Celebrating Sixty-Plus Years on Western Avenue
December 24, 1948—2011
To download a printable, pdf. version of the 60th Anniversary of the Church Building booklet, please click on the link: /files/1851/File/60th_Anniversary_Booklet.pdf Photography and history compiled and written by Beverly Wolf and Nancy Anderson; designed and edited by Nancy Anderson.
What was once known as the Swedish Evangelical Church of Brattleboro, Vermont received its charter in 1893. The congregation numbered sixteen families, 19 men and 14 women. A year later, they dedicated the sanctuary and in 1939, changed the name of the church to Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Chruch. The congregation no longer worshipped in Swedish. Nearly ten years later, in 1948, the church moved to its current location on Western Avenue. The first service celebrated in the new location was Christmas Eve. Although the plaster was still drying on the walls, it was truly a festive occasion. The men and women of the congregation donated hundreds of hours of volunteer labor to building the new structure. Many items from the old church were able to be used in the new building, including the altar and altar rail, the pulpit, the pews and the beautiful altar painting with its frame.
TrinityLutheran Church was organized in March of 1893 in Brattleboro, Vermont. The charter members were immigrants from Sweden with names like Anderson, Johnson, Magnuson, Fredrickson, Berg, Wennersten, Kall, Lind, Strand and Ekberg.
Now, in 2011, 118 years after first being organized, people who attend have names like Alexis, Anderson, Barry, Boemig, Brandt, Bridges, Carlton, Durkin, Garbe, Gibson, Haskins, Herman-May, Hill, Hitchcock, Hubert, Kuch, Lilienthal, Long, McCauley, Merkle, O'Brien, Paciulli, Pouliot, Rakoto, Smuts, Stahl-Tyler, Stone, Therrien, Velazquez, Vinton, Wolf, and Yingst.
Many of the people who attend each week do not live in Brattleboro but come to Trinity from surrounding Vermont towns and some towns in New Hampshire—a short trip over the Connecticut River. One of Trinity’s former pastors, Peter Hanson, is currently serving with the ELCA Global Mission in Dakar, Senegal. He and his family continue to be members of Trinity.
Most of the people who attend worship at Trinity grew up in places other than Vermont: New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, California, Germany, Canada, Denmark, and Guatemala.
Many members grew up in faiths other than Lutheran: Baptist, Presbyterian, Congregational, and Catholic. Trinity is part of Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, but several members were originally from Missouri Lutheran Synod churches.
In 2004, the congregation voted to become a Reconciling In Christ Congregation, welcoming everyone regardless of sexual orientation.
This varied background gives Trinity a huge foundation to continue the mission of Christ in the Brattleboro area. There have been many changes in the past 118 years, but we look forward to welcoming others into our family. We are no longer just Swedes, but a variety of children of Christ, one and all.
Stories From the Past
The First Building — 1893
For 55 years, the Swedish immigrants of Brattleboro worshiped at the Swedish Lutheran Church on West Street. In 1939, the name was changed to Trinity Lutheran Church.
The Swedish neighborhood on West Street was very crowded and the street was very narrow, so, the congregation decided to build a larger church—and were delighted to receive a piece of property on Western Avenue. The land was donated by Mr. and Mrs. Gustav Johnson, who lived in the adjoining house. In July of 1948, the cellar hole was dug; and the building was erected by mostly volunteer labor of the parishioner.
Time for a New Building — 1948
The old church on West Street was razed and the lumber used in building the new structure. The cellar and land on West Street were sold and there is a home on that site today.
While the work of razing the old church and building the new church was going on, the congregation worshiped in the Swedish Covenant Church on Strand Avenue. That building is now a stained glass studio.
On Sunday afternoons, the women of the church would gather to remove nails from the boards so that the men could work on the building during the week. Someone would make coffee and they would have a fun time socializing while they worked.
Rev. Ray and Marie Kask
I know my dad helped to build the church. I believe he worked on the windowsfor one thing. My folks were very involved with the church. It was an exciting time for us all and many members worked hard on building the church. It still holds a special spot in my heart.
