Trinity Episcopal Church, Chocowinity, North Carolina
In 1773, Nathaniel Blount journeyed from Bath, North Carolina to London to be ordained as a deacon and priest to serve the North Carolina Colony. He was ordained in Lambeth Palace by the Bishop of London. When Blount returned to North Carolina, he was extremely active in founding new parishes and working to build up existing parishes. In 1774, he founded and built a mission (chapel) at Godley's Crossroads. The heavy timber framed building was constructed by Giles Shute and John Herrington (according to signed timbers in the building) on land donated by Rhoda and John O'Hagan for the use of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States. The simple framed structure served the community of planters surrounding Godley's Cross. Blount journeyed far and wide serving communicants of the Church in North Carolina. During the latter years of his life, he was likely the only Episcopal priest serving the colony (later state) of North Carolina.
In 1817, delegates from Trinity attended the convention to form the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina, apart from the Diocese of Virginia. The new diocese called the Right Rev'd John Stark Ravenscroft to be the first bishop. Bishop Ravenscroft visited Blount's Chapel as the little framed building had become known and consecrated it officially as an Episcopal house of worship, calling it Trinity Church.
The parish was home to white planters and enslaved blacks, according to the records of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina.
In 1851, the Rev'd N. C. Hughes and his wife opened Trinity School. This boarding and day school taught both boys and girls. The Rt. Rev'd John Stark Ravenscroft sent his children from Raleigh to Chocowinity to attend the school. Children were instructed in Greek, English, math, rhetoric, history, and more. In addition, girls were expected to master needlework, sewing, and other handiworks which were deemed important to young ladies' education at the time. The school was built and operated in response to North Carolina's lackluster efforts at public education during the nineteenth century. In 1906, the school closed. By this time, the State's General Assembly had begun to adequately fund and organize the public school system. By 1907, East Carolina Teacher's College (ECTC) opened in Greenville, NC, not far from Chocowinity. This college became ECU in 1967.
The church building was moved in 1939 from it's location across from Trinity Cemetery to a site owned by the parish in the new crossroads community of Chocowinity. Vandalism, including hiding bootleg liquor in the church's wood stoves, was sited for reason for the move. The move also brought the church building closer to the newly emerging town of Chocowinity.
In 1959, the General Convention of The Episcopal Church admitted women to serve on parish vestries. Josephine Mitchell Dixon was the first woman in Trinity's history to serve as member of the vestry.
In 1991, the parish was able for a time to call its first full-time rector. Prior to this time, the priest was shared with other parishes. The Rev'ds Jeremiah Day, William Bomar Etters, and Michael C. Nation served as the parish's first full time parish priests from 1991-2001 with the Rev'd L. P. Houston and the Rev'd James Cooke serving as long-term interims from time to time.
The Rev'd Joseph Malcolm (Sonny) Browne, III, a native of Bertie County, was called to be rector of the parish in 2004 following his graduation from Virginia Theological Seminary. After twelve years of ministry with Trinity, he accepted the invitation of Bishop Skirving to serve as Canon for Diocesan Life in East Carolina. He began work at Diocesan House in Kinston on July 5, 2016, exactly 12 years after beginning at Trinity Church. A granite bench in the Memorial Garden commemorates his service to Trinity.
In 2012, the members of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Washington, NC determined they were unable to continue as an independent parish in the Diocese of East Carolina. This historically black congregation had held a significant place of ministry and work in Washington, NC. The NAACP had recognized them for their efforts and contribution through the years. With many of the parish's youth leaving for college and engaging in professional and academic work in other states and far from home, the membership of St. Paul's became too small to sustain it's ministry and building. In 2012, the remaining parishioners prayerfully determined to join Trinity, Chocowinity. The processional cross, Christus Rex, chalice, paten, and other liturgical ware are in regular use in the parish.
In the same year, members of Church of the Holy Cross in Aurora, NC determined that they were no longer capable of sustaining an independent parish. Similarly to St. Paul's, Washington, many of their children had attended college and gained success in other states and cities. The remaining parishioners began attending Trinity, traveling from Aurora, following this decision.
After almost a year without a resident priest, the Rev'd Lori Thompson was appointed Priest-in-Charge, and she began her service to Trinity on May 1, 2017.
The venerable old building in Chocowinity has continued to serve the congregation to the present day. It has been in continuous, weekly use as an Episcopal house of worship since its construction. Everyone is welcome within its walls. Former members and friends of Trinity, St. Paul's, and Holy Cross who live out of the area are all welcome to return for Homecoming on the first Sunday in October each year to visit, celebrate, and reminisce together.
182 NC Hwy 33 W
Chocowinity, NC 27817