Trinity Church in Edwards celebrates new building, its 40-year past
EDWARDS — Benny Clark and Jerry Milsaps looked around like proud parents watching their children accomplish great things.
Which, of course, they are.
On Sunday, Trinity Church dedicated a building project that almost doubled its capacity, dubbed by pastor Ethan Moore to be the “It’s Not About The Building” building project.
And it turns out, it’s not about the brick and mortar. It’s about community, family and the legacy, said Melinda Carlson. She was at the keyboard of the grand piano at the front of the room, backed by a full-on praise band.
Trinity Church started small, as do most great things, and some of the valley’s most far-reaching ministries started in the basement of that little log cabin building.
But before we can tell you that story, we have to tell you this story.
The early years
In the beginning, the Allen family ranched that land for generations. They decided that the site in Edwards would be home to a church.
It was 1975 when Pastor Bill Irwin gave the first sermon. Construction was barely begun, and Irwin was surrounded by excited people, stacks of lumber, and power tools.
The pulpit was plank between two saw horses.
Edwards was still a long distance phone call from Vail, and besides the Gashouse about the only commercial enterprise was a soda machine outside the post office.
Jerry and Ruth Milsaps came out to run Lake Creek Baptist Church in September 1988.
It was 1991 when Benny and Ella Claire Clark felt God call them to leave a successful ministry to lead Vail’s fledgling Baptist congregation — 25 spirited souls. God does that sometimes.
The Vail group wasn’t going to get any help from anyone else and they didn’t have enough money to pay the bills, so they had to dig deep and grow quickly.
In church parlance that’s called “evangelism.”
“If you invite people to church, they come,” Clark said laughing. “It’s amazing what a little evangelism will do.”
Milsaps and the Lake Creek Baptist Church were struggling, so they decided they’d merge the two congregations.
The Vail folks walked into that log cabin church building in Edwards and wondered how on God’s green earth they’d ever fill a space that large.
They did fill it, and in 1995, they built a new building on that same site.
They added a service in Beaver Creek — making it three every Sunday — and named it Trinity Baptist Church.
‘ETHAN’S YOUR GUY’
For years, Clark did most of the preaching. A couple others rolled through after he and Ella Claire left. Randy Simmonds was always around to be the substitute pastor, but his calling is the Samaritan Center of the Rockies. Moore helped Simmonds with an Easter service and Simmonds pointed to Moore and said something like, “Ethan’s your guy.” A few might have considered it temporary, but it wasn’t. That was 11 years ago.
“I had no experience leading a church, but they lifted me up from their midst, and together we made it work,” Moore said.
Here’s one for you. The Thrifty Shops and Vail Valley Cares started as a Trinity Church ministry. It also started as most great things do — small.
Milsaps started collecting stuff for wayward travelers and other people in need. Mostly, he piled up things around his office, which was OK because Milsaps is pretty much blind and didn’t notice.
Second-hand stores aren’t a new business model, and they decided to start one.
Clark was president of the local Rotary Club and brought the idea to the board. It took two votes to get the unanimous board approval they needed, but the Rotarians grubstaked the Thrifty Shop with a $15,000 loan, half up front and the other half when it was needed. It was never needed.
“We paid it back in six months,” Clark said.
The Thrifty Shop now generates more than $200,000 a year for Vail Valley Cares to give to other local nonprofits, some of whom pooh-poohed the idea all those years ago.
The Clarks, Milsaps, Eddie and Lawrence Havener, of the Allen ranching family, and several others were back in town for Sunday’s celebration. A steady stream of people walked up to them to congratulate them. They deflected the praise.
“It was God,” Clark and Milsaps said.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and email@example.com.