History of Trinity Lutheran Church
In 1971 John and Sandra Quick, members at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Gainesville, Georgia, moved to the Toccoa area. When they could not find a Lutheran church in the area, they enlisted the help of Reverend Wayne Schroeder from Good Shepherd . Pastor Schroeder encouraged them to seek out other Lutheran families and promised to conduct worship services. The Quicks advertised in the local newspaper and met Howard and Elaine Rutledge. Together with Pastor Schroeder the two families worked to build a Lutheran congregation in the Toccoa area.
Mr. Frank Davis of Acree Davis Funeral Home offered the free use of their chapel for worship services. Names of newcomers to the area were acquired from Georgia Power’s list of new power hookups in the area. The newcomers were contacted in the hope that they might be looking for a new church home. As he promised, Pastor Schroeder conducted services at 8:00 AM in Toccoa and returned to Good Shepherd in time for the 11:00 service. Mr. Larry Crosby, a Vicar, was soon assigned by the Florida-Georgia District of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod to help build the membership of the church. The church had started.
In January, 1974, Pastor Ben Schumacher, an ordained pastor, was appointed to serve all Lutherans in the Toccoa area. Pastor Schumacher and his wife, Thekla, moved to Toccoa. On January 20, 1974, thirty-three people attended Pastor Schumacher’s first worship service in the Acree Davis Chapel . On Sunday, February 3, 1974, following the worship service, plans were discussed to move ahead with completing the organizational documents for Trinity Lutheran Church. In June, 1974, Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church (TELC) of Toccoa received its Charter as a member of the LCMS at the Florida-Georgia District Convention in Orlando, Florida. In the sanctuary of the First Methodist Church in Toccoa, the commissioning service was held and Reverend Benjamin F. Schumacher was appointed Pastor of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church of Toccoa. Trinity was now an official mission congregation of the Florida-Georgia District. The designation as a mission congregation meant that the fledgling congregation would receive financial support until it was self-sufficient,
On August 21, 1977, it was announced that on September 4th a voter’s meeting would be held to decide on the site for a new church home. Soon the congregation approved the site for the new church. The dedication of Trinity’s new home on the corner of Tugalo and Short Streets took place on Sunday, November 20, 1977. In 1979 The Mission Advisory Council of the Florida-Georgia District provided the financing to purchase the building.
Pastor Schumacher served the congregation until his retirement in 1982. Since Pastor Ben and his wife Tekla remained in Toccoa, he continued to preach until the call of a new pastor was completed. Pastor Jack T. Robinson was called to be the new Pastor in January of 1983. Pastor Jack served Trinity from February 1983 until 1986 when he accepted a call to St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in DeWitt, Arkansas. During 1986 and 87 Pastor Lee Staffan and his wife, Dorothy, commuted each Sunday from Franklin, North Carolina to be the interim Pastor. In 1987 District President, Dr. Lloyd Behnken and Director of Missions Reverend Erdmann Frenk visited Trinity to discuss its future in the LCMS. It was agreed that a special type of young man would be needed to lead this congregation in the future. Within weeks, Dr. Behnken announced that he had found this man – Pastor Greg Walton.
In May of 1987 Greg Walton graduated from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis and accepted the call to Trinity. After attending a church planting seminar, he and his wife Edith visited Toccoa. Pastor June 14, 1987. One week later on June 21st, he was installed as pastor of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church of Toccoa, Georgia.
Since the congregation was outgrowing the space in the house on Doyle Street, Pastor Walton led the congregation to begin thinking about building a church. The Florida-Georgia District agreed to lend money to build a church and land was purchased on Highway 17 on the outskirts of Toccoa. The congregation enlisted the help of the Laborers for Christ, a group of dedicated and talented Lutherans who come and live in trailers while they build the church. In 1989 the new sanctuary was dedicated. At this time the congregation consisted of over 100 baptized members. The congregation continued to grow. Mary Kay Peace, a Music Professor at Toccoa Falls College, offered to lead the choir and the choir became a reality. A new organ was given in memory of one of the parishioners which enhanced the music program.
