“From Whence We Came”
By Alpha Henderson
Trinity East United Methodist Church is an offspring of Trinity United Methodist Church, the oldest Black Methodist Church in Houston, Texas. The origin of Trinity was from the first Methodist church which was organized in 1841 for White members. However, the original sixty-eight members included thirty-two Blacks, both free and slaves. It was located above a store on Capital Avenue between Milam and Louisiana in fourth ward. In 1843, the congregation still including the slaves, built their own church at the same site. The slaves worshipped in the afternoon with the White pastor until 1848. An African Mission was organized in 1848. A small frame building was built on the northwest corner of Milam at Louisiana Street site in 1851 and was used as their place of worship for fourteen years.
In 1865, the African Mission along with pioneer preacher, David Elias Dibble, organized Freedman Episcopal Methodist Church (later named Trinity Episcopal Church, currently, Trinity United Methodist Church).
In 1866, the White members deeded the little frame building to the Black members. They purchased land and moved at Bell Street. Many of the members migrated to Third Ward, a distance farther from the church’s new location.
In 1908, the Trinity members who had migrated to Third Ward found it inconvenient to get downtown to Trinity. It was then that William Young, a dedicated member of Trinity and interested in the Christian education of the children in the Third Ward, together with others interested persons, organized a Sunday school. Mr. Young was elected Superintendent and Madame’s C.A. Tilly, Savannah Townsend and Ella Nelson as teachers. They met at the Cook’s Hall on Holman Street between Bastrop and Hutchins Street. Within one year, the group had increased its enrollment to potential church membership.
In 1909, Reverend Sidney Johnson was assigned to organize a new Methodist Church. A small building as constructed by volunteer workers with old second hand lumber on the corner of Dowling and McGowen and was named the Dowling Street Mission or referred to as “LITTLE TRINITY”.
The church was completed destroyed by a hurricane in September 1915, the group met at Mr. Young’s home until a new building could be constructed at McGowen and St. Charles Street. The church name was changed to Calvary Mission because of its new location. The name was later changed to Trinity East because it was East of its mother church, “Trinity” and had out grown its mission status. The church encountered a financial struggle and had at least eight pastors in its first ten years. In 1918 Reverend Julius Scott, young and very energetic, was assigned as pastor. During his administration, the church paid all of its debts and had such phenomenal growth that a larger facility was needed. Reverend Scott began to raise money for the first unit of this permanent structure, which became a reality in 1925 during the pastorate of Reverend G.E.E. Belcher. Serving as trustees were: J. C. Sanderson, P. H, Holden, J.W. Young, R. H. Butler, S.S. McCoy, J.J. Houston, R.K. Isaacs and Julius Scott-District Superintendent.
The Little white frame church was moved to the back of the lot for the youth and community activities. It remained there until 1961, when it was given to Jones Memorial Methodist Church which had its beginning on Holloway Drive in 1961.
The early church historian, the late Thelma Scott Bryant (then 102 years old) stated the soon after the first permanent structure was completed in 1925, it was discovered that the new building extended several feet beyond the church’s property. Additional property was purchased and financed by the late Samuel Taylor, a faithful member of the church. After several years passed and the church could repay Mr. Taylor, he donated the property to the church along with additional land to build an educational annex. Mrs. Bryant also stated that Trinity East encountered additional financial problems during the Great Depression and economic crash of 1929. It was very difficult to make the mortgage payments on the new building. Dr. Julius Scott was reassigned to Trinity East in 1931 and served until 1944. Again, the entire mortgage was paid in full. As a beacon pf light in the Third Ward community, Trinity East has been one of the leaders in fulfilling its major purpose of leading men of Christ. It was the first Black Methodist Church in Third Ward area and attracted members from Texas Southern University (Houston Negro College for Negroes), Emancipation Park, Riverside Hospital ( Negro Hospital), Blue Triangle Branch of the YWAN and the entire Third Ward. In 1950, as the church continued growth, the second unit, which is the present sanctuary was added at a cost of $50,000.00 under the administration of Reverend L. B. Felder. Serving as trustees were: J. R. Reynolds, Dave Lowe, James King, T. P. Polk, Samuel Taylor, Charles Reissland, P. H. Holden, R. L. Isaacs, F. W. Logan, District- Superintendent, Robert Brooks, Bishop and Conrad B. Akins, Designer and Builder.
In 1975, the third unit, the Memorial Annex was built to add additional classrooms and a gymnasium to accommodate the many community activities and 1,000 plus membership. The Memorial Annex was added at a cost of approximately, $175,000 under the leadership of Reverend W. B, Randolph, with Attorney Francis Williams serving as chairman of the building committee.
In 1991, a tornado destroyed the roof of the sanctuary. We continued to hold church services at Texas Southern University and in the church gymnasium until the repairs were completed in 1993.
Reverend Robert E. Felder was assigned in 1996 to Trinity East. The church was greatly involved in community ministries. Some of them were (1) Shalom Zone, which provided health care for members and the surrounding community, (2) distribution of food to the needy through the church food bank and (3) assisting with utility bills of the needy through our Mission Program.
Trinity East acquired additional property, joined the Third Ward Development Team and has made future plans to build a low cost senior citizen housing project. Over one-hundred years of existence. Trinity East has accumulated assets of $1,500.000.00. Trinity East hosted the old Gulf Coast conference before we became United Methodists in 1969. Mrs. Essie B. Felder organized Golden Age Hobby House and served as executive director, a Third Ward Senior Citizens Center and housed evacuees during the Katrina storm in its Memorial Annex for several weeks.
Trinity East is currently involved in many community Outreach programs (1) SEARCH, and Interfaith organization that provides tools and opportunities for the homeless with hope of changing their lives and enhancing their dignity and self-worth, (2) Christian Alliance, (3) Thursday Night Out, for members and the homeless in the church community. This is a worship service praising God Through song and the Word. It ends with a nutritious meal and prayer of hope, (4) missions of the United Methodist Women and Men, Women’s Ministries, and Gleaners, (5) a very strong Sunday school, weekly bible studies and Vacation Bible School, (6) works with generation 1, a community outreach program and several other community programs.
Trinity East United Methodist Church has had twenty-six full time Pastors, two student Associate Pastors and one Pastor, Dr. Joseph F. Cox, who served as District Superintendent and also served twice as our Interim Pastor. During its existence the church has produced outstanding ministers, a college President, and District Superintendent. Because of its strong educational components, many of the youth became successful lawyers, medical doctors, college professors, teachers, dentists, accountants, nurses, pharmacists and numerous other community and industrial leaders.