The first records of Christian worship in our region was in homes in the Canterbury area in 1848 and All Saints Petersham in 1871. It was through a conversation with the then rector of Petersham that some of the settlers in Dulwich Hill took the initiative to raise funds for for the establishment of theirown placeof worship. The first Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Dulwich Hill was dedicated to God by Bishop Barry on April 10 1886.
The first rector Rev. James Clarke recommended the new parish to the locals in these words: “We have free seats and give equal priveleges to all who worship within the church doors.”
Clarke was succeded by Rev.W.H.Saunders in 1889 and he by Rev E.A. Colvin in 1895 who remained rector of the parish until 1910. Much successful ministry took place during Colvin’s years including a very successful mission conducted by Rev. R.B.S. Hammond (founder of Hammondville). By the end of Colvin’s ministry at Holy Trinity the original church had extended to the street alignment, in 1900 and a branch church had begun in Hurlstone Park.
Chambers oversaw a great many other achievements in his own time including the aquisition of a new church hall and rectory, and the establishment of Trinity Grammar School. It was the members of Holy Trinity whose children initially formed the majority of students entering the new school. Chambers wrote: “The faith courage and devotion of the parish to this school will always be one of the most worthy incidents in it’s history”.
The accomplishments of the church at this time were all the more extraordinary when seen against the backdrop of the war raging in Europe for much of this time and which itself claimed the lives of many parishioners who volunteered for service. Nonetheless, the congregation managed to raise the enormous amounts of money for its ministry projects, and to make a huge contribution to the community.
Reflecting on his time at Holy Trinity, Chambers wrote: “The ideal we set before us on our first Sunday in church was ‘workers together’ and this has been the truest description of our relationship since.”This model left by Chambers of the whole congregation working together sacrificially in the service of God and the community, has been part of the identity of Holy Trinity ever since.
By the time Chambers left in 1928, Holy Trinity had established two branch churches – St Stephen’s at Hurlstone Park and St Aidan’s at Dulwich Hill south. The congregation had also been responsible for some significant contributions to oversees mission. “Keep back the missionary contributions in the future and you can write doom for the church upon its door.”, Chambers once said. Holy Trinity by that stage had yielded both finances and some eight persons to the mission field.
Chambers himself, moved on to become the first Bishop of Tanganyika (in Africa), and was succeeded by Rev. F.W. Tugwell in 1928, and by Rev. H.E. Taylor in 1934.
Taylor was a popular and sporting minded man who endeared himself to the youth of the area. At this time, the church was still heavily involved with Trinity Grammar School and the religious instruction of the students was a fundamental part of the ministry. Taylor’s era is also remembered by the purchase of the adjoining property for the rectory (first occupied by the rector in 1936 and still used today), and the setting up of the first Women’s Guild.
Taylor died while still in office and was replaced by Rev E.L Milliard in 1940.
Milliard ministered at Holy Trinity for some thirteen years, including the latter years of World War II, in which a good many parishioners lost their lives. Even so, the congregation maintained it’s focus on ministry and mission in the community.
In 1953 Millliard (who went on to become the second Bishop of Tanganyika) exchanged parishes with Rev Les Richards – an old boy of the parish and a master at Trinity Grammar School. Richards continued Trinity’s commitment to the youth of the area as one of the early Scout leaders of the “2nd Dulwich Hill Troop” which was based on the church premises, names of others involved in this troop can still be found on the walls of the parish hall along with members of the Girl Guides Group founded in 1922.
It was during Richard’s term that the area underwent significant demographic change. Dulwich Hill which up to that time had been a predominantly Anglo area, gradually became a focal point for migration from Greece and other Mediterranean countries. As the latest wave of migrants moved into the area many of the traditional residents moved further out into the suburbs and numbers attending Holy Trinity decreased markedly as they moved into the 60’s. This transformation has continued well into the 90’s with the current population of Dulwich Hill being predominantly Vietnamese, Lebanese and Pacific Islander. As we enter the new millenium demographics seem to have turned full circle with a new breed of Anglo Professional couples finding their first home and markedly changing the appearance of Dulwich Hill.
Despite declining numbers in the 60’s Holy Trinity managed to remain innovative in mission. In 1963 a loan was organised for the purchase of No. 15 Herbert St, so that it might be converted into flats to provide accommodatioon for British migrants through their sponsorship.
Richard’s retired in 1967 after the death of his wife forced him to move into early retirement. He was succeeded by the Rev. Ken Leask.
Rev. Ken Leask was an active and vivacious man who again had a special ministry to the young people of the area. He again took the role of teaching religious instruction in the schools very seriously, though by this time the links were more with local government schools than with Trinity, which was by that time already wholly independant of the parish. Ken used to fill the church with Dulwich High students on a Friday morning for Scripture lessons, and in the afternoon he would go the Fort St to speak to an assembly hall full of students en masse (including the current rector).
In 1978, after another long term in ministry, Rev. Ken Leask was succeeded by Rev. J.E.M. Endean, who after two years though was moved to the New Housing District of Tregear. Mr Endean was succeeded by Rev. Alwyn Griffiths in 1981.
One of the great gifts Alwyn brought to the parish was his skill as a craftsmen. Formerly a carpenter, Alwyn worked together with a number of dedicated men in the parish to carry out repair and maintenance work that would stand the parish properties in good stead for years to come.
By the time Alwyn Griffiths left the parish in 1989, demographic changes in the area made Dulwich Hill a very difficult area to work in. With the parish now small and struggling, St Aidens was closed and Holy Trinity was without a rector for a short period.
Rev. David Smith, the current rector, was appointed to the parish in December 1990. With the difficult task of reviving the parish with financial struggles, David had a difficult task ahead.
During his time though, the parish again established itself in ministry and mission to the community. In his first year in the parish, David instigated yet another building project. the old Scout Hall (by that time condemned) was pulled down and Trinity’s Fellowship Centre was built in it’s place, (alongside the original church building). This was the beginning of the development of the current on-site ministry, which was greatly extended when the Parish Hall was converted into a full-time Youth Fitness Centre in 1994.
The youth centre, with it’s full weights gymnasium boxing ring and pool table, is known well by the youth in the area, serving now as an afterschool drop-in centre frequented mainly by kids from Dulwich Hill High. David also teaches kickboxing to local kids and through this ministry and subsequent efforts to raise funds for the youth centre, has gained the title in the community of the “Fighting Father”.
David has a particular concern for those suffering problems of addiction and together with the Holy Trinity youth worker, Daniel Ryan, has had much involvement with heroin culture which predominated in Dulwich Hill throughout the 90s.
The year 2000 has been filled with much promise of a secure future for Holy Trinity Dulwich Hill.
In the year 2000, Holy Trinity continued it’s service to the community and contributed to it’s own financial survival by operating as a host for the Government Initiative, Work for the Dole Project – a project called Reachout 2000. In it’s initial stages the program offered work experience in toy making, web design and maintenance and has continued with a focus on web design.
Demographic changes in Dulwich Hill have almost turned full circle, with a new breed of Anglo professionals buying their first home in the area and many being first time church goers. The challenges for Holy Trinity’s ministry to the community are evolving again but the commitment to the community that has been present at the birth of Holy Trinity has changed little.
Today Holy Trinity is a church known not just for the leaders of each era but for the many parishioners who, over the years, have upheld the ideal set before the early church under George Chambers; of “workers together“.