1951: A Full Fledged Parish

Trinity Episcopal Church, Ian Mackinlay, Architect, 1962

A series of 15 priests served Trinity during the early decades of the 20th century. Two priests in particular had the greatest impact on Trinity’s modern development. The Rev. Dr. Harold St. George Buttrum who remained at Trinity for 11 years from 1945-1956. Under his leadership, Trinity became a full-fledged parish in 1951. This was a fitting anniversary as it marked the centennial of John Leonard Ver Mehr’s first visit to Sonoma.

The priest with the longest tenure in the history of Trinity was the Rev. Martin Knutsen. He arrived in Sonoma in 1959 and remined as rector for 27 years. His most notable accomplishment is the design and construction in 1962 of the present church buildings and grounds.The site at 275 East Spain was acquired from parishioners and community leaders Carroll and Katherine Andrews. Landscaping continued the following year. (Workers were digging holes for the trees in Abbot Courtyard on November 22, 1963, the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated.)

Fr. Knutsen challenged the architectural firm of Ian MacKinlay and Associates to design a building for worship that “felt like a spiritual home.” The resulting building, with its warm redwood walls and intimate relationship between altar and pews, admirably achieved the rector’s goal.

About Architect Ian Mackinlay: San Francisco based Ian Mackinlay, is an award-winning architect who has directed hundreds of projects throughout the world. His work can be seen in Hawaii, Guam, Nauru, Saudi Arabia, Germany, France, Austria, and Italy as well as the United States. Since 1980, he has worked on design and construction defect cases focusing on forensic architecture. Prior to founding IMA in 1990, Ian was president and chairman of Mackinlay/Winnacker/McNeil Architects (now known as MWM), the Oakland, California–based firm he founded in 1959. Mackinlay earned a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of California, Berkeley, where he lectured in architecture from 1957 to 1960.

Trinity Furnishings & Sculpture: Among the outstanding furnishings in the Trinity sanctuary are the altar and communion rail, adorned with carvings by parishioner and famed sculptor Marian Brackenridge. Sonoma resident Marian Brackenridge (1903-1999) was an American sculptor known for her portrait busts, bas reliefs and religious works. Born in Buffalo, New York, Brackenridge was the eldest of three sisters.

Brackenridge attended the Art Student’s League of New York where she studied under Leo Lentelli. Her work was part of the sculpture event at the 1932 Summer Olympics (Los Angles). Between 1956 and 1976, Brackenridge modeled a series of half-life-sized niche figures for Washington National Cathedral. Brackenridge’s most familiar works may be the bronze markers that she modeled for the 1960 centennial of the Pony Express at the 8 stops on the mail route.

Brackenridge never married. In 1941, she moved to “La Brenta” – an 1892 California Craftsman style house and studio at 281 East Napa Street, Sonoma, where she lived until her death. A portrait relief of Brackenridge marks her grave in Sonoma’s Mountain Cemetery.

Putting Trinity’s Mission Statement to Work: Trinity’s next two rectors, the Rev. Richard Simpson, and the Rev. Canon Stephen N. Brannon, oversaw continued expansion of the church’s ministry. Fr. Simpson served from 1987-1993, a time of revitalization of the Sunday school and the inauguration of services to youth. At an all-church conference early in his tenure, the parish adopted what continues to be our mission statement: “We at Trinity are committee to be an expression of God’s love through Jesus Christ: teaching and nurturing one another in our journeys in faith, equipping one another for service, and expressing God’s love to our community and the world.” This statement of commitment expressed the spirit that had so often characterized Episcopal ministry in Sonoma.

The Trinity campus has been the home of several non-profits over the years including Operation Youth, Sonoma Home Meals, and Sonoma Preschool Academy.

Operation Youth, an organization that began at Trinity during Fr. Simpson’s tenure, later evolved into a community-based service for teens. Sonoma’s Teen Services www.teenservices.org describes it as founded by John Randall and eventually consisting of the student-run No-Name Café at Sonoma Valley High School.

Meals-On-Wheels (AKA Sonoma Home Meals) It was during Fr. Knutsen’s tenure that Trinity became the home of Meals-on-Wheels, an independent organization that serves hundreds of meals to those in need throughout Sonoma Valley 5 days a week. MOW is an entirely volunteer organization of over 100 volunteers.

Sonoma Preschool Academy: The Preschool rents space on the campus and serves children of preschool age. The preschool is so popular that it is often completely subscribed.

Decorative Additions to the Church