Crete’s Trinity Memorial Episcopal Church Celebrates 140th Anniversary

Crete’s Trinity Memorial Episcopal Church Celebrates 140th Anniversary

Trinity Memorial Episcopal Church of Crete, at 14th and Juniper Streets, celebrated its 140th anniversary on April 14, 2012 with a luncheon at Doane College followed by a service at 2 p.m. conducted by the Right Reverend J. Scott Barker, Bishop of Nebraska.  The service included Baptism, Confirmation and transfer of membership.

Crete’s history, Doane College’s history and Trinity Memorial’s history are inextricably connected.  According to early church documents microfilm at the Nebraska State Historical Society, the following was written in 1892 by the Rev. Edward S. Cross, Rector:

“The town of Crete was founded during the year 1870.Church services were held in 1871 and 1872 by the Rev. A. T. Whitten, and a service was held in 1872 by Bishop (Robert Harper) Clarkson; the place of worship being a room over a store (since burned) on E.13th St.

“On July 29, 1872, the following Vestry was elected at the Parish meeting: Wardens Henry Code and Alexander Johnston, Vestrymen J. Chowens, James Muncey, and M. J. Whitten.

“At this meeting, the Rev. A. T. Whitten, the first rector of the Parish, presided.  At the same meeting it was resolved to proceed to build the church.  Donors of the Church Building, the two Misses Dater, residing in New York City, had placed at the disposal of the Bishop, the sum of $2,000 for the building of a church; to be given to some parish which would raise $1,000 for a rectory; and the Bishop, partly out of regard to the Rev. A. T. Whitten, who had recently moved to the vicinity of Crete, gave for a church in Crete the benefit of the donation, the church receiving the name of “Trinity Memorial” in commemoration of the parents of the Misses Dater.

“The church was built in the autumn of 1872; the rectory within a few months before that date.”

The author of this part of the history, The Rev. Edward S. Cross, was appointed by the bishop to serve the church in Crete in February, 1892.  He writes, “The Sunday school was fairly flourishing, owing largely to the attendance of Bohemian children who constituted a majority of the school, although in the congregation there were fairly few Bohemians.”

He writes further:

Crete is a town unusually moral, religious, and cultured; and this Parish is one of much respectability of moral character, comparing favorably with very many.  If its churchly goal be unequal to its moral purity, there are various circumstances in its history which largely account for its condition; while its failure to gain any considerable hold on the population of the town is largely accounted for by the overwhelming predominance of the Congregational Church with its college.

The history continues from October 1892 to1947, written by Mrs. Nettie Aksamit.

Trinity Memorial spawned many priests and bishops, including 1897’s James Wise who became Bishop of Kansas, and 1898’s Father Gilman, coming first as a University of Nebraska student, who later became Bishop of China. There was the Rev. Irving P. Johnson, later Bishop of Colorado, also in the 1890s.From 1929 to 1931, Mr. Robert Mason, a Doane student, led services.  Upon graduation he attended seminary in Illinois.The 1940’s saw Doane students William Steinberg and Paul Moss proceeding to seminary after serving as Lay Readers, and in the 1950’s, Rodney Michl, now Assisting Bishop of Philadelphia, led services.  Currently, Doane graduate Chris Sloane, having attended Virginia Theological Seminary, is a priest in St. Louis, Missouri.

Leaders of the church services were always men, many of whom were students and faculty at Doane, including Senior Warden David Smith, until September 1990 when Priest, Anne McConney, began to serve Crete.

Trinity Memorial, on the National Historic Register, soldiered on through floods, blizzards, wars, droughts, hard times and good times, though these are not mentioned.  The late 1940s and early 1950s, after Cal Steele supervised the creation of the basement, saw Shrove Tuesday pancake breakfasts and a healthy mix of parents and youngsters in Sunday School and choir.

In more recent years, Trinity Memorial instituted a Lessons and Carols Service during Advent, and a Community Garden.  The roof has been replaced, the sidewalks were rebuilt, a handicapped ramp was added, and the furnace upgraded.  Doane students have spent countless hours of Community Service time helping with painting, grounds work and inside jobs. A Latino congregation, Iglesia de Jesuchristo shares the church Friday evening and Sunday afternoon.

Trinity Memorial continues, led by Deacon Christine Grosh, Lay Readers Adrian Harris, Senior Warden Betty Talley and Jody Kerssenbrock for Morning Prayer and Holy Eucharist.  Doctor Steve Buhler is in charge of music.  Services are at 10:30 a.m. and all are invited to attend. The web address is


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