A History of Trinity
With excerpts and information From Trinity Episcopal Church:An Ever-expanding Light, by John William Houghton, Ph.D.
The Rev. Canon Francis Key Brooke, then rector of Trinity Church, Atkison, Kansas, and lecturer at Kansas Theological Seminary, was appointed the first bishop of Oklahoma and Indian Territory in 1892. It was Bishop Brooke who, in 1903, sent a missionary from Vinita to lead what would be the first Episcopal service in Tulsa. In the early years, Trinity's ervices were conducted in local homes. The first two baptisms were in September of 1904 and the first wedding in 1905. By this time, services were being regularly held in the Masonic Hall on First Street and communions celebrated in the Christian Church at Second and Boulder. That same year, a site was selected for a permanent church.
The site at Fifth and Cincinnati for the new building was purchased in 1905 for $800. In 1906, a simple structure of brick and shingle was constructed at a cost of $3,500. The first pipe organ in the city was installed in that first church. Bishop Brooke dedicated the church later that year. In 1909, Trinity became a parish and, on February 1, called the Rev. Gilbert Alman Ottman as its first Rector.
On February 21, 1919, the parish’s Annual Meeting approved the idea of building a new church. Bishop Thurston secularized the old building in November of 1921, and it was quickly disassembled. Ground was broken for the new church on the afternoon of December 11. By December 12 the congregation was worshipping in the Majestic Theater, where it would remain until the completion of the crypt of the new building.
By June 4, 1922, the construction on the crypt of the new church was sufficiently advanced for the congregation to return home from the theater. The cornerstone for the new building was laid in 1925, with full Masonic ceremonies. The formal dedication of the building by the Rt. Rev. James Ridout Winchester, Bishop of Arkansas, was on May 9, 1926. If for no other reason than the fantastic name, it should be noted that the pulpit in the new building was a gift from Mr. and Mrs. Crum in memory of his father, Xenophon Xerxes Crum.
Trinity’s new rector arrived for All Saints’ of 1926. The church in those days obviously resembled Trinity today in the overall shape of the building, but many of the details were different. Neither the reredos with its statues nor the wooden paneling of the chancel had yet been installed: a dossal curtain hung behind the high altar until 1951—there were eventually a red curtain for everyday use, and silver and gold ones for progressively more important feasts. There was no gate in the altar rail: people simply knelt at the gap. There was another choir pew on either side, making the aisle narrower, and the organist did not face the nave. The organ was a three-manual Austin. There was no rood beam in the chancel arch, and the chancel floor level ended in ordinary steps at the arch, rather than the broad platform-like first step that now extends into the crossing. The pews extended two rows further forward than they do today, and over the crossing hung a great chandelier. And, most notably, the great south transept window had not been completed, while the stained glass of the clerestory existed only as an idea to illustrate the articles of the Apostles' Creed.
In late 1929, Rev. Mr. Eckel became the new Rector. Trinity was a financially troubled parish that must have seemed, at first, to be getting steadily worse. In the end, it was to be 1947—twenty years from the opening of the new building—before the debt was paid off. The new rector instituted new customs: Trinity Tidings began as a weekly newsletter in 1930, and the tradition of a parish picnic was an early innovation as well.
In the mid-1940s, Trinity created a plan which called for "boxing the compass" around Trinity with chapels that would remain mere branches under the control of the Rector, Wardens and Vestrymen of Trinity. St. Luke's in the east was the first of these chapels and services began there in 1946. St. John's in the south, St. Matthew's in the west and St. Mark's in the north would eventually follow.
By Easter of 1946, the first services could be held in the hall, and the chapel itself was ready for use on All Saints’ Day, 1946. In 1947, the gratifying success of St. Luke’s in the east would be followed by the first steps toward organizing St. John’s in the south, with St. Matthew’s in the west and St. Mark’s in the north eventually to follow.
In connection with the fiftieth anniversary of the parish, the Rector and Vestry launched an appeal to complete the original plans for the church by building a $250,000 parish house at 511 South Cincinnati, replacing the Junior League tea room that had long served in the place of a purpose-built building.
The Rev. Curtis Junker would become the sixth rector of Trinity in 1958, following Dr. Eckel's retirement.
One of the new Rector’s changes came at the end of his first week, when he instituted, or revived, the standard Anglican pattern of daily Morning and Evening Prayer, and increased the number of celebrations of the Eucharist.
Dr. Junker’s plans for Trinity included a strong esthetic element. As a student of architecture, he would have been conscious that the various elements that constitute “Gothic” style were originally assembled to increase the opportunities for decorating a church, and especially for decorating it with the color, light and images of stained glass. Trinity in 1958, even with the four great stained glass windows at the compass points, the eight smaller windows along the nave aisles, the oak paneling, the reredos and the needlepoint furnishings, was still relatively Spartan by the visual standards its architecture implied.
