Remembrances and Recollections
As Trinity looks ahead to its 150th year anniversary, we’d like to take some time to look back at some of the memories parishioners have of parish life. Begin your stroll down memory lane as you scroll through some reminiscences shared. Just a few lines about an event, long forgotten, may be enough to open the door to many more.
Please read some of the recollections compiled and send in some reflections of your own. We’d like to add new ones through the coming months as we move toward our 150th celebration year.
"Breakfast with Santa" - Bonnie Gentesse. January 18, 2021
Our first “Breakfast with Santa” was held 15 years ago ( 2005 – 2019). Arlene Fricke. Bonnie Gentesse, Debbie Bulli and Linda Kurdilla were the coordinators.
It was a Church activity for everyone in the parish and open to the community. It just kept growing each year. Our Trinity family cooked and served delicious pancakes and sausage. All kinds of juice, coffee, tea, breakfast cakes and bagels were plentiful for all.
Santa Bob was a perfect Santa and photos were available to purchase or take on your own with the beautifully decorated stage as a backdrop.
Over 100 baskets, made and donated by parishioners, comprised the tricky tray available for winning, plus a 50/50. There was face painting for the kids, and lovely jewelry and decorated wreaths available for purchase. The children received crayons to color their Christmas placemats while the Cranford High School choir sang wonderful Christmas carols and enjoyed breakfast with us.
More than 30 volunteers helped run the breakfast. Hundreds of people of all ages attended, many of whom came back every year.
Over the 15 years, we contributed a total profit of $60,503.00 to the operating fund of Trinity.
It was a morning of fun, excitement and hard work that everyone enjoyed.
Trinity High Tea - December 26, 2020
The idea of a High Tea at Trinity was born over a pot of tea shared
by JoAnn Lehmkuhl, Kristin and Diane Baldwin on the English
In 1995 we invited potential committee members to a tea in our home. We served
homemade, scones, tea sandwiches and desserts, but no clotted cream. We
proposed having a High Tea at Trinity and our guests, Fran Witherington,
Joan Cornell, Evie Schafer, Jane Michael and Arlene Fricke joined JoAnn Lehmkuhl,
Kristin Baldwin and Diane Baldwin to form the Trinity High Tea Committee.
On a Saturday in March, 1995 we met in Trinity's kitchen to prepare for the tea the
following day. We baked 200 scones, set up the tables with lace tablecloths and
Trinity's "India Tree" fine china. On Sunday, after the 10 A.M. service with the
tea scheduled to start at 4:00 p.m. , we made the fillings for four different types
of sandwiches and prepared 100 sandwiches which were served along with the
desserts that we had prepared in our homes. We accomplished all these tasks
by 3:55 p.m. just before the firsts guests arrived.
At 4:00 p.m. the committee members also were guests at the Trinity High Tea
because the famous Trinity Men Waiters began their service. Al Lehmkuhl
recruited the men of the parish to be waiters. Al set strict standards for
the waiters requiring them to wear a black bow tie, white shirt, black pants
and to have a black and white striped towel draped over their arm. Their job
description included plating and serving the sandwiches, scones, desserts,
and most importantly keeping the tea pots full of hot water. At the
conclusion of the tea, they were responsible for dish washing, and clean up.
All of this work and their only compensation was a bottle of beer when the
work was done.
It was decided that we would need two tea pots per table and an
appeal for the loan of tea pots was made to the parish. The
tea pots when lined up on the counter made a pretty picture with
their various designs, patterns and colors.
At the tea, we also introduced Themed Gift Baskets that were raffled off.
A tradition that developed was to include a handmade counted cross-stitched item in each basket.
Our guests also started a tradition of "dressing up" by
wearing decorative hats, gloves, and fancy dresses which made
for a more formal High Tea. To add to this elegance, James Lenny,
our choir master and organist, suggested that music be included.
He arranged for a string trio to play while the ladies sipped their tea.
At our post tea meeting we decided that since the tea was such
a huge success, we would continue with some changes to the
schedule. Hence, Scone Saturday, the week before the tea
became the day we baked and froze two varieties of scones
per guest. Sandwich Saturday, of the tea weekend, was the
day we made the sandwiches, prepared the fresh fruit, cooked
the lemon curd, and set up the tables. The women of the
parish became our dessert bakers.
