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In 1987, Trinity wrote a history of itself. Trinity Youth interviewed long-time members
and Vicki Rufsvold wrote the history from the information the Youth obtained.
For a .pdf version of this history click here. What follows is a brief summary of the
history of Trinity Lutheran Church.
Trinity Lutheran Church traces its beginning to the Florida Avenue
home of Mr. Knute Oscar (KO) Neste where, on Dec 8, 1904, eleven
people attended the very first Lutheran service held in the San Jacinto Valley.
The home no longer stands - having been torn down during the Depression - but it
was located where the Ramona Motel stands today.
Mr. Neste, who arrived in the valley in 1903, encouraged other Lutheran families to come to the valley by promoting its warm climate and
farm land. In 1908 two strong Lutheran families arrived in the valley - the Eggens and the Utigaards. Within a year of their arrival the
Eggens added to the congregation by starting a Sunday school and a Ladies Aid women's group as part of the growing Lutheran
presence. The Sunday school met at the Eggens' home on Whittier Avenue.
By continuing to invite large families to the area (including the families of Wiersons, Hagens and Noltes) the membership tripled by 1911.
Pastors from Los Angeles, Pasadena and Santa Barbara - the only other existing Lutheran congregations in Southern California at the
time - came as visiting pastors to conduct worship services for those in the valley. They arrived by train once a month and stayed in the
homes of members of the congregation for the weekend.
As time when on, and families continued to come to the valley, an official congregation grew closer. Unfortunately, K.O. Neste did not
live to see an official congregation come to life. He died in 1909.
It was on May 17, 1911, that O.J.H. Preus, a visiting pastor, called a meeting at the Eggen's home to adopt a church Constitution. The
Constitution was signed by 17 adults present at the meeting. Also at this meeting, 20 women signed a document officially forming the
Ladies Aid of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hemet. The Constitution included a statement that made English the language of the
services. This statement would prove troublesome only a few years later.
While the constitution was adopted in 1911 it was not until March 20, 1912, that the name "First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hemet"
was officially adopted by the congregation.
On November 27, 1913 (Thanksgiving Day) a new member - Mrs. Hagan - gave the church an acre of her family's land on Florida Avenue
at Columbia Street. This land would soon house the first church building. This first building was completed in 1914 at a cost of $2,000.
Construction was overseen by J. Arthur Neste, K.O.'s son and much of the labor was provided by members of the congregation.
On November 29, 1914, the dedication took place. The original church was located on Florida Avenue near Columbia Street - within site
of the current location. Today it is a vacant lot that stands between the Century 21 Real Estate offices and Comfort Zone shopping
center. The south end of the lot extends east to Columbia and runs along the north side of the current location's parking lot - between
our lot and the car wash.
Shortly after the dedication the congregation applied to become official members of the Synod called the Norwegian Evangelical
Lutheran Church. Membership was granted but this was also the beginning of what would become a major split among the original
members - a question of languages.
The issue of language came to a point in 1914. One group of newly arrived settlers spoke only Norwegian and wanted services held
only in that language. More established residents spoke English and wanted services held in that language. This issue became so
important that the congregation split and Our Savior's Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Church was formed separate from the existing
It took almost seven years but, on May 16, 1921, the two Lutheran congregations came together to meet regarding their reunification.
Prior to this meeting, a committee had been set up with members of both congregations to determine if reunification was even possible.
At this meeting in 1921 the issue of language was the main topic of discussion but a secondary issue arose - should women have the
right to speak at the gathering and express their opinions in church matters?
To settle the matter of language, the reunification committee recommended that there be two services each Sunday - a morning service
in one language and an evening service in the other language. This was still cause for debate but was ultimately accepted. Also at this
meeting the women of the congregation got their voice - they were given the right to vote in all matters regarding the congregation.
The vote on May 16, 1921, reunified the congregations, gave women a say in church matters and changed the name of the congregation
to what it remains to this day - Trinity Lutheran Church of Hemet. However, the issue of language never went away. In fact, it remained
such an important issue that pastors had to maintain counts of how many services were held in English and how many were held in
Norwegian. The issue came to a point again at the Jan 1927 annual meeting.
It was at this meeting that English was once again adopted as the main language. Norwegian services would be held once or twice a
month but only in the evening. This once again caused a split in the congregation. Those supporting Norwegian services broke away
and joining a new Missouri Synod group that had formed in the valley and had strong German ties. That group later founded St. John's.
Trinity has had several pastors over the years. Our first resident pastor was Reverend Aadland who was hired in 1924. He served at
Trinity until 1929.
It was in the 1950s, under Pastor Malde, that Trinity started looking at building a new structure to house its growing congregation. Many
wanted to move the church into downtown Hemet, while many wanted Trinity to as to buy the apricot orchard to the south of the existing
church land. The cost at the time was $5,000.
In 1959 Pastor Bill Grout took over Trinity. During the 1960's, under the leadership of Pastor Bill Grout, Trinity went forward with plans
for a new building. The congregation bought the apricot orchard from the members and started construction on a new facility.
The Parish Hall - now called the Celebration Center - was completed on April 9, 1961. The classrooms - used as our original preschool -
were completed in 1962. The preschool was quite a gamble in what was, at the time, mostly a retirement community. No preschool
existed anywhere in the valley prior to the one Trinity founded in 1962.
The present Sanctuary was completed and dedicated on May 8, 1966. The new Sanctuary contains many "unconventional" designs. The
chancel, for example, is oval instead of square. According to Pastor Grout, his idea was to allow the whole congregation to gather
around the alter. The curved shape allowed that better than the traditional rectangle since more people would face the alter.
The suspended cross also has meaning. Made of irregular copper tubing it symbolizes the old rugged cross that absorbed the ugliness
Each and every one of the small glass windows along the north and east walls of the church has it's own specific meaning.
Since that time, Trinity has made several more additions to its campus - an office complex and the current preschool building.
In 2012 Trinity celebrated it's 98th Anniversary. Trinity continues to grow and share in the faith and fellowship that was started in a
valley farm house at the beginning of the twentieth century.