By Charles Hoffacker
Trinity Church is located in downtown Upper Marlboro, a small city that serves as the county seat of Prince George’s County, Maryland’s second most populous county. The parish was founded in 1810 and its original church was consecrated in 1812 by Bishop Thomas Claggett, first bishop of Maryland and the first bishop ordained on American soil.
The second decade of that century continued to prove dramatic for Trinity Church, but in threatening ways. In 1814, British troops billeted at Trinity on the way to burn Washington. Dr. Beanes, the senior warden, placed some rowdy British troops in the local jail. The British, wanting to try him for treason, arrested Beanes and put him aboard ship. President Madison appointed a young lawyer, Francis Scott Key (like Beanes, an Episcopalian) to negotiate Beanes’ release. This led to Key witnessing from Baltimore Harbor the massive British bombardment of Fort McHenry and writing “The Star Spangled Banner.”
The second decade of the current century may also become a dramatic time for this parish. Rather than coping with a military invasion, current members, together with the rest of the world, are confronted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
An admonition prominently displayed on the parish website explains the Trinity approach to this and other crises: “Life is tough. Don’t go it alone. With support from God and each other, we can walk together and do God’s work in the world.”
In true Anglican fashion, Trinity Church is concerned for both its members and its local community. Trinity houses the Marlboro Food Bank, which is supported by Trinity and eight other area churches. Every month, food is collected, sorted, bagged, and distributed to neighbors in need. Normally this effort serves more than a hundred households each month and engages volunteers from all the member churches.
In April, the distribution date fell on April 11, Holy Saturday, when the weather was beautiful. The usual arrangements for pickup were restructured to reduce the coronavirus threat to clients and workers. As people arrived in cars on the church property, they were welcomed by the Rev. Olivia Hilton, Trinity’s priest-in-charge and packages of food were put in car trunks by Gary Hogue and Larry Horton. These food packages included non-perishable groceries, chicken soup, frozen meat, and ice cream. In addition to the food made available on Holy Saturday, a supermarket gift card was mailed to everyone registered for the monthly distribution. Larry Horton summed up his experience: “The risk of danger was well worth the many smiles we received as the people passed through receiving their share.”
The bad news is that the pandemic’s economic impact will likely mean more people than before will need the services of the food bank. The good news is that distribution days at Trinity Church will continue for as long as the need exists.