Trinity’s beginnings can be traced to Arlington Chapel, a chapel for slaves erected on the Arlington estate in the early 1800s by George Washington Parke Custis, adopted son of our first president. An old map establishes that the chapel was near the southwest corner of what is now Arlington National Cemetery, a mile from Trinity’s present location. Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS) furnished supply persons to the Chapel. Each Sunday afternoon for many years a student from the Seminary would make the eight-mile ride on horseback to preach at the Chapel.
The Chapel burned during the Civil War and the southern part of Arlington County was without an Episcopal Church for about a decade. After the war, services were conducted by seminarians in a barracks once occupied by federal troops, a few hundred yards east of Trinity’s present location. In 1877 land was donated for a new chapel on the north side of Columbia Pike. A small frame structure was built and Seminary students conducted services for approximately twenty years.
In 1902, the present property at the corner of Columbia Pike and South Wayne Street was acquired, and the frame chapel was moved to this location the following year. It was not until 1936 that Trinity grew to the self-sufficiency of a full-time minister. For a generation, VTS faculty and seminarians continued to serve it, assisted by military chaplains from nearby Fort Myer and by rectors of other Episcopal parishes.
Trinity became an organized mission church of the Diocesan Council in May 1938. Arlington’s explosive growth during and after World War II had a profound impact on Trinity, leading to its being granted the status of a self-sustaining parish church by the Diocesan Council on May 22, 1947. The first rector was the Reverend Ernest H. Williams, a 1938 graduate of the Virginia Theological Seminary.
A new building in the Georgian style, designed by parishioner William Max Haussmann, Sr. was constructed. This is the building in which the congregation worships today. The Right Reverend Robert F. Gibson, then Bishop Coadjutor of Virginia, dedicated the church on May 12, 1957. In November 2004, Trinity celebrated 100 years at its current Columbia Pike location.
With God’s help, we pledge to love one another as Christ loves us by serving one another, forgiving one another and holding one another accountable for following Christ’s example, especially in the ways we relate to one another as a worshipping community. Our Covenant for Community Hospitality, Health and Wholeness adopted in December 2011 details our commitment to being (in the healing language of recovery programs) a “safe, sober and sane” community where all may participate in and benefit from the open, supportive and safe setting we provide for worship, spiritual growth, social connection and community service.