Brick Wall

Our History

Our Brief History

Trinity was chartered as a congregation of the Presbyterian Church on February 17, 1963, under the leadership of founding Pastor Don Allen. This new congregation began meeting in a dilapidated antebellum house with its own history, and rather than tearing it down to build a "church," the early members rolled up their sleeves and got to work transforming what is now our church house. From the beginning, the understanding that the church was not the building shaped the mission and ministry of Trinity. Through House Churches and other groups, Trinity has been active in the Harrisonburg/Rockingham community and beyond. The Valley Program for the Aging and Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Harrisonburg-Rockingham County are two examples of organizations that began as House Churches at Trinity. 

 

Over the years, we've expanded and made improvements to our building and grounds, as we continue to ask how God is calling us to mission and ministry today. Trinity has had four installed pastors: Founding Pastor Don Allen, Dan Grandstaff, Ann Reed Held, and Stephanie Sorge, our current pastor, who has been with us since 2016. 

For a more detailed history, continue reading below.

Screen Shot 2022-01-25 at 2.12.13 PM.png

All of Trinity's installed pastors! From left to right: Stephanie Sorge, 2016-present; Ann Reed Held, 1990-2014; Dan Grandstaff, 1981-1989; Don Allen, founding Pastor, 1963-1980.

Our Detailed History

For thousands of years, Indigenous people lived in the Shenandoah Valley. Between 1731 and 1800, these residents were quickly pushed out by Euro-Americans. Not only did they lose their ancestral homes, their communities and cultures were devastated.

For more than 130 years, the new residents of the Valley used slave labor to develop the land and accumulate wealth. By 1850, Rockingham County included 2,800 slaves, and Harrisonburg had about 700. In 1865, despite strong resistance by local residents, the slaves were freed at a tremendous cost to our country. Local residents, churches, and governments then worked against efforts to educate former slaves, and organized to keep them subservient and economically weak. For the next 100 years, Afro-Americans were prevented from participating as citizens. Even today, there are those who try to dominate them.

Trinity’s building was built by a slave owner in about 1825. Slaves were a major source of construction labor, and probably participated in construction.  For more than 50 years, the land now occupied by Trinity was farmed using (mostly African) slaves. We know that the owner of the property had 8 slaves, men, women and children, in 1830 and about 15 in 1850.  When the owner died in the 1850’s, he directed his son to free his adult slaves and send them to Liberia. It is said that about 10 people chose to go.  After 1865, we know that one former slave stayed in service to the former owner’s family for at least 20 years.


Discrimination and poor education created poverty and tensions that persist to this day.

Our Valley was settled by immigrants from other places and cultures. In recent years, we have been the host to many people of all races and many cultures. However, some people continue to treat these newcomers as less than equal.

Trinity was formed in 1961 with the shared principle that each person is entitled to equal treatment and opportunity. We continue to dedicate ourselves to reaching out to the community to enable this principle.

Screen Shot 2022-01-25 at 1.42.59 PM.png
Screen Shot 2022-01-25 at 1.42.52 PM.png

​The 190-year-old antebellum home which now serves as the cornerstone of Trinity Presbyterian Church was constructed on a large tract of farm land first known as Homeland and later as Kyle Meadows. That farm was given to Robert M. Kyle by his father Jeremiah Kyle, son of David Kyle who came to the Valley as an Irish peddler and soon was said to be the richest man in Rockingham County.  Robert was married to Mary Byrd.

When Robert died in 1862, Mary’s brother, William P. Byrd was living with them.  Mary’s father, Colonel Abraham Byrd, lived at Stoneleigh up on the hill on Market Street. Whenever father or daughter had a message one for the other, they would fly a white flag and send a young slave—one we know was named Kemper—to see what the message was. When in 1864, Union General Philip Sheridan came to the Valley, he used Stoneleigh as his headquarters and had his men camp at Kyle Meadows. He also used the same signaling system.

Mary’s father had a nice McClellan saddle stored in the attic at Kyle Meadows. In 1864 a Union soldier who had learned about the saddle from one of the slaves decided to go to the attic and get it. After a Union guard assigned to protect the property ordered the soldier to halt two times, the soldier kept going and the guard fired and killed him. One hundred years later, when our church members were doing some remodeling, bloodstains still remained on the floor at the bottom of the stairs, so a new floor was put on that room.

Soon after the war ended, Mary Byrd Kyle became the wife of the Reverend Lemuel Sutton Reed, who lived in Harrisonburg until 1877 when the family moved to Farmville; Lemuel was the father of Dr. Walter Reed. The house and property were then sold to Peter W. Reherd. After that, the property went to the Sunset Heights Development Corporation, operated by Will Reherd and Owen Brock, and later they sold the house and 4 ½ acres to Earl Wetsel. He in turn sold that property to Robert and Helen Marshman, and finally in 1960, the Marshmans sold the house to First Presbyterian Church for $55,000. First Church waited a year and a half to take over the property.  The Church decided to put its purchase to use, agreeing with Lexington Presbytery to start a second Presbyterian church in Harrisonburg at the site. A new congregation was organized by Lexington Presbytery on Feb. 17, 1963, and named Trinity Presbyterian Church. The property was turned over to the Trustees of Trinity Church on March 15, 1963.

