From South Australia’s pioneer church to the largest Anglican congregation in the state – and a site where thousands have been baptised, married or committed for burial – Trinity Church Adelaide has been closely linked to the history of this state.
The Revd Charles Howard, first Colonial Chaplain, travelled to South Australia on HMS Buffalo and commenced duties as first Anglican minister. He brought a prefabricated church building funded by the South Australian Church Society, but it was useless. He had to use temporary facilities for some time. The SA Church Society which supported him get established was also given the right to an Adelaide Town Acre from Pascoe Grenfell. The Church trustees arranged for Col William Light, the colony’s Surveyor General, to choose the location for the church building: Acre No.9, the present location, was originally near the main river crossing and beside the main road to the Port.
The foundation stone of the permanent building was laid by Capt John Hindmarsh, South Australia’s first governor, on 26 January 1838. The church was rebuilt in 1845. It served as the cathedral of the diocese of Adelaide from 1847 until Christ Church North Adelaide and then St Peter’s Cathedral were opened. It was significantly extended in 1888-9, when it was transformed to its existing Victorian Gothic style. Pointed windows were installed, a pitched roof with fine timber trusses replaced the original flat roof, while the tower was extended to its present height. Twentieth century additions include galleries, the organ loft, and extra vestry space.
The site also includes a Rectory (1851, now offices), a Parish Hall (1887), a smaller hall, offices, crèche, cottage (now meeting rooms) and a large car park.
The church building is on the Register of the National Estate, while it, the Parish Hall and the Rectory are on the State Heritage list as an ensemble.
Inside the buildings a small city congregation barely survived the first hundred plus years in a diocese little interested in the evangelical Christianity espoused at Trinity Church Adelaide. Its members nevertheless became strong supporters of the Church Missionary Society and the Bush Church Aid Society, and sent a number of missionaries to work with these agencies. After the Second World War, easier private transport and wide use of press and radio turned Trinity into a growing metropolitan church. Lance Shilton, rector 1957-73 became a public spokesman for evangelical Christianity and for traditional community values. The flow of missionaries and other full-time Christian workers grew. Subsequent leaders strengthened the quality of Biblical teaching and maintained a strong preaching commitment. Supporters grew too, and with them the reach of the church.
Since 2001, Trinity Church Adelaide has planted five new churches in Aldgate, Brighton, Modbury, Colonel Light Gardens and Lockleys. The church aims to keep this process going in future years, thus building on its nearly 200-year history.
Charles Howard, when challenged, replied that he preached “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:12) as the only foundation for a sinner’s hopes’, and that remains the core message to this day.
Take a church tour
The church building is open for viewing on Monday to Friday, 10am to 2pm*. Please contact our office if you would like to view the building outside of these hours.
Guided tours are available at various times throughout the year, for example, during South Australia’s History Festival in May. They can also be organised on request for school groups, tourists or other interested parties.
To experience one of our church gatherings, we invite you to attend on Sundays at 9am, 10:30am, or 6pm. If you speak Mandarin, you may prefer to attend our 10:30am Mandarin gathering in the church hall, although you’re welcome at any of our gatherings.
*Except for some dates when we’re hosting events in the church, or if the temperature forecast on the day is 35 degrees or above.
Our historian Brian Dickey has put together a range of resources including:
- PDF – Trinity Church Adelaide: A Short History (download here)
- Book – Holy Trinity Adelaide 1836-2012 (download below)
- DVD – A Living History: Holy Trinity Adelaide
Our history book, Holy Trinity Adelaide 1836-2012, is available for free in PDF format. You can download all chapters or select individual chapters below. If you’d like to purchase the hard copy for $20, please visit Trinity Church Adelaide reception from Monday to Thursday, 9am to 5pm.
- Chapter 1: Profit and Religion in a New Colony 1832–1836
- Chapter 2: Church Planting 1836–1843
- Chapter 3: Consolidation and Conflict 1843–1869
- Chapter 4: Building and Declining 1869–1895
- Chapter 5: City Congregation 1895–1925
- Chapter 6: Missionaries and Money 1925–1945
- Chapter 7: Post-War Growth 1946–1957
- Chapter 8: Evangelical Congregation 1957–1973
- Chapter 9: Body Life 1973–1979
- Chapter 10: To Know God and to Make Him Known 1980–1993
- Chapter 11: Finding New Ways 1993–2000
- Chapter 12: ‘We wanted the first one to be a winner’: Trinity Hills 2001–2004
- Chapter 13: Renewing the Gatherings at North Terrace 2000–2012
- Chapter 14: Church Planting 2000–2012
- Chapter 15: Developing Ministry at North Terrace 2000–2012
Trinity Church Adelaide and the Covid crisis 2020
Brian Dickey, a retired lecturer in history from Flinders University, is a long-term member of our 9am gathering. In the second half of 2020, Brian wrote a brief history of the COVID pandemic and Trinity. It is a history of how we coped with the crisis, at all levels of church, and of what we’ve learned from it.
But ultimately, it’s a history of how God cared for us. And he cared for us mightily. He held onto us, grew us in our love for each other, continued to bring people to Christ, and forced us to try new things that we may not otherwise have tried but have benefitted from since. It hasn’t all been easy, and not all of the impacts have been good – far from it – but through it all, we can look back on this period and give thanks for the way God cared for us.