The Episcopal Church in the United States was in crisis. Its leadership had strayed from the traditional and historic teachings of the Church, particularly those dealing with the authority of scripture. Simply put, it was a controversy about the Bible. At issue was not just a few individual passages, as is often alleged, but the broad structure of the biblical narrative. This, over some years, caused many to leave their churches.
On Monday, September 3, 2003, at 5 o’clock in the afternoon, three people met in a home nearby to pray for renewal in the Church and city of Raleigh after a prolonged struggle with the knowledge that orthodox Christian belief was no longer supported. It was the least that could be done, yet, the greatest thing that could be done. Each of these people bore the unmistakable imprint of someone who knew firsthand the power of prayer. Alfred Lord Tennyson once said, “More things are wrought by prayer than the world can dream of.”
The next week, the group was larger as word spread and continued to grow week after week. Meeting every Monday at 5pm, we laid before the Lord our grief over this situation.
On the second Monday in December, the prayer meeting reconvened as usual. On this cold afternoon, little did the group realize that the answer to our prayers had begun to unfold. Someone in the group said that what Raleigh needed was to hear the gospel preached and taught by priests who believed in the traditional teaching of the Church, God’s Word.
By the time we met the next Monday, twelve amazing orthodox ministers, deans and bishops from across the United States were coming to Raleigh to preach. All Saints Chapel at St. David’s School was leased for twelve weeks on Sunday at 5pm, and the members of the group settled on a name for this informal new preaching series. How could we have made this happen? We couldn’t, but God could! And he did!
All Saints Fellowship was born on January 11, 2004 on an icy, cold day. The Lord’s provision was astounding! The Chapel filled with eager visitors. The atmosphere at the following Monday prayer meeting was clearly different and for every Monday thereafter. The group was keenly aware that the Lord was leading…the excitement was palpable. We were on an adventure with the Lord and he was going before us.
As the service came to a close on March 28, 2004, it was inconceivable that we would not continue what the Lord had clearly begun. The series continued and we continued to pray. The original members of All Saints Fellowship met on May 22, 2004 at the Underwood’s home and decided to move forward. With the Lord’s help, a new church would be established and its name would be Holy Trinity! To God be the glory!
An interim vestry was formed – George DeLoache, Willa and John Kane, Dody and George Ragsdale (Clerk), Garland (Senior Warden) and Greyson Tucker, Martha (Junior Warden) and Speck Underwood, and Anne Duncan and Dewey Weaver. A mission statement was written: “To serve God, to exalt Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, to proclaim his word.” We now were a part of the national realignment of his Church. Reformation had begun! We began praying for the establishment of a strong orthodox province in North America. It was thought that this formation would take years to accomplish. But the Lord was moving.
On September 12, 2004, sixteen years ago, Holy Trinity Church opened its doors. So many times when a situation seems hopeless, it’s actually an opportunity. God wants to do something great. He wants to demonstrate his power, so that his name will be praised in a new and greater way. We know “that nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). We had experienced the power of prayer. Dwight L. Moody once said, “Every great work of God can be traced to some kneeling form,” and we believed this to be true. God had ordained before the beginning of time that Holy Trinity would come into being!
Our parishioners stepped up to fill any and all tasks that were needed to begin. Everyone, without exception, brought to use whatever gifts the Lord had given them. On Fairview Road, a small house was leased for our office, which we cleaned, painted, landscaped and manned. The interim vestry began a search for a rector. Joy abounded! The Lord grew our “little flock” together with a love for each other that was noticed by all. This care and love for each other and each new member permeates our corporate life together today.
The church was without clergy leadership for a year, but as was everything we experienced, the Lord was at work. In April 2005, he brought not one, but two outstanding men to lead Holy Trinity. The Rev. Dr. Michael Green, an Englishman considered one of the most influential evangelists and Christian writers of the day, and the Rev. David Drake served as co-rectors! The church grew rapidly under their leadership, and it was clear that God was using both of their gifts to build up the body of Christ and equip the saints. So, we began our second year of parish life, on our knees, with grateful hearts and profound thanksgiving for his goodness, which surpassed anything we could imagine. In a short time, our staff was increased. Rev. Ger Jones also joined us and served as both assistant and interim rector.
Trusting in the Lord, we continued to pray for all the churches like ours throughout the US and Canada to come together to form a new denomination. In December 2008, a new denomination of about 100,000 members came together as the new Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). Bishop Robert Duncan, the newly elected archbishop, preached his first sermon after the announcement at Holy Trinity. With courage and persistence, we were once again able to see the Lord’s hand and his grace displayed.
In April 2010, now with Michael Green back in England and David Drake called to Baltimore, we courageously began, without a rector, the initiative “Proclaiming Peace” to raise the funds to build on the property on Peace Street. Once again, the Lord provided! He touched the hearts of his people – everyone joyously participated and the funds were raised.
Fast forward to Sunday, September 12, 2010, our 6th anniversary celebration of Holy Trinity. With unspeakable gratitude to God, unbounded joy and unity, and an understanding of the significance of this day, we welcomed the Rev. Dr. John W. Yates III as the new rector of Holy Trinity! Once again, our great and loving God had blessed us beyond all measure. With John, his wife Alysia, and their four children, Sylvia, Isabel, Jack and Alexander, and our happy congregation, we began our life together.
That was 10 years ago today. A decade! John has been a visionary leader, lovingly, effectively guiding and teaching us at Holy Trinity. As our church began as a small group on their knees, we continue each Monday at 5pm. Thanks be to God for the great things he has done!
Martha Underwood, Founding Member and Co-chair of Holy Trinity’s Women’s Council