After losing its historic buildings, the minister's wife, eight members of the sexton's family and 15 parishioners to Hurricane Camille in 1969, Trinity Episcopal Church became a symbol of renewal. |
The beachfront Pass Christian church dedicated a new sanctuary in 1971, and at first glance few could tell it wasn't the 19th-century structure. Parishioners wanted to keep their identity.
Bill Argus, the architect who drew the replacement plans for the Carpenter Gothic-style church, is doing it again. After destruction by Katrina, Trinity is putting back the pieces.
"Pass Christian is the only community on the Coast where most of the population lives in front of the railroad, and if we were to go behind it, we'd be on lower ground," said the Rev. Chris Colby. "To get on higher ground we'd have to leave the city limits. We want to be part of the community."
Trinity was formed in 1949 when a minister came from Mobile to baptize an adult. The pretty little church surrounded by ancient oaks was a favorite for postcards and travel books.
The sanctuary was almost 14 feet above sea level and the Katrina high-water mark is 22 feet above that. The roof remains and enough of the structure and floor that parishioners put up plywood and space-age plastic to hold services there.
"The church building is going to be restored to look very much like it," Colby said, "but we're going to use strong modern materials and rebuild four instead of three buildings around a new central plaza consistent with the architectural style.
"Not just parishioners but so many others have asked to put it back as a memorial. This has to do with the identity of Pass Christian, and Trinity is part of that."
Before Katrina, the parish served 270 Episcopal households. Colby notes that only 34 of them are now living in their homes, with the rest rebuilding or relocating.
"I thought I was coming to the beach to be a big-time evangelist and grow a church," said Colby, who came in 1997. "Now I know God just wanted me on the beach to help put it back."