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Church celebrates 125th anniversary

St. Trinity’s original church was this white clapboard building at Auburn Avenue and Jessie Street in Pontiac (click for larger version)
May 05, 2010 - BY KAREN SMITH

Special to the Clarkston News

St. Trinity Lutheran Church in Independence Township, one of only two churches in the United States with that name, will mark its 125th anniversary with a celebration, May 23.

The church was founded in Pontiac in May 1885 and moved to Independence Township in 1975.

The first use of "St. Trinity" appears in 1907 when the congregation combined with St. John Lutheran Church, also located in Pontiac, said Chuck Claus, chairman of the 125th anniversary committee.

"That's the first use of St. Trinity we can find," Claus said.

One theory is that members of the two merging churches combined their names into St. Trinity, but Claus said St. Trinity is a variation of the name Holy Trinity, popular in Europe.

The founding German immigrants may have wanted that name from the old country, he said.

St. Trinity's first known permanent facility was a white clapboard church at Auburn Avenue and Jessie Street that had been used by St. John. The congregation started a day school in 1917 and built a brick church on the site of the clapboard church in 1942.

In 1971, as crime increased in the neighborhood around St. Trinity, the congregation moved. It purchased a church in Waterford to use temporarily and rented space from a church in Union Lake for its day school. In 1973 it closed the school to focus on finding a permanent church home.

St. Trinity built on its present site on Sashabaw Road at Clarkston Road in 1975. It opened a preschool in 1983, which still operates today.

Claus said the Michigan District of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod wanted the congregation to merge with others around it instead of building a new church in Clarkston, which was then "rural cornfields."

But Claus said the congregation wanted to cultivate a new area.  "We were working a new mission field as opposed to moving into an area that was covered by other churches."

As the population in Independence Township grew, so did the church with two major building expansions. The most recent addition includes a gymnasium and classroom space.

St. Trinity has had 16 permanent pastors. It is shepherded today by the Rev. Kendall L. Schaeffer. It had about 1,000 communicant members at its peak in 1955. There are about half that number today.

The congregation's two longest-serving members are sisters Hazel Condon, 85, and Donna Costello, 80, both of Waterford. Condon started attending at age 4; Costello is a lifelong member.

Condon said she has remained a member of St. Trinity because its pastors have been "true teachers and preachers of the Holy Bible."  She said too many pastors at other churches "preach what you want to hear, not what you should hear."

The sisters plan to attend the May 23 anniversary celebration as well as a second celebration in September.

The May 23 celebration will include a special worship service at 3 p.m. with the Rev. Dr. Wallace Schultz, former Lutheran Hour speaker, serving as guest preacher. A buffet-style dinner will follow.

The Sept. 19 celebration will be an informal homecoming party with family activities. Michigan District president David P. E. Maier will preach at the 8:15 a.m. and 11 a.m. services that day.

The public is invited to both celebrations. For additional information, visit the church's website at

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