Trinity Lutheran Church in Milford celebrates 60 years
As Trinity Lutheran Church in Milford celebrates its 60th anniversary, its leaders are looking at the church history, but they are also looking to the future to determine exactly where religion and church fits into peoples’ lives today.
The story of Trinity Lutheran Church started in 1953, when conversations about starting a Lutheran congregation in Milford began between the Rev. Paul Lorimer of Bethesda Lutheran Church in New Haven and the Rev. Glen Pierson of the Augustana Lutheran Church Board of American Missions.
Milford was chosen because there was no Lutheran church in town, and many Milford Lutherans were worshipping with other denominations, according to the Rev. Christopher Files, who has been Trinity’s pastor since 2007.
“In January of 1955 the steering committee adopted the name Trinity Lutheran Church for this new mission,” Files wrote in the June church bulletin.
The first Lutheran service in Milford was held on Feb. 6, 1955 in the choral room of what was then Milford High School and what is today the Parsons Government Center.
A ceremony for signing the Charter Roll was held during worship on Sunday, May 29; the charter was signed by 95 adults and 68 children.
The Service for Organization, which marks Trinity’s anniversary, was held the following Sunday, June 5, 1955 at 3:30 p.m. at the First United Church of Christ, Congregational. Pastor Lorimer presided, and Arthur Larson, not yet ordained, preached the sermon.
Larson was ordained two weeks later, on June 19, and was installed as Trinity’s first pastor on Aug. 28, 1955.
He was followed over the years by the Rev. Carl Moberg, the Rev. Alden Erlandson, the Rev. John Moretz, and Files, who was installed June 3, 2007.
Interim pastors included Roger Imhoff and Henry Morris
“At a congregational meeting on Oct. 30, 1955, members voted to purchase the current property, for $7,500,” Files wrote. “In September 1956 the plans for the first unit of building were approved — the idea was to build an educational unit, using the fellowship hall as the sanctuary until the second unit of building could be accomplished at a later date. This original building was dedicated a year after that, on Sept. 29, 1957. A new appeal for the next building stage began in 1968, and plans were approved in 1971. The dedication of the fully-completed building took place on June 3, 1973.”
The church at 21 Robert Treat Parkway has about 90 active families today, plus other members. Many gathered on the last Sunday in May to cut cake, view photographs and celebrate the 60 years of their church.
It was after the celebration that Files sat down to chat about the church and religion in people’s lives as the church moves forward.
Today, 75% of New Englanders are non-church goers, he said, explaining that the church — Trinity included — may have to reposition itself for a new and changing society.
Things are not like they were in the 1950s, when church was often a family’s social center. Today there are many social networks competing with the church, and today’s younger generation doesn’t seem as drawn to institutions, like churches, as their parents before them. Just recently the church council voted to engage in an effort called “Forward Leadership Community,” “to see where we’re at,” Rev. Files said.
Each congregation is different, and it doesn’t work to model one church after another, he explained. “Every congregation is as unique as a fingerprint.”
Of the 180 Lutheran congregations in the New England Synod, 40 were recently found to be quite strong; 40 were struggling and could fall any time, and the other 100 could go either way.
Files thinks the Milford church is among those 100 in the middle.
Church leaders will look at their strengths and weaknesses, as many businesses have done in the past as the Internet and technology have changed the way a lot of people do business.
Much like businesses, smaller churches are looking at the future with questions.
“The culture is changing rapidly,” Files said, “and we’re having a hard time keeping up.”
So the church will look at ways to get their message out.
Phyllis Tickle, founding editor of the religion department of Publishers Weekly, says every 500 years a church goes through significant change, Files pointed out.
In an interview with faithandleadership.com, Tickle is quoted as saying, “If one were going to put one adjective to the Great Emergence, and thereby one adjective to emergence Christianity, one would say “deinstitutionalized.”
Files agrees that the younger generation shies away from institutions, of which church is one.
But he is positive: Even if the church is floundering in today’s society, there will be a resurrection. “There is life ahead of us. The holy spirit can lead us through,” he said.
Church is still needed today, Files said. People need to recharge their batteries: tradition, music and family are still important to many people. Support is a big reason for church; being accepted, welcomed and supported through ups and downs of life is important, the pastor said. And, he added, it’s important to feel a connection to God.
“We still need a place in the world where we can go to hear we don’t have to keep running the rat race,” Files said. “Today you’re supposed to pick yourself up. But here, God is with us. It’s not all up to us.”
Millennials — those generally born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s — do care about making a difference, and that’s one way to reach them, Files said.
He said one of the church’s goals will be to transform themselves to make more of a difference in the world today.