Trinity Church, Boston

Trinity Church in the City of Boston, located in the Back Bay of Boston, Massachusetts, is a parish of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts. The congregation, currently standing at approximately 3,000 households, was founded in 1733. The current rector is The Reverend Anne Bonnyman. Four services are offered each Sunday, and weekday services are offered three times a week from September through June. Trinity is considered "Low Church", while continuing to be a Broad Church parish.

In addition to worship, the parish is actively involved in service to the community, pastoral care, programs for children and teenagers, and Christian education for all ages.

The church is home to several high-level choirs, including the Trinity Choir, Trinity Schola, Trinity Choristers, and Trinity Chamber Choir.

After its former site on Summer Street burned in the Great Boston Fire of 1872, the current church complex was erected under the direction of Rector Phillips Brooks (1835–1893), one of the best-known and most charismatic preachers of his time. The church and parish house were designed by Henry Hobson Richardson and construction took place from 1872 to 1877, when the complex was consecrated. Situated on Copley Square in Back Bay, Trinity Church is the building that established Richardson's reputation. It is the birthplace and archetype of the Richardsonian Romanesque style, characterized by a clay roof, polychromy, rough stone, heavy arches, and a massive tower. This style was soon adopted for a number of public buildings across the United States, and was the first American architectural style imitated in Europe and Canada.

The Music
The Choirs

Each December, the choirs of Trinity offer three iterations of a service of Candlelight Carols. These are a "Boston tradition", and very popular events, drawing nearly 5,000 attendees from as far away as Maine. A traditional scene in Copley Square in December is that of a long line of people waiting to enter the church for the free event. The service is based on the Nine Lessons and Carols model developed at King's College, Cambridge.

In addition to their primary function of supporting worship, the choirs of Trinity Church are fixtures in the rich musical landscape of Boston. The Trinity Choir has toured extensively, and can be heard on several critically acclaimed recordings. The Trinity Choristers are a group of children who learn music and sing in the tradition of the Royal School of Church Music. The current Director of Music and Organist is Richard Webster. The Trinity Choir and Trinity Choristers toured England in August of 2010, celebrating daily Evensong at both Ely Cathedral and Chichester Cathedral.

The organs
  • 1876: The original organ at Trinity was built by Hilborne L. Roosevelt in 1876, his Opus 29. It had mechanical action, assisted by Barker levers on all divisions and an electrically controlled Echo division, but its location in the chancel proved unsatisfactory, and the organ was moved to the gallery.
  • 1903: Hutchings-Votey built a new instrument for the chancel and made both organs playable from a single console.
  • 1924: Ernest M. Skinner undertook a rebuilding project, Opus 479, involving changes to both the Roosevelt and Hutchings-Votey instruments, but by 1926 it had expanded to Opus 573 as a virtually new organ in the gallery, as well as a new chancel console.
  • 1956: Aeolian-Skinner provided a new console in 1956 and, in 1960, installed a new chancel organ.
  • 1962: The gallery organ was extensively rebuilt, and major tonal modifications were made by Jason McKown, who maintained the organs for many years.
  • 1987: Jack Steinkampf installed a rank of horizontal trumpet pipes under the west gallery window. This festival trumpet is given in memory of Paul Albert Merrill.
  • Late 1990s: In conjunction with the parish's building campaign, a plan was set out with Foley-Baker, Inc., for the cleaning and refurbishment of both organs and their joint console.

The nave and chancel organs feature 121 stops, 113 ranks, and 6898 pipes.


Trinity Church offers four services on Sundays, including a now rarely heard modified version of Rite I Morning Prayer including a sermon and extra anthem. Weekday services include Wednesday Evensong and Thursday Holy Eucharist with Prayers for Healing.

Trinity has played host to many special services over the years, due mainly to its central location in Boston, large seating capacity, and reputation as a parish willing to open its doors and be "Boston's church." These services have included interfaith (Christian, Jewish, Muslim) services immediately following the 9/11 attacks, a similar service following the July 2005 London bombings, and many prominent funerals, consecrations of bishops, and the like.

