The Beginning of Trinity
In 1953, Calvary Baptist Church of Eureka began a mission church in Arcata. Several members of Calvary, along with ten tentmakers, under the leadership of Lee Sherrard, rented the Arcata Labor Temple and began to meet as Calvary Baptist Mission. When they had fewer than fifty members, they began looking for property to make their dreams for a church come true. Several building sites were turned down because we visualized a prosperous church that would need, in years to come, more than one building and parking area.
The site chosen was a miraculous answer to the prevailing prayer and vision of Lee Sherrard and Jack Combs, two men instrumental in founding this work for God. They knelt and prayed on the property, then a cow pasture, and arose with complete assurance that this was God's chosen land. Church history records this: we felt the Lord's leadership, first in causing us to consider this property on Alliance, and secondly being able to purchase it at a time when property around us was increasing in value. A tremendous faith was shown in God when this number of people, with no capital and few families from which to bring in an income decided to buy land for $8,000.
Due to their vision and God's provision, the Northside Baptist Church (changed to Trinity Baptist a few weeks later) was organized on Sunday afternoon, February 7, 1954. Immediately after the signing of the church charter, the forty-one charter members voted to begin a mission in Samoa. The church purchased the property on Alliance Road Monday morning, February 8, and voted unanimously at their first business meeting Wednesday night, February 10, to construct a church building with a capacity of five hundred. Reflecting upon this time, Rae Graham said, We knew we couldn't do it. We had to trust God to meet our needs.
The people had nothing more than their faith in God to carry them step-by-step in building a church. But faith in God was enough and over the next twelve years Trinity experienced growth in both membership and outreach. They had doubts about building a very large building when they began construction. Yet within three years after construction began, they were once more faced with the need for more room. Some Bible Study classes were forced to meet in places such as tool sheds and small sheds built to house missionaries. Outreach also grew. By Trinity's 15th anniversary the church had been instrumental in establishing six missions in the area, including works at Samoa, Manila, Sunny Brae, and Hoopa.
Trinity began because the people were willing to believe that God would meet their needs. The church was organized, property bought, and buildings built with prayer, perseverance, commitment, and faith, that: What God had built, He would fill.
Trinity in the 80's
The 1980's were some of the most exciting years of Trinity history. Like most churches, Trinity has experienced ups and downs. During the late 1970's attendance was down, finances were tight, morale was low, and the church had become pastorless.
At that time God moved by bringing Larry McCain here as shepherd. As the people rallied behind their new pastor, morale was restored, the vision rekindled, and the church began to grow. Bill Wayman, Mike Childress and Eric Leong were added to the leadership team. A strong college group, a large youth group (FOG) and a music program led by Harriette Hemmasi, contributed to the rapid growth. John McCain graduated from OBU in 1982 and joined the team for the next three years. He was instrumental in setting up our Evangelism Explosion program and the Growth Spiral.
And grow it did. The average Bible Study attendance for the first six months of the 1979-1980 church year was forty-five. The average attendance during the same time period of the 1984-1985 church year was 175, the highest in the thirty-year history of the church! During that same time period total receipts almost quadrupled. The church saw its parking lot paved, the building remodeled, and the personnel grow from one bi-vocational pastor to multi-staff. (Pastor Larry continued to teach school in Eureka till 1994)
During the summer and fall of 1982, Trinity raised $55,000 to pay off the debt of the parking lot and to purchase the house on Stromberg Avenue for use as education space. On April 17, 1983, the church broke ground for an interim auditorium, which would later be converted to a Family Life Center.
In January of 1985 the church purchased twenty-five feet along its southern border, and it was given an adjacent lot. The following year it received another lot. This was a direct answer to specific prayer. God did it!
On Sunday, June 16, 1985 the church came together to bring a special offering and to turn in their pledge cards for the purpose of raising the funds to finish the building. When added to what the college students had given a week earlier, the total of the pledges came to $21,145 and the special offerings were approximately $10,000 in cash and material goods.
Money continued to come in, and at each stage of construction God was faithful to send the people with the needed expertise to complete the work. As an example, God sent Gene Schwartz and Lloyd Young to build the trusses. The money, materials and people were available just when they were needed.
From July of 1985 through April of 1986 Bill Wayman and George Thode worked full time as volunteers. The only hired labor used was for the application of the stucco, the laying of the carpet, and the roofing for the foyer.
Men's Ministries of our California Southern Baptist Convention, as well as interdenominational groups from Mobile Missionary Assistance Program (MMAP), donated many hours. Total cash outlay for the construction, parking, landscaping and lighting was approximately $190,000.
The completed interim worship unit provided seating for as many as 450 people as well as five offices, a prayer room (which is always open), the future kitchen, a foyer, restrooms and a choir room. The parking lot had been expanded to 116 spaces and had been lighted. God had provided all this for His purposes.
By Easter Sunday of 1986 Trinity Church celebrated its first worship service in the newly finished Interim Worship Center. After the initial strangeness of being in a bigger facility was forgotten, we joyfully gathered together each Sunday celebrating God's presence and goodness. Soon we were in two back-to-back worship services with two Sunday Schools. Several different worship leaders served during these years. Don Cushman served more than once, because he left to continue his education several times. He eventually left to start Messiah Ministries and lead worship at Arcata First Baptist. Dan Ely, Robert Biele, Jon Luken, and several others also served during these years. Trinity's goal has always been to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry.
When Dan Ely returned from serving with Covenant Players he brought the talented and creative Kathleen back with him as his wife. This was an adventurous time for Trinity as we tried many new ideas such as a community based orchestra and the use of drama, signing, and creative movement as part of the worship services.
In March of 1989 John McCain came back on staff full time after being gone for three years. (He had graduated from Southwestern Seminary in June of 1988) Our small group leadership team led by John initiated a thriving small group ministry.
