Church History

History of Trinity United Methodist Church

Keeping the Faith

Circuit Riders, 1886-1889

John Wesley established the Methodist role of the circuit rider in England. Distressed at the Church of England’s emphasis on serving only those who could attend a physical church, Wesley started meeting people where they lived: in mines, in farm fields, in factories, and in prison. He set up “circuits” where ministers would visit different locales on a rotating basis. The first circuit rider in the Americas was Robert Strawbridge, who began organizing Methodist societies in Maryland in 1763 or 1764.

By 1886, Methodist circuit riders were active on the North Olympic Peninsula, traveling on foot, canoe, horse, or mule, on a 40-mile circuit. They met in open fields, in the wilderness, in log cabins, in forests and meadows, and in informal meeting houses.

In 1889, a church, made of logs harvested from nearby bluffs, was completed. Named Grace Methodist Episcopal Church, it was west of the Dungeness River, in the village of New Dungeness, five miles north of Sequim. A.J. McNemee, a Circuit Rider, was the leader of the church. Known as “Brother Mac,” one of Trinity’s rooms is named in honor of Brother Mac. The church started with eleven members.

In 1892, the village of New Dungeness moved east of the Dungeness River, and a new church, also named Grace Methodist Episcopal Church, was erected. This church was made with cut planks, and a more formal building than the previous log cabin.

Yet another population shift occurred, and in 1895, the church moved — literally — to Sequim, on what is now Sequim Avenue.

Dungeness Valley church, 1895
Dungeness Valley church, 1892. Rebuilt in Sequim, 1895

Church bell, cast in Seneca Falls, New York, and brought around Cape Horn to Sequim.

In building the first Sequim church, trustees paid $100 for the framework of the church in New Dungeness. It was dismantled and moved to Sequim, along with the original church bell, which came by ship around the Horn and now graces the front walkway of the present church. A donation of $250 and a loan of $200 from the Church Extension Society made the Sequim church possible, opening in 1895.

Sequim first appeared among conference appointments in 1897. The next year saw 36 members and 75 in Sunday School.

The church had one large room that seated about 50 and was heated by a big pot-bellied stove. An old pump organ provided music. The parsonage, built among the trees, was a two-story house with a veranda.

Sequim Avenue, in front of the church, was then a dirt road with an open irrigation ditch on the church side. Those who came by horse and buggy put their horses in a shed-like barn behind the church.

The church was called the Methodist Community Church, and the social life of the community centered around it. It was the only church building in Sequim, and those of other denominations also attended. In 1915, Sequim became the center of population with the coming of the highway and railroad.

By 1925, the church was too small to house the growing congregation of 104 members and 303 in Sunday School. Pledges had been taken for three years when the minister left the church, taking some members and their pledges, to start a different church.

There were hard feelings over the split, but the Methodists were determined to go ahead with their building plans. It was then that seven families mortgaged their homes and farms.

The last church service in the old building was on March 3, 1929, after which it and other buildings were demolished to make room for the new church called Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church, though it was more commonly referred to as the Methodist Community Church. The cornerstone was laid on March 13, 1929, and the church was dedicated on September 8, 1929. The total cost of the church was $17,500.

Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church, 1929

The church grew, always a center for community activities, through the hard times of the 1930s and 1940s. In 1939, the church became Trinity Methodist Church when three Methodist denominations merged. When soldiers were stationed in Sequim after Pearl Harbor, the church doors were open for them, and the social hall became a USO center.

The last loan of $2,000 was finally paid off, and a mortgage-burning ceremony was held on January 5, 1949. This was the first time in the church’s history it was free of debt. Through the years the Ladies Aid had raised money for over half the building cost. It was the men and women working together in the congregation who built the church.

The name of the church was changed to Trinity United Methodist Church in 1968, when the Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren denominations merged. During the 1960s, the church doors were locked for the first time because of vandalism. A new kitchen, classroom, and choir room addition were dedicated in 1973.

The 1970s and 1980s brought many new people to the valley and to the church family, causing the congregation to consider expansion. A generous gift of five acres of land at a reduced price enabled the church to acquire our present site. A building committee was elected in 1989, and a groundbreaking ceremony was held on September 2, 1990. The last service in the Sequim Avenue church was November 24, 1991. The property was sold to the Boys and Girls Club and later became the Olympic Theatre Arts Center. Some of the hand-made pews from 1897 can still be found in the Olympic Theater Arts Center.

Trinity United Methodist Church, 1991
Trinity United Methodist Church, 1991

The first service in the new church on Blake Avenue was on December 1, 1991, with a consecration service on January 19, 1992. The 16,820- square-foot building at a cost of $1,400,000 has a lovely sanctuary, fellowship hall, classrooms, meeting rooms, and kitchen. Furnishings in the sanctuary include memorial pieces from the Sequim Avenue church. The stained glass windows with nameplates underneath were gifts to the church many years ago. Artist Nels Lofgren designed the rose window above the altar; he also painted the picture of John Wesley that hangs in the narthex. The beautiful intarsia doors leading into the sanctuary were handcrafted by G.C. and Evelyn McDaniel. Members donated time, talent, and money for pews, carpeting, a grand piano, the wooden cross behind the altar, and many other items throughout the church. Originally built with a bell tower, the bell tower was removed in the summer of 2002 due to poor construction, and was not rebuilt.

Sequim continued to attract retirees in succeeding years, which was reflected in the church’s congregation. Discussions in 2002 led to the creation of a 9:30 a.m. contemporary service to go with the traditional service at 11 a.m. Gradually, attendance shifted to the contemporary service, and in 2012, the church returned to one service, incorporating the types of music presented in both previous services. By late 2018, average attendance was 237 and the sanctuary was nearly full on some Sundays.

Responding to the global COVID-19 pandemic, Trinity started posting services online in March 2020. In January 2021, Trinity gained worldwide attention by hosting one of the first community mass vaccination clinics, in partnership with other community agencies.

This summary of our church was compiled in 1995 and periodically updated by members of the History Committee, using church records and “A History of the Methodist Church in the Dungeness Valley” by Virginia Keeting.