Service Information

Sunday services include (all Rite II, unless noted):

  • 7:45 a.m. - Holy Eucharist
  • 9:00 a.m. - Holy Eucharist
  • 11:15 a.m. - Holy Eucharist - first Sunday of month
  • 11:15 a.m. - Morning Prayer (with Sermon) - modified Rite I - every Sunday except first of month
  • 6:00 p.m. - Holy Eucharist

Weekday services include:

  • Wednesdays, 5:45 p.m. - Evensong
  • Thursdays, 12:10 pm - Holy Eucharist with Laying on of Hands
Service to the community at home and abroad

The parish supports many forms of community outreach and social justice ministry. These include partnerships with Rosie's Place, the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, Pine Street Inn, Habitat for Humanity, Community Servings, the Walk for Hunger, theRodman Ride for Kids, and others.

Twice a year, volunteers from the church form a medical/humanitarian mission to Rincón, Honduras.


In the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, the Rector is the priest elected to head a self-supporting parish. Because of the importance of Trinity Church in the life of the city of Boston, the Rectors had great influence in the political and social sphere, especially in the early years of the church through the mid-1900s.

Phillips Brooks, who was Rector from 1869-1891 has been canonized, and his feast day in the calendar of the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church is January 23. His statue is located on the left exterior of the church.

The following is a list of the Rectors of Trinity Church from its founding to the present day:

  • Addington Davenport (1740–1746)
  • William Hooper (1747–1767)
  • William Walter (1768–1776)
  • Samuel Parker (1779–1804)
  • John Sylvester John Gardiner (1805–1830)
  • George Washington Doane (1831–1832)
  • Jonathan Mayhew Wainwright (1833–1838)
  • Manton Eastburn (1842–1868)
  • Phillips Brooks (1869–1891)
  • Elijah Winchester Donald (1892–1904)
  • Alexander Mann (1905–1922)
  • Henry Knox Sherrill (1923–1930)
  • Arthur Lee Kinsolving (1930–1940)
  • Oliver James Hart (1940–1942)
  • Theodore Parker Ferris (1942–1972)
  • Thom Williamson Blair (1974–1981)
  • Spencer Morgan Rice (1982–1992)
  • Samuel T. Lloyd III (1993–2005)
  • Anne Berry Bonnyman (2006–present)
Art and architecture

The building's plan is a modified Greek Cross with four arms extending outwards from the central tower, which stands 64 m (211 ft) tall. The church is situated in Copley Square, in the shadow of the John Hancock Tower. Having been built in Boston's Back Bay, which was originally a mud flat, Trinity rests on some 4500 wooden piles, each driven through 30 feet of gravel fill, silt, and clay, and constantly wetted by the water table of the Back Bay so they do not rot if exposed to air.

Its interior murals, which cover over 21,500 square feet (about 2,000 m²) were completed entirely by American artists. Richardson and Brooks decided that a richly colored interior was essential and turned to John La Farge (1835–1910) for help. La Farge had never performed a commission on this scale, but realized its importance and asked only for his costs to be covered. The results established La Farge's reputation.

The church's windows were originally clear glass at consecration in 1877, with one exception, but soon major windows were added. Four windows were designed by Edward Burne-Jones and executed by William Morris. Another four windows were exceptional commissions by John La Farge, and revolutionized window glass with their layering of opalescent glass.

Trinity Church is the only church in the United States and the only building in Boston that has been honored as one of the "Ten Most Significant Buildings in the United States" by the American Institute of Architects (AIA). In 1885, architects voted Trinity Church as the most important building in the U.S.; Trinity Church is the only building from the original 1885 list still included in the AIA's current top ten list. The building was designated a National Historic Landmark on December 30, 1970.

The church also houses sculptures by Daniel Chester French and Augustus Saint-Gaudens

Popular culture references
  • Scenes from inside the church in Boondock Saints were filmed within Trinity Church.