The history of Trinity-First United Methodist Church begins in 1881 when the Reverend J.R. Carter arrived from Georgia, and held services in the Masonic building in downtown El Paso, an adobe windowless building with dirt floors. On Jan. 29, 1882 a wooden church was built on the corner of Texas and Stanton Sts. There were 13 names on the rolls, and Trinity Methodist Episcopal Church became the first Protestant church in El Paso.
At that time El Paso was a rough frontier town, and the Methodist ministers who followed set about to change that. They fought against sweatshops, child labor, bars, and gambling houses. One minister was able to persuade the city to close the bars on Sunday, only to learn that the owners were quietly letting customers in the back door! It was an uphill battle.
As the church grew, a larger building was erected on the same site, and was dedicated on July 13, 1895 with 224 members. In 1901 President McKinley came to El Paso, and attended services in that church. It was quite an event!
In 1905 the property on the corner of Mesa and Yandell St. was purchased. The cornerstone was laid on April 29, 1906 with plans for a large, Gothic style building, which became the largest church in the Southwest at that time. Then, in 1937 Trinity Hall was added. By 1939 a larger church was needed, and the beautiful Gothic style building was razed, down to the basement. A Spanish Renaissance church was built on the site, which is the church you see today.
During the 1920s and 1930s several notable events occurred, including the founding of Lydia Patterson Institute, named in memory of Mrs. Patterson, who was a member of Trinity. Then, a children’s orphanage was founded, which later became Southwestern Children’s Home. In 1923 a radio station was set up to broadcast the Sunday services. Later, the equipment and licence were sold to KTSM, who continued broadcasting services until 1964.
In 1946 Trinity’s pastor, Rev. L.L. Evans, along with Dr. P.N. Poling and Rabbi Philips of Temple Mount Sinai worked together to acquire a new hospital for El Paso. Under their leadership, Providence Memorial Hospital became a reality.
In 1952 Trinity opened one of the first church-related preschools in El Paso, which is still in operation. In 1963 Resler Hall was built, during Dr. Brodace Elkins’ ministry. He and his wife, Wynona organized the Heritage Committee, to preserve the church’s rich history. Then, in 1979 Trinity UMC and First UMC united, to become Trinity-First UMC. Soon thereafter, a TV ministry was begun, and continued until 2003. The Sunday services were broadcast live. During that time the building connecting Trinity Hall and Resler Hall was built, including an elevator. In 1999 a food pantry was opened in the church basement, which later moved to another location, and has grown into the largest food distribution center in El Paso.
Trinity-First has played a major role in changing El Paso from a wild-west, lawless town into a modern, respectable city. It continues to serve as a spiritual haven for God’s people.
– Katherine Talbot, Historian