Over the years our planning meeting was
where we sampled new recipes, changed the menu,
refined procedures, and most importantly formed great
friendships. In "true disclosure" we admit that our only
failure was to make clotted cream. We learned that
clotted cream is a purely English delicacy. So, whipped
heavy cream became our substitute served at the tea.
The Trinity High Tea was held from 1995 to 2009. During
these fifteen years we served 1,958 ladies endless cups of
tea and raised over $22,000.00 for Trinity, A surprise to us
as it wasn't intended to be a fund raiser. More importantly
we have served many from outside our church community.
We have met our parishioner's Grandmothers, Mothers,
Aunts, Sisters, Daughters, Granddaughters, Nieces and
friends. The Famous Trinity Waiters have enjoyed the
camaraderie of working together even when the dishwasher
was broken and the committee members have become
more than friends.
Nancy and Clint Miller - December 1, 2020
In thinking back over her years at Trinity, parishioner and oft times lay reader, leader, and preacher extraordinaire, Nancy Miller had many fond memories of the experiences she and husband Clint shared as part of their parish life.
Here are a few:
Under Father Pettit’s tenure, (not yet a bishop), “ Wednesdays during Lent brought everyone together for family potluck dinners and family services. Sometimes they included speakers and programs, often with separate activities for the children.” Nancy recalls that she was studying for a Master of Theological Studies at Drew University at the time and drew upon her connections with the theological school and the Diocese for inspiration in planning for these events. (She received her degree in 1988).
Nancy goes on to say, “Prayer and Praise night with Father Pettit and his wife, Virginia was held during the week. It included singing with Father Pettit’s guitar interspersed with prayers and culminating in Rite III Eucharist. It was distributed person to person around our circle.”
Clint and Nancy enjoyed leading an eight week series “Life in the Spirit” seminar twice. Nancy observes, “It was very life affirming and was approved by Father Pettit and published by the Catholic Charismatic Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan.”
While at Trinity, Nancy started a small women’s prayer group that included Ethel Halsey, Janet Randall, and Carol Storz. They met weekly, taking turns at one another’s homes, and prayed for people in need and for Trinity Church. Nancy imagines that their group was the seed from which the Women’s Bible Study group grew.
During Father Witherington’s interim ministry, Nancy “organized an elementary student children’s choir, who met weekly for singing and hearing lessons in a circle. It was accompanied by our son, Ken Miller (high school) with his guitar. Father Witherington held a Sunday Morning Children’s Service in the old music room in the education building. The children’s choir sang there during each service, fully robed, just as in Trinity church.” In writing about her memories in a letter to Fran and John Witherington, Nancy writes, “Your father and our Father had great little talks as sermons.”
During Father Wylie’s tenure, as well as those of Reverend Pat and Mother Gina, Nancy writes, “I enjoyed giving sermons as a licensed lay preacher in the diocese. Father Wylie conferred about the sermon each week that I was speaking.”
There are numerous additional memories of the ways in which Nancy and Clint served Trinity at the local and diocesan levels. More to come.
Dawn Bunting Watson - Trinity Church member from ~1967 - 1985
Looking back from age 54, I can see the soul saving influence of the people of Cranford’s Trinity Episcopal Church on my life. Many faithful servants poured into me throughout my childhood molding me into a woman of God. My first encounter with the living God was during a Trinity youth group retreat to Vermont.
It was morning meditation time and I was bored of the required assignment. I put my workbook down and just decided to soak in the present moment. Sitting there on a large rock, I took in the smells, sounds, and sights of the cool Vermont mountainside. I tuned in to the silence of the forest music. I felt the warmth of the sun on one knee where the rays managed to make it past the dense treetop cover. My breathing slowed down long enough to enjoy the pungent earthy smells of the moss and decaying foliage, mixed with the fragrance of the lake on my hair. Next to my rock was a pair of adolescent trees each small enough for my index finger and thumb to wrap around them. What caught my attention was the way they grew in parallel like the supports of a hobbit ladder. Three quarters of the way up, the slightly larger of the two stretched it’s arm over toward the other one but before it made contact, it branched into a “V” and straddled the slightly smaller tree as if to guide its growth. I heard a crystal clear voice coming from inside my head say, “I am the larger tree and you are the smaller. I am beside you making sure that you grow up straight and true.” Still stunned with the strangeness of the voice, I felt a rush of joy fill my body. I knew that Jesus had spoken to me even though he skipped the introductions. Without thinking, I leapt off my rock and started jumping and shouting for joy, shattering the stillness of the forest and undoubtedly disturbing my fellow students.