In 1959, in his second annual report, Dr. Junker referred to Trinity as “what should become the Pilgrimage Church of the Southwest, loved by all for its dignity, order, graces and significant beauty.” A year later, he was able to announce new vestments, a new processional cross, the first new stained glass clerestory window since the 1920’s, and the beginning of a fund for a new organ. By the time of his departure in 1974, Trinity had been enriched with ten new windows completing the original Apostles’ Creed program in the nave clerestory (executed by Frederick Cole of England, working from designs by Dr. Junker), along with six windows in other parts of the building; the west front statues of Moses and Elijah; a “Calvary in Bronze and Oak” (currently in the Brooke Chapel) and a second Madonna and Child, both by de Vasconcellos; and any number of smaller pieces.
In 1968 the Vestry authorized architect John Walton to prepare architectural drawings for a columbarium . The April 13, 1969, Tidings invited parishioners to “inspect the newly completed columbarium facilities” Dr. Junker's tenure also oversaw the installation of the controversial "resurrection window," depicting Jesus's decent to hell, surrounded by the faces of Hitler, Goebbels and Mussolini, before his ascension into Heaven.
In 1960, Thomas Matthews, the nationally-known musician became Trinity's organist and choir-director. Part of the attraction for him was the opportunity to design for Trinity a new organ. He had been brought to Trinity as a consultant in June of 1959 (Tidings 30:30) and was apparently prepared to work quickly. The seven-division Moller Organ Opus 9606, featuring some 4700 pipes and a Zimblestern bell stop, was dedicated by Bishop Powell on Trinity Sunday of 1962. Dr. Matthews would remain at Trinity until his death in 1998, publishing 37 hymns, including a setting of the Twenty-third Psalm which achieved the extraordinary feat, for a church anthem, of selling over one million copies.
The next major addition to Trinity was a controversial one by the seventh rector of Trinity, Rev. Dr. Brown. He was responsible for the installation of the rood beam at the chancel steps, given in March, 1977, in honor of the “life, ministry, and witness of Bishop Chilton and Betty Powell.”
Under the eighth rector, John C Powers, Trinity's missions continues to grow. The Vestry voted in 1979 to establish Trinity Day School for children aged 3 months through 4 years. Sometime as early as 1978, employees in Trinity became involved in feeding the hungry. In 1984, parishioners began making sandwiches for the homeless. With the kitchen already in use for the Day School, a feeding ministry seemed like a natural symbiosis. Since 1987, meals have been provided 365 days a year. The program would become so long-lasting a success that in 1997, the Iron Gate Ministry was set up as a separate corporation, albeit one that received most of its support from the Parish. On August 26th, 2019 Iron Gate moved from the Trinity campus after more than 40 years serving the homeless and hungry. Their new, custom-built facility is located at Archer and Frisco downtown and continues to serve hundreds of hot meals daily.
The mid-1980s were a time of growth and success for Trinity. A capital campaign was undertaken and work began in 1989, with the laying of the cornerstone for the porte-cochere at what would become the new east entrance of the parish house. The Day School was full, and the Street Ministry was feeding record numbers. And, resuming a Trinity tradition, the artistic heritage of the parish had been increased by the addition of the “Compass Rose” window on the north stairs and the “Four Cathedrals” window over the west door.
The Rev. Sidney Ross Jones became the ninth Rector of Trinity on August 15, 1993
In 1995, the parish undertook a five-year planning process, with task forces working to produce vision statements in such areas as worship, evangelism, outreach, and caring. In 1998, the parish saw the establishment of the Mulford Church Property Endowment Fund.
On June 11, 2000, the Feast of Pentecost, Fr. Jones told the congregation of Trinity what had, earlier that day, been announced to the people of St. George’s Anglican Cathedral in Jerusalem: that he had been elected Dean of St. George’s College, the continuing education center of the Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem, with July 31 to be his last Sunday at Trinity.
With the Rev. James Thomson, Associate Rector since 1995, as Interim Rector, Mr. Ross Swimmer as Senior Warden, and Mr. William von Glahn as chair of the Search Committee, Trinity moved quickly: the Vestry assembled on February 20, 2001, in an open meeting, to elect the Rev. Stephen Lee McKee, then Rector of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion in University City, Missouri, to be Trinity’s tenth Rector, beginning May 1, 2001.
Fr. Stephen L. McKee retired as Trinity's rector after 17 years on December 31st, 2018. His Associate Rector, Rev. Kristina Maulden, was made Priest-in-Charge. The Vestry, lead by Senior Warden, Shawna Gehres, and Chair of the Search Committee, Jane Faulkenberry, put a rector search in to motion. On August 27th, 2019, Rev. Dr. W. Lee Domenick, Jr. was called and October 28th, 2019 Fr. Lee, as he prefers to be known, began his service as the eleventh rector of Trinity Episcopal Church.