Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church has been a part of the Mount Rainier community for over eighty years. The congregation had its beginnings in 1931 through the work of mission-minded members of Trinity (now First Trinity) Lutheran Church at 4th and E Streets, NW in Washington, DC. With the growth of the “new suburbs” around Washington and the influx of many Lutherans from the Midwest seeking employment with the government, it was felt by the members at Trinity-Washington that it was time to begin mission work outside of the city limits of Washington.
After studying several different proposals, Trinity-Washington chose to begin mission work in Mount Rainier. They received from the Mission Board of the Lutheran Synodical Conference a Vicar (student intern) named Edwin Pieplow, who would lead the work of canvassing the area and serve the newly gathered Mission Congregation. On October 11, 1931, the new Trinity Mission held its first worship services with 126 people in attendance, about 40 of which were from the Mount Rainier community. Of those who came from Mount Rainier, 19 registered their willingness to become a part of this new church organization, which officially incorporated itself in 1935 as a separate congregation known then as the Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Missouri Synod, Mount Rainier, Maryland.
Trinity’s first “church home” in Mount Rainier was in the former International Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.) hall, which was at 34th Street and Bunker Hill Road, where space was rented for worship services and other church events. Vicar Pieplow served the mission until 1933, when he returned to complete his studies at the seminary. He then returned to Trinity as their first called Pastor in 1934. In 1936, work was begun on the building of a permanent church edifice for the congregation at the corner of 30th Street and Bunker Hill Road. Since 1937, this building has remained Trinity’s home, with the addition of an educational and fellowship wing in 1964.
The congregation, especially under the leadership of its first Pastor, has always seen outreach with the Gospel as a priority. Canvassing the neighborhood was always a part of Pastor Pieplow’s work. He often described his work of evangelism in this way: “You have your feet on the ground, your finger on the doorbell, and your heart and mind on the Lord.” Under the six Pastors who followed Pastor Pieplow, the congregation members continued this important work and sought through their own labors to continue the work of bringing more and more people to know the Lord. This work especially showed much fruit during the late 1940s and early 1950s when Trinity grew three daughter congregations in Greenbelt (Holy Cross Lutheran), Landover Hills (Ascension Lutheran), and Hyattsville (Redeemer Lutheran), which by God’s grace also exist to this day.
Another great work of mission done by Trinity was to establish a Christian Day School for the education of its members and to also serve the educational needs of our neighbors. Trinity Lutheran School opened on September 11, 1944 with an enrollment of 80 students in 8 grades. The school held its classes in the church building until a permanent school building could be erected. Unfortunately, because of some community resistance to building a school on the church’s property, Trinity erected their school building in Hyattsville at 38th Avenue and Longfellow Street, dedicating the new building in 1947. After reorganization of the congregation’s ministry in 1956, the school became known as Concordia Lutheran School, jointly operated by Trinity and Redeemer Lutheran congregation in Hyattsville. Concordia School served the community as an important center for mission, seeking to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the students and families who allowed us to serve them and, at times, to also bring them into our church family, until its closing in June 2012.
Trinity continues to be an active worshiping community which seeks to serve all those who come to be with us with the gifts of God which come through His Word and Sacraments. From its earliest days, Trinity has tried to always show itself as welcoming to the Mount Rainier community. In fact, one popular designation that Trinity prides in knowing ourselves by was given to us by several neighbors who simply knew Trinity as “The Little Church on the Corner”. We continue to have some members who come to us from the immediate community, while many long time members still call Trinity “home” and still worship here, even though they have since moved out of Mount Rainier. We welcome all and pride ourselves in the loving “church family” that has developed over the years that has embraced different races and ethnicities bound together as one family in Christ.
As we look to the future, our desire to be about God’s Work and to be in service to and for others has not ceased and, in many ways, continues to grow stronger. We may still be “The Little Church on the Corner”, but we are also a congregation with a large heart and passion for the Lord and for those we seek to serve.