The home was remodeled by combining the living room, dining room

and kitchen of the main house, creating a sanctuary, and a side porch

on the south side was enclosed to make a church office. The Reverend

Don Allen was called by the Presbytery to be the organizing minister.  

He was Trinity’s devoted minister, teacher and leader for the next

eighteen years.

 


A process to build a new sanctuary on the south side of the building was begun under Don Allen’s leadership and finished during the 1980s when Dan Grandstaff was pastor. During Ann Held’s twenty-four years of pastoral leadership, a large Commons Room, a clothes storage room, two classrooms, a larger modern kitchen, and new rest rooms were added on the church’s north side. All of these additions were planned so that they could serve the church’s mission, worship, nurture, and fellowship emphases. We continue to update our building and grounds in following our beliefs and goals. The recently completed Memorial Wall and Garden is available to members for interment of ashes, and the projected solar panel installation on the roof will economize on our energy costs and testify to our concern for our preserving the environment.

Before the last addition was made and before the Muslim community of Harrisonburg had built their worship center, its members used Trinity’s building on Fridays and Saturdays for their worship and religious training, establishing a supportive, amicable relationship between our people.

                                                                                             At the beginning, having the desire to challenge themselves

                                                                                             to be seen in the world as men and women of faith, and

                                                                                             feeling the need to become more involved in the needs of

                                                                                             their fellow citizens, the Charter Members of Trinity decided

                                                                                             to initiate small groups called house churches. Members of

                                                                                             the first house churches set two primary goals: the internal

                                                                                             life of the group and some form of outreach into areas

                                                                                             outside the church. Their inward/outward concern was

                                                                                             settled by following the Four Marks of the Church, namely                                                                                                 Nurture, Fellowship, Worship and Mission. House churches have continued to use this plan to the present time. A short worship service takes place at each regular meeting; nurture comes in the form of a study of some book or other material pertinent to either the mission or the group’s Christian growth. Fellowship is found as members get to know one another better and as they make plans for carrying out their missions.                                                                                      
A number of these missions have been influential in the start of helpful organizations in our area. The document “What Is God Saying to Trinity?”, written by the first Session and renewed in 1992, reflects the foundational principles which continue to guide our ministry. So too does the recent digest of comments from our retreat in November 2014, “This Is What You Said”.  Examples of our outreach include the Dunamis House Church, a forerunner of the Op Shop, and Dandylion Camp where mentally challenged young people continued to be served. The Valley Program for the Aging and Big Brothers, Big Sisters resulted from Trinity house church mission endeavors, and Trinity’s outreach mission was instrumental in beginning Open Doors for the homeless, the Free Clinic and the organization of People Helping People. Also, the Harrisonburg/Rockingham Arc was recognized as meeting a real need in Harrisonburg through mission work being done at Trinity.

The young church of 77 charter members and one minister agreed to be largely a mission church. Their size and mission goals made good economics a necessity. No person was hired to do a job that needed doing if a church member could do it. Everyone’s talents were needed and generally joyfully donated.  For example, if you could play the piano for worship services, you willingly did so—and when your turn came to clean the church, you did that also. The very excellent secretary Connie Whitmore was never paid with money, just compliments. Though there now are a number of paid positions in addition to that of the minister, members are still willing to be called upon to share their time and talents.

Trinity Presbyterian Church of Harrisonburg was formally incorporated in December 2014, according to the Book of Order , newly possible under guidelines of church incorporation of the laws of the State of Virginia.

Trinity has had 4 installed pastors. Don Allen served from the founding in February 1963 until August 1980. After an interim period under the leadership of Tempe Lee Earl, Dan Grandstaff was called and installed in 1981 and served until 1989. Following Interim Davis Yuell, Ann Reed Held was called and installed in July 1990. She served Trinity until her retirement in June 2014. Sally Robinson served as Interim prior to the calling and installation of our current pastor, Stephanie Sorge, in January of 2016.

Screen Shot 2022-01-25 at 1.47.00 PM.png

Reverend Don Allen

Screen Shot 2022-01-25 at 1.42.45 PM.png
Screen Shot 2022-01-25 at 2.12.13 PM.png

All of Trinity's installed pastors! From left to right: Stephanie Sorge, 2016-present; Ann Reed Held, 1990-2014; Dan Grandstaff, 1981-1989; Don Allen, founding Pastor, 1963-1980.