Trinity’s huge potentialDec 21, 2020 09:19AM ● By Tricia Hoadley
By Richard L. Gaw
Hockessin’s new Trinity Community Church is beautiful in its architectural respect for its hallowed grounds and impressive in its modern amenities to spread the word of God. The $9 million project is also too small for the inclusive goals of its leaders, who want to serve the dearly departed, soccer moms, nature lovers, sports fans, people who want to learn and area groups needing a place to meet.
“Our heart is to be available to everyone in the community,” said pastor TJ Harris, a good man to lead the growth, based on his last post, fostering another Assemblies of God church in Wausau, Wisconsin, from 80 members to 600 in 2½ years. “We’re good builders,” he said of himself and his wife Robin, also a pastor at Trinity. Trish Gunn serves as the third pastor.
Of course, all these plans have been delayed by coronavirus restrictions, and the building, at 6580 Lancaster Pike, is unused. The church pivoted to virtual services: 5 p.m. Saturdays and 8:30 a.m., 10 a.m. and noon Sundays. At 6 p.m. Sundays, the church is hosting an outdoor service.
The last few months have been bittersweet,” said Mia Burch, one of the founders. “We overcame many struggles with finances and government approvals, so it was incredibly exciting to be open, but then the Covid situation happened. But in the end, it’s never about the building; it’s about the community, leading people to Christ. A church is not a building. We are the church.”
The building has enabled church members to do more good work behind the scenes, she added, such as providing food to children who once relied on school lunches and to residents of the Delaware Center for Homeless Veterans in downtown Wilmington.
“We’ve kicked up our compassion,” Harris said, noting that Trinity and its members have fed 7,000 people since the virus hit this spring through The Well, a coffeehouse and marketplace owned by the church a mile and a half away.
First a building, then more stuff
Various laws encouraged the church to grow in stages of 20,000 square feet, and fortuitously other laws allow it to eventually build on about half of its 13-acre property.
The first major change since the opening of the church is the Trinity Community Cemetery, which Harris said will have 1,000 burial plots, plus space for mausoleums and cremains. It opened in July, on the north side of the property, next to the cemetery for St. Mary’s, Delaware’s first Catholic church. Trinity also manages the old cemetery, and its sign will return, once it can be secured. Vandalism had scarred the rolling property when it was largely unused, with one hopeful graffito kept for now: the word “dream” spray-painted on an old storage building.
Other outdoor features being considered include a soccer field, walking trails and an amphitheater. Indoors, church leaders are planning for a gym and rooms that can serve as offices, classrooms and meeting spaces.
Church offices are now on the second floor of The Well. “It feels peaceful,” Harris said of The Well. “The environment is very welcoming, with Christian and affirming music playing.” There’s also a bookcase of Bibles and religious books for browsing. A spinoff, The Well at Coffee Run, encourages fellowship at the church before and after services.
A half-dozen families – Paul and Mia Burch; Zach and Reny Koshey; Jim and Danielle Sipala; Neil and Ann Marie Taylor; and founding pastor Steve Trader and his wife Barb – are credited with starting the church in 2005, with services first at Wilmington Christian School. (Trader is now chief executive officer of Global Teen Challenge.)
Over the years, the church’s new site, split by a waterway called Coffee Run, was considered for a subdivision, a 55-plus community and a school. Its return as a church pleases Harris. “It was set aside a couple hundred years ago for God’s purpose, and it lay dormant until we could continue its mission.”
About 400 adults “call the church their home, attending at least twice a month,” he said in an interview this winter, and that figure is up from 30 when it began services. Some come from near (such as residents walking from the adjacent Westgate Farms subdivision and Coffee Run condos), and some from as far as Middletown and New Jersey.
Serving the community
Trinity, one of Delaware’s 17 Assemblies of God churches, wants to open its facilities to everyone, including other churches, “to show love for our community,” he said. The church also forwards 10 percent of its budget to 75 missions worldwide. “Our heart is ... to make the world a better place.”
“I’ve been watching and praying for your success,” A’Lexa Hawkins wrote on the church’s Facebook page, just before the new building opened Dec. 22, a few weeks after the Harrises arrived.
They were high school sweethearts who grew up Greek Orthodox and Presbyterian. One day when he was a high school sophomore, a fellow football player invited him to an Assemblies of God youth group. “I had Christ presented to me in a way that I have never seen before,” he said. “It made sense. I had purpose and a personal connection.” He was baptized at age 17, and Robin followed at age 18.
The main entrance is into The Atrium, an airy space available for weddings and other milestones. The sanctuary seats 500 and is designed like a theater, with a sloping floor and technology that allows events to be viewed on Facebook and heard on https://trinitychurchde.com. When it can use the building, Harris plans to have Sunday services at 9 and 11 a.m. and is thinking about a third service, maybe on Saturday evening.
A chapel follows the spirit of the Lancaster Pike property’s old stone barn. After concluding the barn couldn’t be salvaged, they kept the chapel to the same footprint, repurposed stones, used rafters that evoke the barn’s ceiling and installed classic barn-red doors. Some low stone walls remain nearby.
A large amount of space is dedicated to children, with cameras and a check-in system providing security and comfort to parents and guardians.
Once a month, Trinity hosts Prayer Furnaces, with 12 stations, including one with participants encouraged to nail their burden to the cross. One telling prayer that the church’s guiding philosophy could resolve: “The need to figure everything out on my own.”