On May 26, 1988, the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League was accepted and approved by the Florida-Georgia District Lutheran Women’s Missionary League Executive Committee and is still a viable organization today. All the women in Trinity’s congregation are members of the League. Over the years the LWML has served in many areas of our local community, supported missionaries from Lutheran and other religious bodies, and aided Veterans and their families by providing physical and monetary support. In addition, the LWML has served our local congregation through the Altar Guild, the nursery, the church kitchen and cleaning the church. Our LWML members also attend the National and International meetings and participate in large projects throughout the world.
In addition to weekly worship services, Trinity has provided Bible study groups, confirmation classes, Vacation Bible School and fellowship activities to its members. In 1999 Pastor Walton accepted a call to Faith Lutheran Church in Marietta.
After an extended pastoral vacancy, Pastor Geary Bird, a retired pastor, came to be the Interim Pastor until Pastor Roger Schwartz was called to serve. Pastor Schwartz was installed in May of 2002. Pastor Schwartz continued all the programs which were established at Trinity. His expertise on the organ greatly enhanced many worship services. In 2002 a program was initiated to install stained glass windows in the church. All of the windows were commissioned by members of the congregation. In 2009 the front of the church was renovated and the final window was installed to enhance the beauty of the existing cross. As the congregational activities increased, the need for secretarial help was fulfilled with the hiring of a part time secretary.
Since there were so few young families in the congregation, it was decided to build a playground so families with young children would feel more welcome. Money was raised to purchase the playground equipment. After the design was finalized, the equipment was installed. In _____the playground was dedicated and provides play areas for children of many ages. The Outreach Committee held a Teacher’s Appreciation Sunday where the teacher’s were presented with gifts and entertained with a dinner after the service. In addition, school supplies were collected and a clothes closet was established at the school. Money was donated to Relay for Life, coats and blankets were collected for the needy, families were adopted for Christmas and Thanksgiving dinner was cooked and delivered to needy families. From 2008-2010 many members of the congregation participated in “Kickin It”, a program to raise money to pay for mammograms for women that could not afford to pay for the screening exam. For two years Trinity won first place by collecting the most money for “Kickin It”. Many members also worked in the county’s Soup Kitchen and the Food Pantry was started to provide emergency food to needy residents.
In 2003 it was decided to sponsor another Missouri-Synod church in nearby Clarkesville. Pastor Bill Women, who had retired from Good Shepherd in Gainesville soon moved to the area and joined Pastor Schwartz in serving this new church. The history of Grace Lutheran is continued separately. Pastor Schwartz accepted a call to Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Augusta, Georgia, in June of 2008.
Pastor Bird again served as interim Pastor during the vacancy. Since we had experienced such a long vacancy before Pastor Schwartz was called, the congregation enlisted the help of the Florida-Georgia District to secure a pastor as soon as possible. At that time Pete Grana was still serving his Vicarage in Oklahoma, but he was allowed to accept the call to Trinity and was installed in 2009. Although certified to receive and accept a call into the pastoral ministry, Pastor Grana’s tenure at Trinity was a troubled one. Increasing concern regarding the pastoral ministry he was providing finally led to his resignation in June, 2012. During these years tensions had also risen between Trinity and Grace over financial issues and pastoral service.
Trinity has always had an active, community oriented outreach. We are a small church with a big heart. In the past few years the most public demonstration of Trnity’s outreach has been our Vacation Bible School. Recently our outreach program has also tried to engage young adults by setting up an information booth at Toccoa Falls College. For the past five to six years our food bank ministry has been in great demand because of the poor economic conditions throughout our country. Before the current economic downturn we distributed food to people a few times a month. Now in 2014 we are serving people who are in great need almost daily.
Following the departure of Pastor Grana, the Florida-Georgia District encouraged Trinity and Grace to seek the services of a trained and credentialed Intentional Interim Pastor, since they were entering a transition of significance because of the tensions that had been experienced. From a list of pastors provided by the District, they interviewed and called Pastor David Kehret, who was just wrapping up his third intentional interim in the Southeastern District at Charlottesville, Virginia. In September 2012, Pastor Kehret moved to northeastern Georgia and was installed as Intentional Interim Pastor serving both Trinity and Grace on Sunday, September 9, 2012. During the past two years both congregations have settled and tensions between Trinity and Grace have lessened. At the present time we are concluding a self-study of both congregations in preparation to calling a pastor.