Trinity Church in Houtzdale, PA, is a prime example that you don’t have to be a large church to be effective in your community and to deliver on God’s promise of compassion. They are representative of the current revival of the neighborhood church model where congregations live into being the church of and in the neighborhood in which they are located.
Trinity is doing just that. They support many local clubs and institutions that make a difference in the community. They recently completed their semi-annual Roast Beef Dinner, held in late spring. A 10% of the proceeds from last year’s dinner went towards three local fire companies and to a local Veterans’ Halfway House. They also give 10% of their total income each month to the local school’s backpack program that provides weekend meals to needy children.
They have also leveraged their space to support the community. The church facility is used by the Houtzdale Lions Club for their dinner meetings and, from February through April, as practice for their annual “Showboat” Show. The Showboat Show is held each year as the Lions Club’s major fundraiser and Fr. Bill Ellis, vicar at Trinity Church, and a few members of the church participate in the show. Other organizations also use the facility for their meetings: the Widow/Widowers Club, the MoValley Alumni Association, and the Lady Damsel Soccer Club.
Trinity does fellowship that is small and intimate. Each Sunday they have coffee hour and bible study following Eucharist. They are currently studying “The Story” by Adam Barr, which is about how God goes to great lengths to rescue lost and hurting people, which is something Trinity is familiar with. Instead of creating a program to help the poor and marginalized that they would not be able to sustain due to their size, they instead help the individual. Recently they helped a young woman who has Chiari, a disease that affects the brain. The church community came together to provide childcare, cook meals, and help pay medical bills.
Trinity also shows a compassion for who they are and who they were. In addition to fellowship, Coffee Hour is about honoring their older members and the sharing of memories. Recently, they spent time remembering when there were enough Sunday School children at Holy Trinity to put on a Christmas Pageant. They had enough children for a Mary, Joseph, an innkeeper, shepherds, angels and three wise men. There is a dust free box packed full of nostalgia in the back closet. Over 70 years ago, a group of dedicated women made costumes for the “actors.” Gauzy white angel gowns, homespun drab looking tunics for the shepherds, a better quality tunic for the innkeeper and rich, brightly colored robes and turbans for the three kings. The competition to be Mary, in a flowing blue headdress and pure white gown, and stately, protective Joseph, standing so proudly by, was fierce, but Miss Langsford had the last word. She was a retired schoolteacher and would not tolerate any nonsense.
The costumes, made many years ago, were used this past Christmas. The older members sat in the congregation and watched their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren wearing them as they put on a shortened version of the pageant that was done so many years ago. The pageant was enjoyed by all and the children did a great job, even the youngest, who is 2.
Trinity knows that even though the makers of these costumes have passed on, what they made with love lives on and will live on in the compassion of this neighborhood church.
By Eleanor Washic and Elizabeth Carey, members of Trinity, Houtzdale.