Seeking, learning and understanding are central to life at Trinity. We place much emphasis on education in its various forms. In addition to regular church services, we promote a thriving Sunday School, including special services at our local assisted care facility, a Wednesday night program of food, fellowship and learning, and regular and special Bible Studies. We sponsor a Vacation Bible School for all the children in the community and we house and sponsor a community based Preschool program.
Sunday School at Trinity
Sunday School is the foundation of our Christian education program. It is in Sunday School that generations of children have learned the familiar and so important Bible stories and the fundamental messages of love, caring for others and good deeds. Youth and adults study and discuss complex Biblical and topical issues in the Sunday School setting as they grow and become even more steadfast in their faith. Trinity’s Sunday School program evolves and adapts to meet needs in today’s world and the needs of our growing congregation.
Under the direction of Sunday School Superintendent John Brannis, classes provide a variety of settings and resources for persons of all ages and backgrounds to explore the meanings and experiences of Christian faith as found in Bible history and human encounters.
Children’s Classes include a Pre-Kindergarten/Kindergarten class, a 1st and 2nd grades class, a 3rd and 4th grades class and a 5th and 6th grades class. These classes use appropriate video and workbook based curricula with Bible stories, songs and worksheets to reinforce the learning.
Middle and High School classes are conducted in a “coffee shop” or family room type environment with a leader-discussion format offering up biblical responses to current events and lifestyles.
Carol Goerger was a Sunday School teacher for many years who, like so many other Trinity teachers through the years, created a nurturing learning environment for the scores of young children who passed through her classroom. Carol remembers, “I started teaching with Elizabeth Griffin in the Nursery in the 1970s and she involved me and many others in various children’s programs. Elizabeth had worked with children and adults for many years and knew how to get things done. We were never able to turn her down. The Church gave children Bibles when they were in the Third grade and I was able to teach them basics about the Bible and how to look up verses. They were excited about this new ability.”
Our adult classes, all open to anyone, any age, married or single, use various resources of their choosing to elicit discussion and interaction.
Wesley Bible Class
Until recently, Trinity’s Ladies Bible Class and the Wesleymen’s Bible Class were institutions in Smithfield. The Ladies Bible Class met on the first floor of the church across from the church office. The Wesleymen met in the lower floor in a large room with theatre style seating. There are photographs of this class dating back to the early 20th century with more than 50 men from all walks of life. It is interesting to note that the Wesleymen included those who during the week might have had a very different relationship. Boss and employee during the week might be reversed on Sunday morning with the employee teaching the boss. Certainly no distinctions were made among class members based on position or station in life. The Wesleymen especially were known for their rousing music. A favorite story that illustrates just how important the Wesleymen’s Bible Class was to Smithfield on Sunday mornings in the early 1900s holds that at the behest of Joe Luter, Sr., Ede Adelstein, a jeweler who lived on Main Street and who was possibly the only Jewish resident of Smithfield, attended this Methodist Sunday school class!
Until the early 1980s, there were two ladies’ classes – the Susannah Wesley class which was for more senior ladies which met in a room off the old social hall and the Trinity class, for younger ladies, which met in the Chapel. Prior to the renovation of the sanctuary beginning in 1982, the two classes combined to form the Ladies Bible Class. Ginny Jacquette, who volunteered to serve as the first teacher if the two classes would merge, recalls that the former members of the Susannah Wesley class sat on the right side of the chapel during class and the former members of the Trinity class sat on the left. Soon, however, the two groups meshed into one strong class.
Both classes were noted for their dedication to this church. However, as life changed and more members elected to attend the couples classes, the separate Ladies and Wesleymen classes joined into one class.
Frank Hall recalls “I was just 16 or 17 when I joined the Men’s Bible Class at Trinity. It was a lecture type class which I still prefer today. My brothers Earl and Cleve were members too. The teacher was Mr. George Mumford who was a banker, a pillar of the community and just a wonderful person and teacher. The class often had over 100 members attending on any given Sunday. We had our own piano and piano players, most notably Ann Cox, Jimmy Manning and Jamie Heptinstall. Later, Sam Sawyer and James Heptinstall were the primary teachers.”
