Trinity Anglican Church Saint John

Trinity Anglican Church Saint John

Trinity Anglican Church Saint John

Founded by the United Empire Loyalists during the American War of Independence, the Parish of Saint John represents the efforts of those who chose loyalty to the British Crown and fled the United States. They were determined to find freedom and contribute to a new nation’s formation. On May 18, 1783, three thousand individuals landed on the rugged, tree-laden shores of a small colonial trading post on Saint John Harbour. Arriving from New York on twenty ships, these people were among the modern era’s first political refugees.

Trinity Anglican Church Saint John

One of their immediate priorities was to establish a church. Trinity, the oldest established Christian congregation in the City of Saint John, has occupied three different buildings throughout its over two-century-long history. In the Parish of Saint John, the Loyalists’ first church was simply known as the “Parish Church.” It also functioned as the courthouse and public meeting hall. From 1784 to 1791, this initial frame structure located on Germain Street between Duke and Queen Streets hosted services. Initially unheated, the building was later equipped with a pulpit, lectern, Holy table, stoves, and pews. One of the first officiants was the Rt. Rev. Samuel Seabury, the newly formed United States’ first Episcopal Church Bishop. He visited family friends in Saint John on his return journey from his consecration by the bishops of the Scottish Episcopal Church.

Trinity Anglican Church Saint John

The Parish was incorporated in 1786, with the Rev. George Bissett as its first rector. He started a fund to construct the Old Trinity Church. The site chosen for the Old and current church included two lots each on Germain Street and Charlotte Street. However, the Rev. George Bisset passed away before the cornerstone was laid.

Trinity Anglican Church Saint John

The church was named after the Trinity Church in New York by the Right Rev. Charles Inglis and was completed by Christmas Day, 1791. The Rt. Rev. Inglis, the first overseas bishop of the British Possessions, laid the cornerstone of the second church on August 20, 1788.

Trinity Anglican Church Saint John

It was a simple Georgian structure consecrated by Bishop Inglis on August 29, 1792, in a service which included New Brunswick’s first-ever ordination. The Rev. Frederick Diblee, Woodstock’s first rector, and Rev. Oliver Arnold, Sussex’s first rector, were ordained priests.

Trinity Anglican Church Saint John 1880
John Saunders Climo Stereograph Proof. 1880

In the 1850s, Old Trinity underwent extensive renovation, transforming into an impressive Gothic architectural structure. The congregation used Old Trinity for 86 years until the Great Fire of Saint John in 1877, which consumed a significant portion of the City and the church. Only the Communion vessels, parish registers, and the Royal Coat of Arms remained. Many Parish families lost everything, for some it was the second time in a century, and the loss of Old Trinity was deeply felt. Yet, the congregation wasted no time in replacing the lost edifice.

The new church’s cornerstone was laid on May 19, 1879, coinciding with the anniversary of the Loyalist landing in 1783. A “time capsule” was placed in the cornerstone, including the old clock’s dials, a Parish history, local books, pictures, and other interesting information. The trowel used is located in the Baptistry, to the left of the doors, above the church’s cornerstone. The church construction proceeded smoothly, and the “School House” hosted services starting February 1, 1880. The church was finished later that year and was consecrated by the Most Rev. John Medley, the First Bishop of Fredericton, on December 9, 1880. The Anglican Youth Camp, Camp Medley, was named in his honour.

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