They probably didn’t think it of themselves at the time, but Greta and Douglas Medberry became pioneers of a sort when they agreed to become founding members of Trinity United Methodist Church.
Still, it’s accurate, because they were leaving the comfort of an established church in downtown Las Vegas to help to create a new church on what was then the edge of town.
Next weekend, the Medberrys will join other founding, past and current members of Trinity United Methodist Church in celebrating the church’s 50th anniversary.
The celebration will begin at 5:30 p.m. Saturday with a dinner at the church, 6151 W. Charleston Blvd.
Then, at 10 a.m. Sunday, a special worship service will be conducted at the church. The Rev. Mark Lansberry, pastor of Trinity, said the service — which will take the place of the three worship services usually held on Sundays — will include special music performances. Bishop Robert Hoshibata of the Desert Southwest Conference of the United Methodist Church also is scheduled to attend.
Trinity United Methodist Church was founded in October 1963, and its members initially met for worship at Redrock Southern Baptist Church on Alta Drive. Lansberry said the creation of Trinity was owed largely to the Rev. Douglas Harrell, then pastor of First Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Las Vegas, who always had an evangelistic vision for planting churches.
“He was looking at the popular trends here — where the growth was — and the thought that we needed to put a church toward Jones and Charleston,” Lansberry said. “At the time, Jones was a dirt road, and it was the edge of town.”
The fledgling congregation began with about 200 members, Lansberry said. After worshipping for about five months at the Baptist church, members moved to a new worship site, a storefront space in the Charleston Heights Shopping Center at Alta Drive and Decatur Boulevard.
Finally, on May 9, 1965, Trinity members held a groundbreaking ceremony for their own church building. On Nov. 7, 1965, they worshipped for the first time in their church, located then where it is now.
The Medberrys were married in 1957 at First Methodist. Then, Greta said, “when some members from First Church were organizing this church, they approached us to become part of it.
“A lot of our original members were the ones from First Church. There were a lot of Southwest Gas employees and a lot of educators and then, of course, (employees from) the test site.”
From the start, Trinity had “excellent educational programs,” she said. “A Scout troop was formed, and we had several children’s choirs with different age groups. Everybody was so willing to participate in something.”
Lansberrry, who’s in his eighth year of serving as Trinity’s pastor, said he found several exciting ministries there when he arrived. Unfortunately, Lansberry said, Trinity’s longtime Christian preschool and day care program was closed in March 2012 because it drew too few students to make it viable.
However, Trinity’s Society of St. Stephen food pantry ministry continues to help valley families in need, and its Helping Hand Up ministry still provides those in need with emergency financial assistance, job training and other resources.
Lansberry recalled a story he once heard from another local pastor about the Rev. Jerry Furr, Trinity’s founding pastor, that illustrates Trinity’s longtime focus on helping others.
“Apparently in the ’60s there was still a lot of segregation, and African-Americans could not become dealers,” Lansberry said, so Furr created a program at the church to train and then find jobs for black dealers.
Lansberry said Trinity has about 400 members, which makes it “a larger church, in United Methodist circles.” And, Trinity has remained at its original location even as the neighborhood around it has changed.
“When the property was purchased it was at the edge of the desert,” Greta Medberry said. “Later, when the mental health center was built just to the west of there, we used to get people stopping in church wanting to know if those little condos next door were for rent. Plus, we had a few patients who would wander in and out of services.”
“The neighborhood around us has transitioned quite a bit from when we first moved out here,” Lansberry said, and “we are in a very intentional effort to understand the neighborhood and find new ministries that would serve this community.”
Was thought ever given to moving to another part of town?
“I don’t know there were serious intentions, but there were conversations,” Lansberry said. “When I first got here, there was an offer made to purchase this property, which prompted some people to think about moving.
“But we didn’t want to abandon the neighborhood. I don’t know what they planned to put on here, but they called, made their offer and we discussed it, and we determined that God has called us to serve this neighborhood and this community.”
For more information, call Trinity United Methodist Church at 702-870-4747 or visit the church’s website (www.tumclv.org)
Contact reporter John Przybys at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0280.