A Brief History of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church
As early as 1865, Swedish immigrants began coming to North Easton, an attractive community in which to live and work. With an interest in preserving their Lutheran heritage, these immigrants invited Pastor A. Hult, from the Campello district of Brockton, to conduct Lutheran services at their homes. Pastor Hult conducted these services beginning in 1872 until he left Campello, at which time the services were discontinued. In 1890, Pastor C. T. Sandstrom was called to conduct a baptism. Through Pastor Sandstrom’s influence, a Lutheran minister, Pastor A. J. Norlin, came to town to preach the word of God. Pastor Norlin met with five men and they decided to announce a service. A large group responded and once more the Lutheran gospel was preached in North Easton. At the close of the service, a committee of three was elected to canvass the town to determine how many people wanted regular Lutheran services. These services were first held in McCarthy’s Hall on Main Street, and then were moved to Williams Hall at the corner of Williams and Main Streets in North Easton.
In October 1890, the Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church Society was organized with 84 members. In March 1892, Pastor A. J. Norlin met with 20 members to complete organizational arrangements for the new congregation. The Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church was then established as a legal corporation with 59 charter members, a constitution was adopted and officers were elected. That same year, a lot was purchased on the corner of Jenny Lind and Williams Streets, and plans were made to construct a church building. The building was completed and dedicated by the end of that year.
The newly organized congregation was received into the Evangelical Lutheran Augustana Synod in February, 1893 as the Swedish Libanon Evangelical Lutheran Church. In October 1897, Pastor A. M. Benander became the congregation’s first called pastor. Renovations to the church took place in 1898, when the pulpit – which had been on a platform behind the altar – was removed and a new pulpit was placed outside the altar rail. More comfortable pews were also added. In May 1900, the congregation acquired property adjacent to the church, which was renovated as a parsonage. With membership increasing, it was necessary in 1908 to enlarge the church building. This was done by separating the building in the middle and moving both ends out to the edges of the lot, in order to lengthen the nave. A pipe organ was installed and an altar painting was added. In 1917, an adjacent lot was added to the church property for a price of $1000.
In October 1916, Pastor A. J. Hilmer was called to serve, and he guided the congregation faithfully for the next 34 years until his retirement in 1950. During those years, the transition was made from the Swedish language to English. In 1923, the English language was introduced at one Sunday evening service each month for the benefit of the English-speaking members, although the Swedish language was still used at other services. In subsequent years, the switch was made to the English language at all services except for the use of the Swedish language at one Sunday morning service a month and for all Sunday evening services.
Women always played a prominent role in the work of the church. A few months before the organization of the church, a group of 13 women formed a society called “Den Äldre Kvinno-Föreningen,” or “The Older Women’s Society.” In 1908, they changed the name to “Fridsbandet” or “Peace Band.” This organization was always the mainstay of church work. Whenever the church fathers were in need of financial aid, this group never failed to be of assistance. Another very active group, formed by ten young women in 1898, was a society called “Golden Links.” These young women contributed liberally to the support and maintenance of the church and its property, assisted the various Lutheran institutions and extended a helping hand to many charitable and worthy causes. They also took a keen interest in civic affairs, including American Red Dross work during World Wars I and II. In 1925, a few of the women of the church organized a Missionary Society, which shortly thereafter affiliated with the Women’s Missionary Society of the Augustana Synod. Their aim was to lend material and spiritual aid to home and foreign missions.
In 1925, a few men felt a men’s group might stimulate interest in church work and a branch of the Lutheran Brotherhood was formed. This Brotherhood contributed to District and Conference undertakings – notably the boys’ camp, as well as basketball teams and bowling leagues, along with other local church work and activities.
The Young People’s Society was organized in 1896. For many years, this society’s name was “Ungdonsforeningen Libanon,” or “Lebanon Youth Society,” but later the name was changed to “Luther League.” This society was influential in keeping the church young people together in church work. During the years of immigration from Sweden, many of the young newcomers initially became interested in the church work by joining this group. Through the years, the Luther League was one of the church’s most active organizations.
In 1950, the name of the congregation was changed. The word “Swedish” was omitted and the name of the church became the Lebanon Evangelical Lutheran Church.