Another event that contributed to Trinity's growth was the addition of a full time secretary. Dee Smith came to serve in October of 1989 and has become an executive secretary through these years of faithful service.
Trinity in the 90's
People were not only involved in community outreach, but in world outreach. Pastor Larry went with a team to South Africa in 1989 and Mae Leos began a series of trips to India. Pastor Larry, Don and Patti Bailey, and Mae went to Israel in the early 90's. Mae and Ruby Heckert, and later, Mae and Patti, went to Russia. Pastor Larry joined a team going to Davao, Philippines, where Trinity had supported a missionary full time for several years. Two years later a team of six people (Jeff and Janine Ragan, Ryan Gates, Mae Leos, Sarah Heberly, and Pastor Larry) went back to the Philippines and were used to present the gospel to thousands of high school students, with hundreds praying to receive Christ. (Trinity has continued to contribute 20% or more of undesignated funds to missions, contributing over $650,000 in the last 24 years.)
In the summer of 1990 Trinity looked at a new aspect of the vision for use of our buildings. We have always wanted the buildings to be used to their fullest potential. The 100 wing was completely remodeled to make it possible to accommodate Arcata Christian School, grades 1-6. This became possible by installing removable walls creating four 36by 24 rooms. Bill Wayman and George Thode led in this building project. The kitchen was then completely remodeled.
In the summer of 1991 Trinity helped start Creation Research of the North Coast. CRNC is now a 501-C, scientific educational non-profit and has meetings still here at Trinity and they go around the country with seminars, television, and web site.
Early in 1994 we began seriously considering a church plant in McKinleyville. John McCain, Dan and Kathleen Ely, Mike Merrill, Mark Aultman, Debra Buschkamp, Peter and Barbara Towne, Matt and Staci Strahl, and our Director of Missions, Dr. Jerry Corbaley and his wife, Lynn, formed a planning team to start the work. On Easter Sunday, 1995, New Heart Community Church held their first worship service at the newly completed Community Center, Pierson Park, with 192 people attending. Approximately 50 of those were from Trinity. With Dan leading the worship at New Heart, Jon Luken replaced him at Trinity.
In the Spring of 1996, Derk Schulze, an elder at Trinity for several years, left to pastor Sunny Brae Church. Later that year Jon Luken accepted a call to become Sunny Brae's worship leader. God led a total of five families to join Derk in rebuilding the support base and leadership team at Sunny Brae. Trinity commissioned this group in the summer of 1996.
Both the New Heart and Sunny Brae groups continue to have keys to our offices and use of our equipment with our blessing, although they seldom need them now. We continue to work together to build the Kingdom. Eric Leong, Campus director of Campus Crusade for Christ at Humboldt State, eventually went to New Heart to serve with them but still had an office at Trinity until 2008. He and Arlene were instrumental in Trinity's college outreach for many years.
Pastor Larry felt stretched to the limit by this sharing of leadership, even with Don Bailey, David Karnes, Bruce McCay, Mark Ahrens, and Tom Harmer's continued help. Then God led Trinity to call Jeff Ragan from Arizona to work with youth and small groups. Jeff married Janine 14 months later and faithfully served for eight years. The next year God added Bruce as a permanent music coordinator/worship leader. Bruce did an excellent job leading us in worship for eight years.
Eric Leong, Mark Ahrens, Dillon Savage and David Karnes provided the technical support to set up our sound system and later the video projection to replace the two slide projectors we had been using for worship. Mark started putting the sermon outlines on Power Point in 2002.
David Karnes was an exemplary servant-leader. He trained Gayle Kenny, who began her thorough and loving care of Trinity's grounds. He faithfully served as our Rescue Mission preacher.
During all this time people were being equipped. As an example of this, more than sixty people were trained and certified to lead others to Christ through Evangelism Explosion.
Trinity Church 2000 and counting....
As Trinity moved into the new century, He brought many new people to help with leadership, including Dr. Jim Lovelace, Mike Childress (returned after serving at AFB for many years), Timm Kiewell, Dennis Guthary, and Dennis Parker.
The 2000's have been a busy, fulfilling time of expanding our base for ministry. We have re-roofed the 100 and 200 wing, resealed the parking lot, refurbished the foyer and refocused the long-term vision of a multipurpose building to be used for reaching out to youth and others interested in sports.
In 2005 we put down a gym floor. We are preparing the area in the northeast corner of the Family Life Center for the new kitchen. We plan to move the offices to the north end of the 200 wing, and put double glass doors at the front of the widened hallway in front of the restrooms in the 200 wing. This will provide an additional handicap entrance and a wide hallway to the new worship unit.
God has used Trinity to start churches in McKinleyville, Sunny Brae, Manila, Willow Creek, Hoopa, and Samoa. Since 1980 Trinity has baptized 619 people and discipled hundreds more. As we build to provide for future generations, we have faith that God will continue to bring people new life through this ministry. Our continued focus will be on being On Mission. As a result we will continue to be a lighthouse to reach out to the lost, a spiritual hospital serving as a recovery center, a spiritual school to develop character, a house of prayer to receive power, a place of praise to worship God, and a family of fellowship to minister while developing skills. We will continue being a people who bring Him glory in the Church. (Eph.3:21)
Trinity Church has experienced 56 exciting years of seeing God at work among us in ways that have brought glory and praise to Him. The church has also had failures, found forgiveness, and moved on in God's grace. We stand on the threshold of another half-century, and we are eagerly watching to see where God is at work so we can join Him. We want out lives to count!
The vision expands, shifts, and reconfigures itself but the vision that of reaching the world for Christ, remains. We remain committed to be and help others become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.
To GOD be the glory.