Episcopalians in the Biddeford/Saco area can be traced as far back as 1636. At that time Biddeford/Saco was known as Winter Harbor and the colonist had religious ties going back to the Church of England.
The first know rector in this area was Rev. Richard Gibson who came from Scarborough. At that time Scarborough was known as Spurwink.
During that time, there were religious controversies with some of the locals and Rev Gibson concerning his allegiance to the hierarchy and discipline to the Church of England. Many of the colonist had differing religious beliefs than those supported by Rev Gibson and this created significant turmoil until finally the Rev Gibson was summoned to Boston and arrested for baptizing and marrying against the laws of the colony. He would have been imprisoned if he had not agreed to return to England. In 1642 he sailed the Atlantic and returned to England.
There once was an Anglican Church, built on the banks of the Saco River in the mid-1600, and established via Royal Charter by King Charles I. Little other information is known at this time.
The Rev Gibson was succeeded by the Rev Robert Jordan and he too came under close scrutiny by the local Puritans. Both Reverends Gibson and Jordan spread the word of the Church of England from the Biddeford/Saco area to the Isles of Shoals, Portsmouth, and the Piscataquis area. Rev Jordan’s Baptismal Bowl can be seen today at the Maine Historical Society in Portland.
Over the next 150 years a large number of priest are known to have drifted in and out of the Biddeford/Saco area but it wasn’t until 1799 that a Haystack meeting took place at Williamsburg, MA. A change that would forever impact Trinity’s future took place. A church Missionary Society was formed and thus began the missionary groundwork that would soon spread to ME. This society sent a letter to the Rev E.M.P. Wells who was residing in Gardiner, ME and instructed him to seek out people in the Biddeford/Saco area who wanted to start an Episcopal church in the area.
A month later the Episcopal Society rented a hall from a Mrs. Nyes for the sum of $60.00 a month. Also at that time a building committee was formed, plans drawn up and a parcel of land on Pleasant St. was purchased for the a mere $415.67. Selling pews raised Church construction money and those that remained unsold were auctioned off. The total cost including furniture was $4,496.23.
One hundred and eighty years ago, Trinity Church was built on Pleasant Street, the result of hard work and careful planning on the part of the “Episcopal Society of Saco.” On Sep 15th, 1827, the Society petitioned to the Justice of The Peace for the church to be known as Trinity Episcopal Church and it was granted. Two months later the church was consecrated on November 20, 1827. Today it is the oldest original church building in Saco and the third oldest in the Diocese of Maine
In 1910 Trinity was the first church to organize a Boy Scout Troop in ME.
Trinity Episcopal Church spread its influence beyond the limits of Saco. Through the years, Trinity was responsible for starting up the Episcopal Church in Biddeford, and the Mission churches of St John’s By The Sea in OOB, and St Stephen’s in Waterboro, ME.
In 1934, Miss Orinda O’Dall who was a granddaughter to the Rev William Horten who was once a rector of Trinity willed a parcel of adjoining land to the church. On this land a rectory was built so we now had a church, parish house and a rectory in close proximity. A garage was added in 1945. Note: Shortly after the turn of the century, a house on Beach Street had been purchased and enlarged for a rectory but this was no longer needed and sold.
By the mid-1950s the church found itself cramped between a steam laundry and a noisy, dirty coal pit. Parking became a serious problem when riders outnumbered walkers.
In 1957 the congregation decided to purchase a Victorian house on Cleveland Street with enough land to build a new church. At the time, parking was allowed on both sides of Main Street. Architectural renderings were made for a modern structure. Still, many members wanted to keep the old building. After considering many options, it was decided that rather than construct a new church, Trinity Church would be relocated. So, finally with great faith and little money, the Vestry voted to move the old church to the new location. This proved to be an enormous undertaking. The church was too high to pass under the utility lines, so special poles were erected and trees pruned to facilitate the move. The church was divided into sections with the two major structures weighing 40,000 pounds each.
Moving day was December 4, 1959 and it proved to be very cold, so the women of the parish served hot coffee to the workers, volunteers and curious bystanders. Church services were held in the Victorian house next door while the church was being renovated. There was much interior work to be done. The old pews were re-assembled and anchored to the cement floor. Each pane of glass in the windows was removed, cleaned and puttied back in place. Rumor has it that it was the women of the church who did the puttying. The old pipe organ was dismantled and sold, and the choir returned to the singer’s gallery. The first services were not held until the following Easter.
Slowly, additional buildings were added. A new parish house was built behind the church in 1969 and six years later, a new foyer and lounge connected the church to the parish house. The old Victorian rectory was sold in 1984.
Today, the parish house is busy with many church functions such as dinners, Bible studies, parish fairs, youth activities, and Vacation Bible School. The Youth Ministry is very strong and the Church School Programs are expanding. In addition, outside organizations also use the church property. In 1997 an elevator was added to the parish house, making all of the buildings handicapped accessible. For one hundred and eighty years, Trinity Church of Saco has grown in structure, programs and commitment.