The Beginnings of Trinity Fellowship
The founding families of Trinity Fellowship first met together in 1976. The Jacksons and Gurleys had met in March, while the Weeks moved to the Westcott area, becoming neighbors of the Jacksons, in October. From January 1977, all three families began to meet regularly, sensing a common spiritual interest in community-based church ministry. Tangentially, they also found themselves participating in two local study groups which were examining the biblical doctrine of the church.
In varying degrees, a conviction began to grow that God might establish a congregation in the Westcott area. There was an accompanying perception that this would involve serious birthpangs. In August/September 1977, when the Gurleys were selling their home in Pompey and buying one in the Westcott area, these trials were first obviously manifested through an almost fatal asthma attack experienced by Sylvia Gurley.
To discern God’s mind as to the wisdom and possibility of founding a new congregation, a day was set aside for prayer and fasting, January 16, 1978. The Scriptures studied during that day, when read together in the evening, dovetailed into an assurance that one might so proceed. The Gurleys shared from 1 Chron. 28 and 29 regarding the building of the Temple. David’s preparations led to God’s choosing Solomon “to build a house for the sanctuary,” (28:10), despite his youth and inexperience and the greatness of the task (29:1). Assured of God’s favor, David could then appeal to those with willing hearts to consecrate themselves to the LORD (29:5). Starting with the vision in Isaiah 6, the Jacksons added several supporting texts. Finally, Doug Weeks shared a confirming word: ‘Trust me, I have drawn you together and, as evidence, behold the love that has grown in your midst. Therefore, hope and you will not be ashamed. You will bear much fruit and your fruit will remain.’
That night, Sylvia Gurley received a healing—promised to her by the Lord in November as she had been reading Rev. 2:10. It seemed to complete the initial testing.
Trinity Fellowship, reflecting the centrality of the Triune God and the fellowship which flows from him, was chosen as the name for the new congregation. The first official worship service was held Feb. 5, 1978 at the Gurley’s home, 465 Allen Street, where the church met for the next four-and-a-half years. Acts 2:42ff. became the guide for the basic pattern of worship and church life. A brief confessional statement was drawn up in the first months. It was scrutinized by the fledgling congregation and approved as orthodox by ten area pastors to whom it was submitted.
Subsequently, in 1979, Al Gurley, Jeremy Jackson and Doug Weeks submitted individual written theological examination papers for the appraisal of three pastors in the area—Gordon Bell, Richard Hill and T.E. Koshy—leading members of the Greater Syracuse Association of Evangelicals. This was followed by oral examination by these three pastors in the presence of the congregation. It was agreed unanimously that the three candidates had been exercising spiritual ministry in Trinity Fellowship according to the gifts and ordaining of God and their own sincere conviction of a call to such service. They were, therefore, in September 1979, officially ordained in a regular worship service through the mutual laying on of hands. For each elder, the two others laid on hands and were joined by a representative of the congregation selected by the elder being ordained.
The desire to be tested at the hands of outside pastors reflected a strong conviction about the interdependency of all true Christian churches in the one Body of Christ. This conviction had motivated the elders to seek the blessing of the churches they were each attending before formally establishing Trinity Fellowship. It also motivated them to enroll Trinity Fellowship as a member organization of the Greater Syracuse Association of Evangelical in 1978. Eventually, it led to Trinity Fellowship’s becoming a member of the Conservative Congregational Christian Conference in July 1994.