Except the Lord build the house, their labour is but lost that build it. –Psalm 127
Preserving our historical church for the next generation
A few years ago the Vestry decided to create a Building Fund to support the major capital improvements of our 150 year old building. Here we hope to describe this plan and explain why this initiative is important for our parish. At the bottom you can view a video about a major exterior restoration we did in 2021 with the help of many generous donors.
A Little Trinity History
At about 1:00pm on Easter Sunday of 1968, Trinity Church caught fire. The firemen did not leave the scene until 7:30 the next morning. The results were catastrophic. The fire started on the lower level in the central part of the building and spread rapidly. The parish hall was destroyed, the roof collapsing on the burning rubble below. Also destroyed were the church offices, the chapel, the sacristy, and the alter end of the church. Amazingly the stained glass windows survived. The far ends of the building, the bell tower, and the White Street end, now occupied by the Monmouth Conservatory of Music suffered mostly smoke and water damage. The pipe organ was lost, as were all of the vestments and altar linens. Father Best entered the church three times to save as much of the altar brass and silver and historical documents as he could find but he was eventually overcome by smoke and prevented by the firemen from entering the building again. The entire lower level was filled with water to ground level as a result of fighting the fire.
This was probably the worst day in the long history of Trinity Church. In addition to the loss of the building itself, many items of historic or artistic value were lost forever. But there followed a heroic effort on the part of Trinity’s congregation, with generous support from community organizations and even churches of other denominations. The result was that Trinity re-opened on Easter Sunday of 1968, looking much as it stands today.
Our Current Situation
The reason for telling this story is that it marks a watershed moment in the history of our parish. All churches, especially old ones, have to deal with maintenance and upkeep problems on a regular basis. Here at Trinity Church we had a fresh start in 1969 when the church was already over a hundred years old. Everything wa snew. All the electrical wiring, plumbing, heating, and air conditioning, and all the furnishings had to be redone or re-purchased after the fire. Much of what you see, especially in the parish hall and lower lever, was reconstructed in 1969. For many years afterward we were able to coast comfortably, performing regular maintenance, but having few problems of repair or replacement. But time has a way of passing and, suddenly, all of our new stuff is 47 years old.
In recent years, the vestry had had to deal with an increasing number of property issues. About five years ago we put a new roof on the parish hall. Two years ago, we bought a new organ and we restored all the stained glass windows. Last year we replaced all of the windows on the White Street end. How have we paid for all of this? As you will surely recall, the organ and the stained glass windows were funded by extremely successful targeted fundraisers, to which the congregation responded generously. We borrowed money for the roof, and we paid for the new windows out of our limited reserves.
Today we face a set of problems which do not have the emotional appeal of stained glass windows or an organ, but which pose serious challenges for our parish. We have a water and drainage problem on the lower level, causing the building to settle slightly, which is causing cracks to appear in the exterior stucco in various places. The bell tower needs some interior repair, and we were just told that we need a new roof on the church itself. Also, the parish hall windows must be replaced. We will have decisions to make about how to prioritize these problems, but we remain committed to the responsibility of caring for our building.
We Need a Building Fund
To deal effectively with maintenance and repair, we need a building fund. Many churches have one. Trinity Church does not. A building fund is money separate from the operating budget, specifically dedicated to the care of our physical plant. Trinity operates on a tight budget. We raise enough money in our annual Stewardship Campaign to run the church but if we suddenly had to replace our furnace or the air conditioner, we would be sore pressed. So also with the current issues mentioned above. That is why we need a building fund.
A Proposal for a Building Fund
The vestry proposed that we create a building fund through a capital fundraising campaign lasting three years. To be blunt, this is a direct fundraising campaign, and as members of Trinity Church, you are being asked to donate money to this fund. We would like you to make a commitment to give an amount of money of our choosing over a three-year period. Our goal for this campaign is $200,000. This may seem like an intimidating figure, but it really is not. If everyone in the parish participated this would be an easily attainable goal, especially for a congregation that loves its church the way we do. We should strive to be as dedicated to Trinity as the congregation was in 1968. It never occurred to them to do anything less than the complete rebuilding of their church.
We should offer a note of caution. We want everyone to be a part of this initiative. We want everyone to have the good feeling of being a part of the supporting family of Trinity Church. But if you are thinking that you would really like to support the building fund, but in doing so you would have to reduce your annual pledge, we would ask you to think twice about that. We really need your pledge to run the church. Supporting the building fund should be in addition to your usual annual support
Our goal is to create a significant building fund, one that can be sustained through donation, investment, and bequest for years to come. Our hope is to be able to maintain our historic church as it ahs been maintained in the past. We want Trinity Church to continue to be a living witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Red Bank. We should honor the sacrificial commitment that was made by the people of Trinity in 1968 by seeking to do as well as they did in caring for their parish. To mark our work with the work of that generation, our capital fundraising campaign will culminate on Easter Sunday in 2019, exactly fifty years after the reverent and triumphant re-opening of Trinity in 1969.