More than 500 people flocked to worship Sunday at the first new church campus to open downtown in more than half a century.
Located near the corner of Peace and Blount streets, Holy Trinity Anglican Church drew such a multitude that ushers scrambled to assemble rows of brand-new folding chairs for overflow seating in the foyer.
The crowds arrived early, and the building buzzed as members took the opportunity to explore every inch of the new facility. That energy soon filled the sanctuary, where the voice of Rev. John Yates III voice boomed out over a powerful speaker system.
“The first thing I want to say this morning is: ‘Welcome home,’” he said, before asking those gathered to address God individually in prayer.
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At that point, the church fell silent for a few moments as heads bowed and hands clasped in prayer. Then, suddenly and stunningly, the orchestra replaced the quiet with music and bid everyone to rise for the first hymn: “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty.”
That sense of exuberance ran throughout service, and most of the Bible verses and hymns conveyed feelings of gratitude toward God. In his sermon, Yates preached the Gospel and made clear what they had really come to celebrate.
“We’re here to worship Jesus, who chose to become one of us – not to prove something to us or demand something of us – but in order to rescue us,” he said.
The congregation of Holy Trinity is a traditional bunch.
Most of the men dressed in suits and ties, and the women wore dresses. Throughout the worship service, they rose to sing, knelt to pray and read their call-and-response parts in unison. When the orchestra and choir played hymns, the people sang every verse.
The new church matches that character.
Although fully modern in its steel-framed construction, it is designed to resemble the Episcopal chapels built by in Colonial America. Outside, the bricks are painted white, and a steeple stretches 125 feet toward the heavens. The interior walls are also white, with accents of richly stained woodwork and hardwood floors in the foyer.
The sanctuary itself forms the shape of a cross, and massive clear-glass windows fill the worship space with natural light.
For the head architect, Chuck Hulstrand of LS3P Associates, the challenge lay in creating a space that felt transcendent, open and, at the same time, intimate. “It’s reaching out to the community, up to the Lord, and it’s drawing the congregation inward to be closely-knit,” he said.
The church marks the first new traditional campus to open in downtown Raleigh since 1958, when Edenton Street Methodist Church was rebuilt following a fire in 1956.
A gift from God
For Holy Trinity’s more than 550 members, a lot of prayer, work and tithing culminated on Sunday.
The church traces its roots to 2003, when a small group started meeting weekly in Speck and Martha Underwood’s living room to pray for renewal in the Episcopal Church and Raleigh. After hosting a string of guest preachers and growing to 200 members, Holy Trinity held its first official worship service in September 2004 at St. David’s Chapel near North Hills shopping center.
In 2010, Holy Trinity bought a plot of land across the street from William Peace University, and building began in June 2014. Construction ended this month and cost about $7.5 million.
John Wood and his wife, Randi, were part of that original prayer group. “It’s surreal in the sense that, it’s not something we did, it’s something the Lord gave us,” he said.