The History of Trinity Church
On June 2, 2013 we celebrated 100 years and a day since we held our first church service in the home of Mr. and Mrs. P. R. Varian in the village of Gulph Mills. With both a sense of pride and accomplishment we look back on the 100 years of worship and work to serve our local community and the broader world around us.
As recalled by Mrs. C. Marjorie Varian on our 50th anniversary, the church was started based on a felt need for an Anglican church due to a growing population of English descent. The Rev. Henry W. Burk, the founder of several local churches, especially Washington Memorial chapel, was put in charge of work. However, he was eventually assigned elsewhere. Established as a mission, a number of part-time and full-time clergy and lay leaders served us for decades.
Mr. & Mrs. Varian were the movers and shakers who mobilized their neighbors to build Trinity Church parish life in Gulph Mills and to raise money to build a Parish House. The corner stone of the Parish House, now known as Varian Hall, was laid July 11, 1914 and was dedicated in 1917. Our Trinity Church family grew solidly over the decades but increased dramatically in the early 1950’s when the Schuylkill Expressway came through Gulph Mills, linking Philadelphia with King of Prussia and the Pennsylvania Turnpike. We gained a full-time rector in 1955, broke ground for a new church in September 1957, and held our first service in it in September 1958. In May 1961 the Diocesan Convention granted us full parochial status.
On June 1, 2013 Trinity Church, Gulph Mills reached its centennial anniversary. Compared to many Episcopal parishes in the Diocese of Pennsylvania, this makes Trinity a relative youngster. Nevertheless, during these past hundred years great social and technological changes have taken place, events that have impacted the life and ministry of the Church.
Early in 1913, a petition started by Mr. John Conrad was sent to the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, requesting that an Episcopal mission or chapel be established at the Gulph, Montgomery County, a small village about fifteen miles from Philadelphia and seven miles from Valley Forge.
The bishop consented and a meeting was held in May 1913 in the Bird-in-Hand Schoolhouse (Gulph Mills did not exist at the time, and the post office address was Bird-in-Hand). On Trinity Sunday, June 1st of that year the first service was held in the parlor of the home of Mr. & Mrs. P. R. Varian. Seventy men, women and children attended this first service sitting on one hundred year-old benches that came from an old school house with a cross of two cedar posts that had been fashioned by Mr. Varian and his future son-in-law.
Transportation in those days was limited to horse and wagon, and roads were only dirt paths. Only one or two local residents owned automobiles and therefore membership was limited to those people living in close proximity to the church. On July 11, 1914, the cornerstone of the first building was laid.
During the ensuing years Trinity underwent gradual change but it was not until after the end of World War II that a major shift in population began to take place.
Fueled by the post-war boom in the population growth and housing in the King of Prussia area and Gulph Mills, as it now began to be called, Trinity experienced an increase in families seeking a church home. With the completion of the Schuylkill Expressway and the increased development in the late 1950’s Trinity considered moving to a more central location in King of Prussia, but a parish meeting led to the recommendation to the diocese that the church remain in Gulph Mills to which the bishop consented. In 1956 Trinity Nursery and Kindergarten was started as an outreach ministry to meet the needs of families in the area. The present church building was constructed in 1957-58 and on May 17, 1961 Trinity achieved full Parish status.
During the following decades, membership has varied as the economic and demographic cycles experienced growth and decline. Through the leadership of a succession of rectors and lay leaders Trinity has continued its emphasis on Christian Education and Formation for all ages, and many outreach ministries such as a monthly worship service at Chester Valley Rehabilitation Center, and its support of St. James School in the East Falls section of the City of Philadelphia. Trinity’s “mission is to provide a spiritual home where all life’s sojourners are welcomed and energized to proclaim the Gospel in word and action.”