With the retirement of Rev. Hilmer, Rev. Hubert Ahnquist was called to serve in 1951. Following a period of significant growth, in 1954, with 250 children enrolled in the Church School and with two worship services every Sunday morning, the congregation realized the need for expansion. Since there was no room to expand on their present site, a search for a new site was initiated, with a plot of land on Lincoln Street finally chosen. A committee met with the owners of the property, Mr. and Mrs. William Ames Parker, who graciously offered 14.6 acres of the property at no cost to the congregation.
With the new land, plans for a new church facility moved swiftly. The land was dedicated on April 22, 1958. Following the hiring of an architect, ground breaking took place on May 24, 1959. With good progress being made in the church’s construction, the first worship service was held in the new church on Christmas Eve of that same year.
The previous year, 1958, the name of the church was changed to Holy Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church. During the building of the church, in 1959, Rev. Kenneth Bjorklund was called and served the congregation faithfully for the next sixteen years. The dedication of the new church took place on February 21, 1960, and the following day a Community Open House was held with thousands of townspeople and friends from surrounding communities attending in jubilant celebration. In 1963, Holy Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church became a member of the Lutheran Church in America, which was formed by a merging of three Lutheran synods that same year.
The congregation’s next project was the building of a parsonage on the extensive church property. Work was started in May 1965, and within six months the parsonage was ready for occupancy. A major part of the work was done by members of the congregation. The parsonage was dedicated on February 22, 1966.
Following Pastor Bjorklund’s ministry, in 1975, several successor pastors were interviewed. Pastor Alan Grant, grandson of Pastor Hilmer, was selected as Holy Trinity’s next pastor. Pastor Grant served Holy Trinity until his retirement in 1978.
In 1978, Rev. Charles Moline answered the call to become Holy Trinity’s new pastor, serving faithfully for the next 22 years., leaving at that time for the mission field in Bratislava. Under Pastor Moline’s guidance, the congregation moved steadily ahead with many changes and improvements. The improvements included a major renovation of the sanctuary in 1982, which involved replacement of the front windows with stained glass and the installation of an E. & G. G. Hook Pipe Organ. (Opus 254, 1859), which further enhanced worship services.
In 1988, Holy Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church became a member of the newly-formed Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Following Pastor Moline’s departure, a search for a successor was initiated by a call committee appointed by the Congregation Council. Based on a suggestion by New England Synod Bishop Margaret Payne, the Call committee recommended that Rev. Michael Bastian of Heimsheim, Germany, be called as the new pastor. With the approval of the Congregation Council and the congregation, Rev. Bastian accepted the call and arrived with his family on December 30, 2001, to begin serving as the new pastor.
In October 2009, Pastor Bastian received a call from Community of Joy Lutheran Church in Rio Rancho, NM, and his resignation was accepted by Holy Trinity on October 25, 2009. The call process was initiated at Holy Trinity to obtain a replacement for Pastor Bastian. This process resulted 17 months later in the extension of a call to the Reverend Sharon L. Hughes at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Rutland, VT. To the great blessing of Holy Trinity, Rev. Hughes accepted this call and began her service at Holy Trinity on march 27, 2011. Her formal installation occurred on April 30, 2011.
As Holy Trinity celebrated its 125th anniversary in North Easton in 2017, the congregation council sponsored a planning retreat at the Stony Brook Wildlife Refuge in Norfolk, MA, during which members began a process of discerning how the congregation will carry on God’s work in the future. The congregation also sponsored three anniversary events: a dinner and “Generational Jeopardy” event in the social hall, a food packaging event in which 28,000 meal kits were packaged for area families, and a festival worship service featuring a number of visiting musicians and clergy. Elane Anderson Sears also led the effort to publish a book featuring letters between the church and troops serving during World War II. Entitled “So We’ll Meet Again,” the book was sold to congregation members and the wider community, and attracted attention from local media outlets.
In 2017, the congregation also dedicated a community labyrinth in honor of Warren Nylen, located just to the east of the sanctuary. Visible to passers-by on Lincoln street, the stone and gravel paths are a place of peace and contemplation for community members.