Frank also recalls that attendance was important to the class. “Walter Shearin (who lived just across S. Mason Street) collected, I think, a 50 year pin for perfect attendance. One Sunday the church was snowed out but he got dressed, went over to the empty classroom, and insisted that he be counted as present so as not to interfere with his perfect attendance.”
MAF Class was established in the 1970s to serve a growing need for a class comprised of both singles and couples. The MAF stands for “Methodist Adult Fellowship” but some members, after so many years say it really stands for “Mature and Aging Fast”.
Always an active class, member Ingrid King who has been a member since it was formed, remembers some activities in the 1980s: “For several years we’d take the ferry to Williamsburg with our kids and our bikes. We would bike the Colonial Parkway, big or small loop, then we’d meet for a picnic in the park. We were lucky to always have great weather. At Christmas, we would visit the shut-ins and sing carols. We rode in a farm truck filled up with bales of hay. Adults and kids huddled together …brr…it was cold, but several times, we had a piano and someone to play. One of the highlights of the year was the summer ice cream social in the back of the church, the area that is now the parking lot. There used to be a hill there. The choir performed several times and the piece I most remember is “The Grasshopper”, led by Glenn Pitman. Homemade ice cream completed the day and really hit the spot.” Over the last several years, the MAF class has collected various depictions of Christ. These works of art have great meaning for the class and are prominently displayed in the classroom.
The Families Growing with God Sunday school class began in 2001. It was formed to attract young couples to become involved in our church. The class meets in the Academy across the street from the church each week, to participate in Bible study and fellowship. In addition, FGWG has sponsored church-wide dinner/dances, adopted families during the Christmas holidays to provide gifts and food for needy families in the Smithfield community, and conducted food drives. The class has raised money to replace all the windows in the Academy. One year, the class decorated the Academy for Christmas and opened it to the public for the Holiday Homes tour. The class also helped the Oak Grove UMC in Surry by repairing and remodeling their church, then conducting a grand re-opening service, dinner and concert for the Oak Grove community. Most recently, several members of the FGWG class have taken part in mission trips to Haiti and the Navajo reservation. Many members of the class also teach children’s Sunday school classes on a regular or rotating basis.
The Seekers Class tries hard to live up to its name. We study mainly books of the Bible through discussion and reading. We have a prayer chain with names suggested by class members. We, with the leadership of Fran Hyde, take care of the ministry to our college students. At present, we meet in the chapel, and are always glad to have new members. All ages.
Sunday School at Magnolia Manor, a local assisted care facility, has been a special Trinity outreach for over 20 years. Established under the leadership of Ginny Jacquette , the program is led today by Gail Hamilton and Ardell Henry, who along with other Trinity volunteers including John Edwards and Richard Hollis , visit with residents and hold a class each Sunday morning. Jean Marshall coordinates volunteers to play the piano each week. Gail says, “We open with a prayer, ask for special prayer requests, sing hymns, and have a regular lesson. On the first Sunday of the month, we hold a Communion service. I think the most important thing is that Ardell and I visit each class member individually to talk about what is going on in their lives and what may be concerning them. The residents are so thankful and happy. I feel all this love. Truly, we receive more than we give.”
In the early 1990s, Pastor Bill Mayton asked me to start a Sunday School Class at Magnolia Manor so, with several others, we began Sunday School and visiting the residents there, with lessons and music, and communion once a month. There were times when I asked, “Lord, is it time to stop,” but the Lord kept sending helpers so that ministry is flourishing today as it helps bring church and connection to the residents there. – Ginny Jacquette
Confirmation is a very important time, especially in a young person’s life. Trinity makes the most of this course of instruction. Our confirmands are invited to reflect on their faith journey and accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. They also learn more about the importance of their faith traditions and about the United Methodist Church. They especially enjoy the trips we take. The Confirmands enjoy going to the synagogue in Newport News as well as the Confirmation Retreat which visits several historic United Methodist Churches in Philadelphia, Baltimore and New York. They form bonds with one another that can last a lifetime. Culmination of this experience is the formal confirmation of their baptism during a Sunday morning worship service in May.