Oldest Churches in Houston Separated by Slavery Join Together for Worship for Special Service

Date Posted: 2/13/2020


By Lindsay Peyton

Trinity UMC is celebrating 155 years as Houston’s first African-American church. The congregation is looking at its rich past while planning an equally innovative future as it continues to add to its remarkable legacy. Recently, the church joined FUMC for a historic celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.
 
Rev. Ed C. Jones explained that these two oldest churches in Houston were separated by slavery – and joined to honor the leader of the Civil Rights movement for the first time in their histories. “It was beyond description,” the pastor said. “Our teams came together, and it was breathtaking. It was an outstanding service.”

 
Trinity UMC was established in 1848 as a slave congregation – the first African-American church of any denomination built in Houston. Since then, a rich history has shaped the congregation. The current sanctuary was built in 1951.
 
Jones was appointed to Trinity UMC in the summer of 2017, after serving as founding pastor of Living Water UMC and associate pastor at Jones Memorial UMC. “I went from one of the newest African-American churches to the one of the oldest,” Jones said.
 
Jones was replacing a pastor who served at Trinity for 29 years. “Those were some big shoes to fill, and I would have never dreamed or planned to do that,” he said.

 
Jones felt a unique responsibility once his photo was hung on the wall, among the other leaders at Trinity UMC. “You become a steward of a historic church, and it’s important that we forge ahead,” he said.

 

“We must continue to be the first,” he said. “We must continue to seek and help first. Whatever we do, we want to lead. God continues to encourage us to move ahead.”

 
 
Jones has been meditating on the start of the church. “Before people in Texas even received the Emancipation Proclamation, slaves were envisioning what it could be,” he said. “They started a church – and there were a lot of firsts here.”
 
Those firsts, he said, are the central to Trinity’s identity.

“We must continue to be the first,” he said. “We must continue to seek and help first. Whatever we do, we want to lead. God continues to encourage us to move ahead.”


Joined with FUMC for the Martin Luther King Jr. celebration on Jan. 19 was one example of being innovative and forging ahead, Jones said.
 
He wants to continue to consider the church’s future. For example, now there is a larger, more diverse community to serve.
 
“Considering the demographics of the church, we were missing Generations X, Y and Z,” Jones said. “We have to grow that population or the future of the church will be at stake.”

 
Jones plans to develop services to appeal to a younger crowd – and also to be as approachable and authentic a pastor as possible to best serve them. He also wants to include a contemporary gospel repertoire to bring new faces to the impressive Trinity choir.
 
Growing up, Jones said he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather who were both fishermen. “Now I understand what was inside of me,” he said. “I’m a fisherman by trade. I love to catch fish.”
 
In addition to attracting new “fish,” he wants to build established ministries and services at Trinity. “We’re making sure we evolve the best team and hire the best people to fill this mission,” Jones said.
 
Before becoming a minister, Jones was a firefighter for 10 years. Now instead of extinguishing the flames, he works to get everyone fired up for the future of Trinity. 

 
“Trinity has been liberating and empowering people through the love and Jesus Christ since 1865,” Jones said. “We are a historic church that is making history. Our best days are not behind us. Let’s go make history.”