Congregation

Trinity Episcopal Church enjoys a heritage as one of the two oldest churches in Woodbridge Township, and one of the earliest established in New Jersey. The Parish’s roots go back to 1698, when the Church of England sent missionary Edward Portlock into Perth Amboy.

Portlock held services in Woodbridge and served as the congregation’s first Rector in 1698-1699. Another Anglican missionary, George Keith, followed in 1702-1703.

Members of the congregation also attended the First Church of Woodbridge, an independent meeting house built not long after the township was founded in 1669. The church was located in a section of town called Kirk Green that was set aside for religious buildings.

The First church was non-denominational until 1710, when it decided to become a Presbyterian church. The affiliation caused a walkout by numerous people who wished to maintain other denominational ties. Anglicans conducted services at the Jonathan Dunham House, just north of the First Church, and in other private homes after the split.

Benjamin DunChurch Building 1ham, one of Jonathan’s sons, led an effort to build a permanent church. By 1713, the Governor of New Jersey granted permission to the Anglican community for a new building, located between the meeting house and the Dunham House. The church was a wood-framed, clapboard structure with unglazed windows and a dirt floor, as shown in this artist’s rendering.

The building was unfinished when Benjamin Dunham died in 1715. While services were held there occasionally after his death, the structure fell into ruins and was abandoned by 1725.

In 1752,  The Rev. Thomas Bradbury Chandler of Elizabethtown (now Elizabeth)Church Building 2 came to Woodbridge to hold services and to revitalize the congregation. He was sent by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts after efforts by James Parker, who founded Parker Press, New Jersey’s first printing press. Parker was a lay reader and officiant.

The society paid for the construction of the second church building, another wood-framed structure. The new building featured clapboard siding, glazed windows, wood flooring and a belfry. The work was completed in 1756, and the church is shown in this artist’s rendering.

A silver communion chChalicealice is the first documentary evidence for the church’s naming. The inscription reads: “The gift of Mary Dennis, Widow: to Trinity Church in Woodbridge, December ye 25th., 1760.” The chalice is still in the Church’s possession today.

Trinity received a Royal Charter from the Colonial Representative of King George III on Dec. 6, 1769. Since then, the Parish has operated under its provisions, with one exception: the date of the Annual Parish Meeting is now amended annually to the fourth Sunday in January, rather than the Tuesday of Easter Week as stated in the document. The charter, shown below, was restored and framed in 2007 and is available for viewing.

Charter

During the Revolutionary War, Trinity Church and all other Anglican churches in New Jersey were ordered closed. The denomination was then known as the Church of England, and many of the Parishioners were British subjects and Officials of the Crown. The church building was a barracks and the Rectory served as a fort when British soldiers occupied Woodbridge between December 1776 and June 1777,

Considerable evidence suggests that numerous members of Trinity Church took part in the fight for American independence. Yet the Church’s historical association with England, along with a smallpox epidemic and other issues, caused the congregation’s size to fluctuate.

In 1858, the seconChurch Building 3d church building burned to the ground when chimney embers from a woodstove ignited a fire. The Rector, The Rev. Eugene Augustus Hoffman, raised money from the congregation to put up a third church building, which was larger and stronger than its predecessor. The brick structure was constructed in 1860 at a cost of $3,333.44 and consecrated on May 20, 1861. It is still in use today. (For more details about the building and grounds, click here.)

The Parish started mission congregations between 1863 and 1895. Among them were missions in the Sewaren and Fords sections of Woodbridge that eventually merged as St. John’s, Woodbridge, and became an independent parish in 2012.

From 1899 through 1918, a period of decline followed as before. Senior Warden John H. Love refused to close the church in 1900 even though only one person was attending services. Several years later, the Church could only afford a part-time Rector, who visited once a month.

When The Rev. William Harold Schmaus arrived in Woodbridge in 1942, Trinity shared his services with St. Peter’s in Perth Amboy and St. John’s in Fords. Father Schmaus was named Rector after 18 months. His change of status resulted from an improvement in the Parish’s finances. He retired in 1980 and was succeeded the following year by The Rev. Robert L. Counselman, who served until 2014.

 Today, Trinity Church is alive with activity designed to serve Parishioners and the surrounding community. Along with sponsoring a Sunday School and several Parish organizations, the church operates a community Food Pantry and the township’s only Soup Kitchen to help the needy. The church plays host to 12-step programs and other community groups, and supports the work of the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of New Jersey and throughout the world. As we celebrate more than three centuries of ministry to the Woodbridge community, we look forward to the future.

Links to Historical Documents

Yearbook (1922)

250th Anniversary (1948)

275th Anniversary (1973)

125th Anniversary of the Consecration (1986)

Priests and Rectors of Trinity Church

1. Edward Portlock, 1698-1699
2. George Keith, 1703
3. John Talbot, M.A., 1704
4. John Sharpe, 1704
5. Edward Vaughan, 1709-1714
6. Thomas Halliday, 1717-1718
7. James William Skinner, 1722-1752
8. Thomas Bradbury Chandler, D.D.. 1752-1763
9. Robert McKean, M.A.. 1763- 1767
10. John Preston. 1767-1760
11. Abraham Beach, D.D., 1769; 1778-1784
12. Uzal Ogden, D.D., 1797-1804
13. Jasper David Jones, 1804-1809
14. James Chapman, 1809
15. John Croes, D.D.. 1809
16. John C. Rudd, D.D., 1810
17. Daniel Higbee, 1812-1813
18. Lewis P. Bayard. 1813
19. George Y. Morehouse, 1815-1816
20. Samuel C. Stratton, 1817-1818
21. Francis H. Cuming, 1819
22. Clarkson Dunn. 1819-1822
23. John M. Ward. 1822
24. Robert B. Croes, 1823
25. John Croes Jr., 1824-1825
26. Charles Smith, 1825
27. Benjamin Holmes, 1825-1827
28. William Douglas, 1829-1838
29. Frederick Ogilby, 1838-1842
30. Hamble James Leacock, 1842-1843
31. James Chapman, 1843-1857
32. Henry X. Pierce, 1857
33. William P. Earle, 1857-1861
34. Eugene Augustus Hoffman, D.D., 1858-1862
35. Peter L. Jacques, 1862-1869
36. Robert C. Mcllwain, 1869-1871
37. J. A. Penniman, 1871-1872
38. T. Lewis Bannister, 1872-1875
39. Julian Edward Ingle, 1875-1879
40. Frank Hallam. 1879-1880
41. Howard E. Thompson, 1880-1884
42. Lewis H. Lighthipe, M.A., 1885-1895
43. Rudolph E. Brestell, D.D.. 1896-1899
44. Scott B. Rathbun, 1899-1913
45. Henrv Hale Gilford. Ph.D.. 1914-1917
46. Reginald Harwood Thomas, 1918
47. Walter Herbert Stowe, D.D.. 1919-1921
48. Edward Harold Vogt, 1921-1923
49. J. Benjamin Myers, L.L.B., 1923-1931
50. Edward Randolph Welles, M.A., S.T.B., 1931-1934
51. Howard Frederick Klein. B.S., 1934-1942
52. William Harold Schmaus, M.A., S.T.B.. 1942-1980
53. Robert L. Counselman, B. Mus., M.Div, 1981-2014
54. Angela Cipolla, M.Div, 2015-