Christmas Eve — 1948
By Christmas Eve, the building was finished enough to hold the first service there at 11PM—an old Swedish tradition. Evergreen roping covered the doorways and archway because the trim had not been installed yet.
Rev. Ray and Marie Kask
We do remember that first service. It seemed almost magical. It was so wonderful to have our new church and to have such a beautiful worship experience—a great memory. We were the last couple to be married in the ‘old’ church; and I believe that Norma and John Leimgruber were the first couple to be married in the new sanctuary.
Arnold and Eileen Canedy
The Altar Painting
The altar painting, Christ in Gethsemane, was dedicated in 1908—a gift from the Women’s Society. The beautiful white and gold altar frame, was carved by Carl F. Peterson. Both pieces, along with the altar and communion railing, were brought from the old church and installed in the new building for the 1948 Christmas Eve Service.
The Altar and Pulpit
“...the skillfully-carved pulpit [and altar were] fashioned by the late Carl F. Peterson and John L. Johnson [in 1898]...”
June 30, 1948
Anders Andre, a student at Upsala College, also worked on this project. He spent the summer of 1898 serving in the pastorate position for the Swedish Lutheran Church. The church did not have an altar or pulpit and Anders was familiar with woodworking.
Norman Andre, Grandson of Anders Andre
The Sanctuary Carrying Beams
This is the story, as best I can remember, from what my mother told me when I was a child.The congregants of Trinity designed and built the current church, located on Western Avenue — including the graceful arch over the sanctuary. After the building had been in use for several years, it was noted that the arch seemed to be separating slightly; so a professional architect was asked for his opinion.
Initially he didn't want to be involved, assuming that, since a group of amateurs had built the church, it would be a hodgepodge of construction unworthy of his efforts. However, once he viewed the actual interior of the building, he was so impressed that he agreed to act as a consultant, eventually recommending that the horizontal beams now in place be utilized as stabilizing units. This must have been done when I was quite young, as I don't have an active memory of them, so I would estimate they were in place for at least fifty years.
Marie (Wheelock) Lawrence
The Steeple and Bell
"I recall conversations between Mom and Dad on the way home from church during the late 50s. 'Some day we’ll have a steeple on our church with a bell.'
"Seems as though when it was close to happening something else came up to defer the funds…an organ, need to purchase the building next door for school and office space, and so on.
"Through all of this, Dad’s mission was to find a bell. So he put the word out. In town and 'up-the-valley' into Londonderry he spread the message, “Looking for a bell…need one for the church.”
"At one point he informed Mom that he found one and was bringing it home after work. Mom was elated and called everyone. Well, Dad came home and into the house and gave Mom a box. She opened it and inside was a bell with a handle…
" 'What the heck is this?' she asked. 'Well, now you don’t have to yell for the kids! Just stick your hand out, ring the bell and they’ll come a-running!' How right he was…she rang—and all five of us rang.
"Finally God answered the prayers of so many. One of Dad’s customers up the valley had a bell and wanted to give it to Dad for the steeple that would some day be built on our church. So, Dad and I went up on a Saturday and the bell was hoisted up into the back of our pickup. When that was done, Dad asked him, 'How much for the bell!?' His answer to my father has stayed with me through all these years.
“ 'Bill, for all the help you have given me and my family, I give this bell to you and your church.' Then Dad asked him, 'By the way, where did this bell come from?' He replied, 'Came off a locomotive, from the Vermont Railroad.' Enough said. We went home and unloaded it into the barn at our home on Bonneyvale Road in West Brattleboro, where it was stored.* Finally, when we moved from there to Orchard Street, the bell was again stored. I’m not sure who Dad entrusted with the caretaking. *We moved to Eagle Bridge, New York and the bell stayed in Brattleboro.Then one day God looked down on Trinity Lutheran Church and there was a steeple— and in that steeple was a bell.
"May God bless those who came before us for it is they who have made possible what is. And may God bless each and every one of you for it is you who make possible for what will be."
Robert Oscarson, March 2008, Son of Bill and Harriett Oscarson
*The bell was stored in the parsonage basement until 1973, when it was put into the steeple.
Rev. Horst Bandle
Trinity as it looks today