A grateful congregation assembled at 11 am on Sunday, Oct. 6 at Trinity Covenant Church on East Cedar St to celebrate the church’s 120th anniversary. As scripture and prayer and song rang out during the service, newcomers and the descendents of founders worshiped together in thanksgiving for the long witness and service of this church.
Of course, Trinity wasn’t always in Livingston! And it wasn’t always “Trinity.” In 1954, the members of what had started out as the Swedish Free Congregational Church, then just 61 years old, moved from their original site in East Orange, to their new digs in Livingston. A new start in a new town needed a new name, and so the name “Trinity” was chosen, to honor the church in 1893 that had helped its original Swedish-immigrant congregation get started. An immediate explosion in worship attendance followed, as many families new to the area, drawn by new housing being built “out here,” became part of the new church.
Now 59 years a part of Livingston, Trinity’s congregation is no longer a Swedish-speaking church, as it had been at the beginning, nor is it even mostly Swedish in origins. Today’s gathering includes immigrants from many parts of the world, as well as those whose families have been in America for centuries. What has stayed the same over all these years is the sense of welcome, to a church that has become home for so many.
The anniversary service featured four speakers from the congregation, who represented different lengths of attendance and varied degrees of connection to the church’s history, but each one gave testimony that it was the welcome received at Trinity that drew them into active participation, and carried them further in their journey with God.
Following their testimonies, the congregation celebrated communion together led by their pastor, Rev. Susan Gillespie, their pastor for ministry to children and families, Rev. Anne Weinberg, a commissioned missionary in the congregation, Jennifer Otterbein, and a pastor-in-residence, Rev. Dan Shaw.
After the service, there was a good old-fashioned potluck luncheon, celebrated with the Trinity congregation and the congregation of the Taiwanese Presbyterian Church of Northern Jersey, which also worships at the building on 343 E. Cedar St. Stories were told, greetings from afar were shared, announcements were made (including of an engagement to be married!), and prizes were given to those who’d traveled the farthest, were related to the first founders, and who would be willing to sing one of the early Swedish hymns…in Swedish!
A display of historical documents and photos was prepared for the historical occasion, along with a keepsake booklet of history and pictures. The original handwritten charter from 1893 was shown to the children in the children’s sermon (who were quite taken with the elegant cursive handwriting!).
“It was a day to be remembered, to add to all the other memorable days,” said Pastor Susan Gillespie. “It was wonderful to honor those who’d taken the risk to start this church, and all those whose efforts we’ve inherited – and build on. May there be another 120 to celebrate! In the meantime, we will continue in the spirit of welcome that drew each of us.”