On August 28, 1881, A small group of men (17) met at 1007 Stark St. in the home of Ludwig Guckemus. It was decided at this meeting to form a Lutheran Church and Christian Day Care School. Within a week of drafting the resolution, (On September 4, 1881), the first service was conducted on Hamilton Street in West Utica. The service was conducted in German, by Mr. Conrad, a candidate for the Lutheran ministry. In November of 1881 the Reverend C.J. Oelschlaeger of Ohio was called to be the first pastor of Trinity. Under his direction a constitution was drawn and the church became permanently organized. In December 1881 the congregation elected its first officers. In 1883 Trinity became one of the first of the few churches in central New York to join the Missouri Synod, a mid-western Synod. All of the members of the first congregation were German immigrants. They lived in a self contained community. The Church was "their whole life; social and religious," like one large family.
The First Church Building
Pastor Charles Germann served for 37 years until 1920 as Trinity’s second minister. He oversaw significant change and growth. A new parsonage was constructed and the church completed. A Day School reached its peak attendance of 108 students in 1888. Communion initially offered once a year, eventually was offered every other Sunday and on Holy Days. He tendered his resignation in September of 1920; however, he did continued to serve as Pastor Emeritus until his death in 1932.
In October of 1920, the Reverend Louis Henze became the third Pastor of Trinity. Many changes occurred under his guidance. A new parish hall was erected and the church was renovated and redecorated. Stained glass windows were installed as memorials. During this time Trinity enjoyed a close relationship with St. John’s in Rome, as they were the only Missouri-Synod congregations in the area. Pastor Henze served until 1931.
Reverend Elmer Giese became the fourth Pastor of Trinity in December of 1931. Once again a series of changes occurred within the congregation. A substantial increase in membership and a decrease in the congregation's indebtedness were realized. Also, organizations such as a vested choir, a Walther League for youth and a men's club were started, along with "The Dorcas Guild” and Altar Guild. On December 8, 1946, in celebration of the 65th anniversary of Trinity Lutheran Church and the 15th year since Pastor Giese's installation, the congregation participated in a public burning of the church mortgage ( $24,500). Two years later, Pastor Giese accepted a call to Grace Lutheran Church in the Bronx.
The Reverend Arthur R. Kleps of New York City was installed as the fifth new Pastor of Trinity on October 3, 1948. In 1951 a relocation committee was formed. Steps to relocate were taken as membership was declining. The City of Utica was changing and many of Trinity's members were moving to other parts of the city. On February 17, 1955 the church purchased its present day site, a 3 acre plot from the estate of Margaret Beekman Harter. The new site was purchased for $30,000. The Hamilton Street property was sold for a price of $37,500. The cost of the new church building was $246,000. On January 12, 1958 the last service at the Hamilton St. church was held. Temporarily, services were held at the Old Dutch Reformed Church on Genesee St. The dedication of the new church was planned for May 11, 1958, however, the dedication was postponed because of a cracked marble altar panel and a last minute decision to add light diffusing terra cotta tile to the large chancel windows. On June 8, 1958 at 10:00 AM the dedication ceremony took place. Pastor Arthur Kleps retired in 1966.
Reverend Wilfred A. Hansel became the sixth pastor of Trinity. Pastor Wil Hansel, loved by his people, faithfully served them for the next 18 years. Pastor Hansel placed a high emphasis on youth programs and young people groups. It was during these years that Trinity established its own Vacation Bible School and Pre-School. Also, various efforts were made under Pastor Hansel's guidance to become involved in community outreach. Food donations were made to "The Anchor” and The Rescue Mission of Utica. Trinity also aided many needy community families. Many came to faith directly through the faithful efforts of Pastor Wil before he moved on to the Rochester area in 1984.
On January 20, 1985 The Reverend Steven D. Simon was installed as the seventh Pastor of Trinity. A native of Fort Wayne, Ind. Pastor Simon brought with him a wealth of musical talent which he shared with everyone. Sunday evening worship services were held and praise music was introduced to the congregation. Keyboard and guitar instruments were used and opportunities for volunteers to sing a solo were employed and enjoyed by all. "On the Right Track," a group started up by Pastor and 3 other members, made many public appearances in the Utica area. Family nights and square dancing were also part of the five Simon years, as were many other events aimed at getting the church family together more often. Pastor Simon made use of the new Christian radio station and ministered to many by broadcasting messages of hope and salvation. Pastor Simon is loved and missed by his Trinity Family.
Pastor John O’Connor served as interim pastor and Pastor David Bartels filled in from time-to-time throughout 1991 into 1992.
Reverend Herbert H. Grieves Jr., a native of Boston, MA was installed as the eighth pastor of Trinity on October 27, 1991. Elder training (including acceptance of female Elders), Elder home communion, Blended Worship Music, Helping Hands Ministry are but a few ministries begun by Pastor Grieves. “Find Us Faithful” was a fund-raising campaign designated to support an ambitious building project. The congregation erected an addition to the original facility that included: Preschool classrooms, a new entrance, bathrooms and elevator; making Trinity compliant for those who may be physically challenged. Pastor Grieves retired in April of 2002 and is remembered affectionately.
Reverend Dr. Richard Mokry received LCMS colloquy certification at St. Louis Seminary in December 2001. Hailing from Rome, NY, he was installed on November 17th 2002 as Trinity’s ninth minister. During his tenure he earned his Doctorate in Theology. Pastor Mokry initiated a ministerial relationship with African immigrants; which included tutelage of Vicar Ernest Hagan. Pastor Mokry answered a call to Levittown, PA in 2015.
Rev. David Werly, Circuit Advisor, agreed to shepherd Trinity as interim pastor. Vicar Emanuel Nyema of Syracuse served Trinity well for several months before illness curtailed our relationship with him. Rev. Werly began mentoring Vicar Peter Saie in June of 2016.
On February 9th 2019 Rev. Peter Saie, originally from Liberia, Africa, was ordained and installed as Trinity’s tenth and current Pastor. Initially he also served Redeemer Lutheran Church in Canastota, which has since dissolved. Currently he serves Bread and Life Church in Rome in addition to Trinity, Utica. With support from his congregations, LWML, etc. Pastor Peter has developed “Trinity Guesthouse” in Monrovia, Liberia. This project provides housing for missionaries who train pastors and lay-workers for the ministry in Liberia. It is Pastor’s heart’s desire to empower the youth, here at Trinity and in Liberia - to be invested in their church.
Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church has an extensive history of reaching out and serving others with the love of the Lord. Initially its early roots began with the German immigrants in the late 1800’s. Trinity extended hearts and hands to the Vietnamese refugees during the 1970’s; working with the then named, Refugee Center. During the early 2000’s, a concerted effort was made to welcome and assist refugees from various areas of Africa.
Today, as a Bible-based church, we continue to worship our Triune God, serve the needs of our brothers and sisters here and internationally and teach the saving Grace of Jesus as the path to Salvation.
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