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Into the 21st Century
Trinity has had a colorful past. Its past is one that has seen a see-saw
existence from its beginnings with a pastor who brought questionable credentials
and died under mysterious circumstances (Lars Tollstadius) to a heyday
when Strawbridge and Clothier decorated the interior and money was flush.
It has seen the battles of war at its footsteps as reported by Nicholas
Collin. It not only provided religious guidance to the settlers but also
fostered education for the town. It counts among its former members a
governor (Stratton),and two Brigadier Generals (Harker and Carpenter).
Buried in the cemetery is a physician who served with Washington's troops
in the Revolutionary War (Bodo Otto), a founder of present day Mullica
Hill (Eric Mullica) and the adventurous people who developed the local
businesses and the steam ship company that provided service to Philadelphia
along the Raccoon Creek. Descendants of the original Swedish settlers
are active and worship here today (Horner, Rambo, Dolbow, Spencer, Aikens,
to name a few).
The Diocese of New Jersey, whose first bishop had his start at Trinity
(The Rev. John Croes) records that Trinity Church is the only parish that
has seen continuous service for over 300 years. Circumstances sometimes
prevented worship in the church building, but a pastor and a congregation
hav been consistent. Records tell of lean years and good years when the
church owned 100 acres in town as well as farms in the surrounding area.
The pastors have written of difficult people from Rev. Bjork's complaint
of "those obstinate people at Raccoon" while later congregations
through the years have used the Diocese to settle their battles with pastors.
The writings of the pastors, Vestry Minutes, Minutes of the Ladies' Guilds,
and various church documents, report the history. They tell of worship
programs, service to the community, the trials of obtaining sufficient
funds to build, restore, and maintain the church, and the sorrows and
joys of its members. Despite good or bad, highs or lows, there is a thread
that weaves through three centuries, that binds it all together, and Trinity
"Old Swedes" Church continues to exist.
has risen and fallen through a variety of circumstances. Order of worship
has changed as Prayer Books and Hymnals were revised. Each rector or
vicar has left his or her influence and changes on the congregation.
There have been services with the church filled to its 300 capacity;
times when attendance has been over an average 100 at Sunday Worship
(1980's) and ten people sang in the choir. Sadly too there have been
times when attendance sank to an average 30 as the congregation struggled
to restore the building and survive while worshiping in small quarters
(1990's). The purpose of our existence has never changed. The "obstinate"
will to survive has always remained.
What does this tell us of the future? There will be ups and downs as
we adapt to the changes around Trinity. Growth surrounds us; new homes
and new members are here. Businesses are developing within the town
and around its adjacent townships. New ideas and many changes are on
the horizon. This is not unlike the growth after the Civil War or fifty
years ago when Swedesboro was "The Garden Spot of the Garden State".
Trinity's size and stature give it a commanding stand in the community;
a community that is also seeing changes. As a beacon on the edge of
the town, Trinity can draw, serve and support the people that are moving
into the area. As the town of Swedesboro can become the heart of the
new area, Trinity can become the heart of its worship. As members, we
can work to expand present day programs, develop new ones and face challenges
that will arise. Challenges of space, challenges of volunteers in the
ever shrinking "free-time" members have and challenges to
honor the past while letting its lessons guide our future.