So many moments at Trinity had been woven together to prepare me for that moment; each hymn I harmonized as a member of Mr. Heyer’s choir and every sermon I heard from Father Pettit and Father Witherington. Many thanks to all my Sunday school teachers who taught me that Jesus loves me just the way I am. That is the mustard seed that rooted me to the Rock of my salvation and allowed my tree to bend but not break despite violent storms. The friendships I treasure from childhood were forged while putting on the countless skits and musicals led by Mr. and Mrs. Cornell. I can’t thank them enough. Finally, I very special thanks to Arlene Fricke for being my mentor and role model. She showed me the love of Jesus and now that I have a Master of Arts in Christian Ministries, I pray that I can do the same for the people I touch in my ministries.
I have heard the voice of God only two other times in my life since that first time on a Vermont mountain. Once in response to my prayer seeking instruction for a new leadership role in the corporate world, Jesus’ advice was simply, “Love them.” The only other time I heard from God was after praying and seeking His direction for my life. God didn’t say a word. He had a children’s choir sing the song “Feed My Lambs” inside my head with amazing clarity, love, and purity. This song conveyed more than mere words could. It was my favorite song from Mr. Heyer’s childrens choir. I loved singing it because looking back now; I realize that the Holy Spirit stirred within me when we sang it. I am eternally indebted to the people of Trinity church for making me into a child of God.
“Feed my lambs, tend my sheep, over all a vigil keep
In my Name lead them forth, gently as a shepherd.”
Fran Witherington - October 25, 2020:
Not being able to get into Sherlock Hall for fellowship prompted me to remember the first time I entered that space.
It was back in the late 60’s and a luncheon was being sponsored by area newspapers to bring together a variety of potential writers who would be sending in future news, editorials or advertising copy. As a new teacher and advisor to the Cranford High School student newspaper, I was invited to attend. There were over a hundred guests seated at the long tables in Sherlock Hall with Trinity Episcopal Church Women helping out as servers and hostesses.
Recognizing no one as I arrived, I looked for the friendliest face and sat down next to her. “She” turned out to be our table hostess and introduced herself as Anne Witherington. As we talked effortlessly, she asked if I knew her son who happened to be a history teacher at Cranford High School. I told her that I did and she went on to tell delightful tales about him “outside of school.” She sent me back with an extra favor—a box of truffles to share with him.
Two years later, her son John and I started dating and were married within the year. I tell everyone that I am blessed to have picked my own mother-in-law.
Little did I know that first time in Sherlock Hall that I would be back many times for events ranging from costume parties, to sit-down wedding reception dinners, to interim church. Lots of interesting events were held in Sherlock Hall. Which ones do you remember?
August 26, 2020:
Arlene Fricke, chairperson for Trinity’s 125th year anniversary in 1997, writes:
“The large project for the Celebration of the 125th was the Parish Quilt which has been preserved and is hung on the wall in Witherington Hall. We had classes in preparing the squares and each one is unique on its own. These squares were then given to Ann Pettit (daughter of Bishop Pettit) who sewed them together to form this quilt. This quilt was used as the Altar Frontal for our Celebration Service which was taken from the 1892 prayer book.”
Lynn Solecki remembers church on Sunday and this event from the 1950’s:
“My dad went to 8 am service and then to work. Carol and I went with Mom to a later service. Many of my school friends were there each Sunday also making church a welcoming place to be.
As a member of the Trinity Choir we went to NYC and went on the “Strike It Rich” show to try to win money to purchase new choir robes. We came on stage singing “Onward Christian Soldiers.” We were all so proud that day to be members of Trinity’s choir. We won and were able to purchase new choir robes.”
John Witherington also remembers his early years as a member of the Men’s/Boys’ church choir, sheepishly admitting,
“We got paid for our services while the Women’s/Girls’ choir did not.”