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By Joseph Dempsey Sanctuary

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Until 1859, Episcopalians in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, the city I call home, were on their own with scant guidance from church headquarters up north. Then, in 1859, the bishop sent Robert W. Trimble to Pine Bluff to shepherd the flock. Not letting any grass grow under his feet, Mr. Trimble got things organized and stirred up a lingering but yet unfulfilled interest among parishioners in erecting an Episcopal Church.

In late 1860, Mr. Trimble’s vision for a sanctuary resulted in a trip to the Episcopal Holy of Holies in New York City by Trimble and Joseph Bocage, senior warden of the church, for advice and counsel.  (A note of explanation here. When you see the word warden, you normally think “prison” — with respect to the Episcopal Church, when you see the word warden, think “chair of the board of deacons.” I say that as a former Baptist, now Episcopalian, and a member of the parish which is the subject of this discourse).

Messieurs Trimble and Bocage returned from New York elucidated with advice and counsel — and a set of plans from the church architect. Unfortunately, it was 1861, and war fever had pretty well infected the South. The folks in Pine Bluff were not immune. Preoccupation with the impending war and later, overriding concern with the conduct of the conflict, combined to bring plans for the new church to a screeching halt. To make matters worse, Federals occupying Pine Bluff banished Mr. Trimble from the city. He moved his family to Swan Lake, a few miles down the Arkansas River to the southeast.

Fast forward to early 1866. The Yankees have departed and Mr. Trimble returns to his flock. He makes another foray to the Big Apple (the nickname would come much later) with Senior Warden Bocage, and once again things get serious about the building of a church. By June 1866, draymen and their mules are delivering building materials to the site of the new building.

Moving right along, on December 18, 1866, the cornerstone is cemented in place. Nine days later, members of the Jacob Brump Lodge No. 160 of the Free and Associated Masons proceed to the site and consecrate said cornerstone. Four years and one week later, the first service in the new church is conducted. It is Christmas Day, 1870.


The altar, sculpted in Florence, Italy, was added to the sanctuary in 1929. The sculptors traveled with the altar to install it.

The wood and windows are exquisite testimonials to craftsmen who plied their trades without the benefits of power tools, super glue, and polymer varnish. Because the building has continued to serve the purpose for which it was dedicated, some modifications have been made over the years. These modifications are judiciously performed after deep deliberation and assurance that the character and ambiance of the structure shall be protected. As a result, worshipers are communicating with the Almighty in the same sanctuary as the first members of the parish. This arrangement seems to be working out well. Amen.

Facts for the story above, for the most part, were extracted from "Oasis, a History of Trinity Episcopal Church" by Jacquelyn Stuart Layton, copies of which can probably be had by contacting the church.

N O T E S:  
Nikon D300, tripod mounted, ISO 200, Both shots, Sigma 10-20mm f4-f5.6 D, DC USM, interior at 10mm, 1/3 sec @ f4. +.067, exterior 1/320 @ f9, at 13mm. Post processed with Adobe Photoshop CS4 Extended and Genuine Fractals Print Pro.

divider go there now See more interior pictures of Trinity Episcopal Church on our blog, Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind. Also, a few more tidbits about the church and its history.

Click the jump wings
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Most of the time, there is more to the Photo of the Week story than can be told in an essay. And most of the time there are more pictures to be seen. Presuming that some folk will enjoy being privy to this trove of information, I have created a blog, “Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind,” where I am showing and telling “the rest of the story." There are also some blatantly commercial mentions of some of the things we do to earn our beans and taters. Click on the Weekly Grist logo and go to the blog.  — J. D.


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