streets.

2016 – The Answering God's Call to Love and Serve concluded.  100% of the amount pledged received.

2016 – The mortgage for the Church renovation retired on June 9.

2017 – The Memorial Garden enhanced with the addition of a waterfall and a meditation pond.

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