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A Brief History of Trinity Parish

Not long after Woodbridge Township was founded in 1669, the sparse settlers pooled their efforts and built the Independent Meeting House, in which non-denominational services were held. In December of 1703, another Anglican missionary conducted a service there, and he received a warmer reception than had his predecessor. By 1710, the Anglicans had become the second largest group attending services in the Independent Meeting House.

Trinity Episcopal Church enjoys a rich heritage not only as one of the two oldest churches in Woodbridge Township, but also as one of the earliest established in New Jersey. Parish roots go back to 1698, when an English missionary named Edward Portlock took up residence in Perth Amboy. From there, he ventured into Woodbridge and conducted services.

The announcement that the Independent Meeting House would become a Presbyterian Church caused a walkout by numerous people who wished to maintain their own denominational ties. Anglicans, by 1713, had begun to build their own church just north of the Meeting House site. The effort to build a permanent church was led by Benjamin Dunham. The Dunham home (now Trinity Rectory) would be the site for Anglican services until the church could be completed. When it was, it would be the first of three church structures which would occupy the same site for almost three hundred years.

In 1756 The Reverend Thomas Bradbury Chandler of Elizabethtown directed the building of a new church building, thereby revitalizing the Parish. A communion chalice, donated in 1760, is still in the church's possession.

During the Revolutionary War, Anglican Churches, then known as the "Church of England," in New Jersey were all ordered closed. This was because a high percentage at their Parishioners were British subjects and Officials of the Crown. Despite public fears, considerable evidence suggests that numerous Trinity Church members fought for American Independence.

In 1858, a defective woodstove set fire to the 102 year-old church and it burned to the ground. Although the few active Parishioners at that time felt that their church was finished, their young Rector knew otherwise. With talent and extreme effort, The Reverend Eugene Hoffman had soon raised not only enough money to build a new church building, but also enough to make that church larger and stronger than the one which preceded it. The leaky clapboard second church was replaced by a more spacious brick third one. On May 20th, 1861 the present church building was Consecrated. Despite some additions and modernization it retains the same basic appearance as it did when first constructed.

In 1872, the historic Dunham Homestead was purchased to serve as the Rectory. The house had been constructed in 1670 by Jonathan Dunham, who had built and operated the first grist mill in New Jersey near the site of his home. Jonathan's son, Benjamin is today recognized as the founder of Trinity Church. Following the purchase of the Dunham home, the structure was then enlarged and modernized by a wealthy Parishioner. Even with the 1870's additions and changes, much of the original style of the building may still be seen.

Today Trinity Church is alive with activity, aimed both at the needs of its Parishioners, as well at those of the community around it. In addition to an active Sunday School and various other parish organizations, 12 Step Programs and numerous other community groups utilize the Parish Facilities. Church members generously support the work of the Church in the diocese and throughout the world while they operate a community Food Pantry and the township's only Soup Kitchen to help supply food to the needy.

As we celebrate more than Three Hundred years of ministry in this community, the numerous church-sponsored organizations serve both the spiritual as well as social needs of the community as well as the congregation. These groups, the Clergy and the individual Parishioners themselves help to form a cohesive structure that works to define, clarify and do the mission of this parish in today's ever-changing world.


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