Trinity United Methodist Church
Tuesday, November 21, 2017
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Previous History Moments

240th Anniversary History Moment

 The town of Alexandria was only 25 years old when our congregation was founded. Trinity’s members were British subjects, but not for long. This “little flock” - both men and women, white and black - was formed on November 20, 1774 by 17-year-old William Duke.  They met in homes and in a “sail loft” on Union Street (John Gadsby’s establishment before he moved to the City Tavern) and preaching was often brought to the streets – more specifically the local court house.  Even though Trinity’s congregation was small, two pillars of early Methodism came and worshipped with them – Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury.  


One of these early members of the flock was William Bushby.  He converted to Methodism under John Wesley in England and came to Alexandria shortly before the Revolutionary War.  Legend has it that he and his wife were the first Methodists in town.  He was a painter and glazier by trade.  He worked on George Washington’s townhouse on Cameron Street and also helped repair Washington’s brigantine (a two-masted vessel) Farmer.  In 1780, he was elected to serve on Alexandria’s first City Council.  Bushby was friends with Francis Asbury and hosted his him on May 25, 1785 - the day before the bishop visited George Washington to discuss the evils of slavery.  In 1792, Bushby signed a petition with other Alexandria citizens asking to spare the life of a slave sentenced to death.


By the late 1780s, this little flock of Methodists had grown so much that its own building was needed. Conversations started as early as 1786 and in fact, Bishop Asbury had even sketched out a plan for a new house of worship. Planning began in earnest by 1789 and William Bushby donated land to build the First Meeting House on Chapel Alley (now near St. Mary’s Catholic Church).  The building would service both Alexandria and neighboring Fairfax County. Bushby’s grant stipulated that this place of worship would “expound God’s word as is set forth and expounded in the Reverend Mr. Wesley’s notes upon the New Testament and his four volumes of sermons and no other.” Three years after the construction of the building in 1794, James Morrison, trustee and treasurer, was still trying to sort out the financial records.  The building was finished just in time to host the district’s annual conference – presided over by Asbury himself - in 1791.


An impressive beginning.

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The Original Meeting House in Old Town Alexandria.