Trinity Episcopal Church

Chapter 22 -- Part 7

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Trinity Episcopal Church started with a few people attending sporadic services in the tiny chapel on the old Dodge farm in Hampton Falls owned by Miss Frances Healey. A converted icehouse, seating only a dozen people, the chapel stands beside the falls on Kensington Road. It was consecrated in 1932 and named "The Little Gate to the City of Gladness."

As the group grew, its members met in Miss Healey's house and later hired the Grange Hall on High Street in Hampton. The first service there was conducted by Venerable Roger Barney on September 13, 1953. Most services were conducted by Warren Jackson, lay leader, who later was ordained. There were 40 members, and that fall the ladies put on their first Holly and Berry Fair.

The church name was accepted in 1954 and mission status granted in 1955. That year, Reverend Parkman Howe, curate of Christ Church, Exeter, became the first vicar.

A piece of land on Winnacunnet Road, now occupied by Bank Meridian, was purchased in September 1954. The architect's plans were accepted, and a front-page feature in the October 11, 1956, Hampton Union announced a Building Fund drive. Some substantial gifts were received, especially from summer residents of Little Boar's Head and Rye. However, many objections were raised concerning the site, especially in regard to the lack of space, so the project was abandoned.

In 1958, the 96-year-old Hobbs house at 200 High Street was purchased. The house had been idle for some time, so considerable work was required before the building was ready for services. Tuesday and Thursday evenings the women cleaned, scrubbed, and refinished, while the men did carpentry, plumbing, and electrical work. Russell True furnished supplies, and he and Fred Small removed and replaced the old electrical wiring. The group made extensive renovations, all on a volunteer basis. Most materials were supplied by members. An addition on the back of the house became the new church, which was dedicated in March 1959.

Starting in 1958, Reverend Dwight Blakeslee served as parttime vicar. In 1960, he became the first full-time resident minister, living in a house on Mill Road willed to the church by a Mrs. Baketell. He was followed by Reverend Wilfred C. Files in 1965.

The zeal of the "original forty" spurred the twice-a-week evening work pattern through subsequent years of building. They recall the wonderful feeling of accomplishment and Christian good fellowship of those evenings. Rooms were needed for Sunday School classes, and ground was broken in 1959 for what was called the School Basement. Ten years later, more room was needed for youth and other activities. The New England Homes company was hired to erect a shell over the basement, and volunteers took over from there. Soon it was decided to make this building the church, which it remains today, facing Marston Way and situated behind the parish house. (It retains the 200 High Street address.) The church was dedicated on March 5, 1972, and parish status was granted on May 13.

Kenneth Wanzer, the building chairman, designed the church building. As Reverend Files said of him, he did honor to the title of chairman and seldom missed a Tuesday or Thursday work evening in the three years. Nor did he work alone. The New Hampshire Churchman, reporting the dedication in its March 1972, issue, quoted Reverend Files as saying, "Most who worked do not want their names mentioned, but if one took our parish list he would almost certainly see a halo over the names of Attwood, Batchelder, Bridle, Brown, Bunce, Carlson, Copp, Cole, Fuller, Garnett, Genestreti, Hendry, Higgins, Kalar, Kave, Kuhlberg, McNutt, Newell, Palmer, Russell, Shillaber, Spahn, Stiles, Thomas, True and Velte." Others too numerous to mention gave generously to the Building Fund and contributed articles used at the altar and in religious ceremonies.

Reverend Michael McCann came in 1974, when Reverend Files retired. Reverend V. Alastair Votaw served as interim from 1980 to 1982, when Reverend Richard G. M. Chambers arrived. The present (interim) rector, Reverend Warren H. Deane, took over duties in 1985. During the Blakeslee years, membership reached about 400. Of these, about 200 were communicants. In 1960, there were 432 members, 221 communicants. At present, there are 496 members, 157 communicants. The Nearly New Shop, located on the second floor of the parish house, began in 1960.

In 1982, Hampton fire chief Donald Matheson died suddenly. The next year, his family donated a memorial to him in the form of a decorative window, installed behind the altar. That same year, one of the early members, Mrs. Constance Bridle, lost a leg to cancer, and a wheelchair ramp was added to the parish-house side of the church.

Asian's Pride, a nonsectarian preschool nursery, is quartered in the School Basement. It offers two- and three-day programs. In 1981, the church sponsored a Polish refugee family brought here through the Church World Service. Trinity Episcopal hosts Al-Anon meetings and sends clothing to poor families in town and in Maine.

It has become a tradition that the rector of Trinity Episcopal Church of Hampton conducts Sunrise Service on Easter morning in that tiny chapel beside the river in Hampton Falls.

  -—Maybelle McBee
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