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St. Johns County growing pains and Florida's oldest Protestant church

Trinity Parish in St. Augustine has been around 1821, but due to population growth in St. Johns County, it is adding a second location.

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — Growing Pains affect more than just the housing market. With a population increase of roughly 100,000 people over the past 10 years, St. Johns County is one of the fastest growing counties in the nation.

In fact, the influx of new people to the area has led the oldest Protestant church in Florida to grow with the times.

It's a Sunday morning in St. Augustine and much like every Sunday since Florida became a U.S. Territory in 1821, Trinity Parish has Sunday service. Trinity Parish is an Episcopal church on the plaza in St. Augustine.

"It's a humbling honor to be able to attempt to continue that legacy of gospel proclamation and gospel ministry here," said Pastor Curt Benham.

And much like the population of St. Johns County, Trinity Parish is packed. Pastors Matt Marino and Curt Benham said that a large number of parishioners drive from all over the county to downtown St. Augustine for the various community programs offered by Trinity Parish.

"What we do here is pretty simple," said Marino, lead pastor of Trinity Parish. "We preach the bible, we pray the prayer book and we love the people, so the people who are coming are really coming for that."

The large number of parishioners arriving for service in recent years has caused some fire marshal issues, but that's not the only problem for Florida's oldest Protestant church in America's oldest city.

"We have incredible parking issues," said Marino. "We have people parking four to five blocks away."

That wasn't always the case for the parish that was formed more than 20 years before Florida even became a state. And that's one of the reasons why, for the first time in its more than 200-year history, Trinity Parish is adding a 2nd location.

"Getting to where we are is getting pretty difficult," said Marino.

The original church, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is staying put. But Trinity Parish bought property for its North Campus near the intersection of Route 16 and Silverleaf Parkway, which is where a lot of housing development is happening.

"There are a few hundred thousand people moving to St Johns County in the next decade and we want to go love our neighbors and we want to extend to them the grace and mercy of god that we have received," said Benham.

Trinity's Tiffany window from the turn of the last century and the fellowship hall that played a key role in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s will remain in downtown St. Augustine. Trinity's North Campus will just add an opportunity for the growing population of St. Johns County to find another place to pray.

The Trinity North Campus will have a campus of Trinity Episcopal Learning Center preschool and coffee house, which will produce income streams to support Trinity Parish. 

More information about programs offered by Trinity Parish as well as their "More Than Bricks" campaign regarding the Trinity Parish North Campus can be found on their website: https://www.trinitysta.org/.

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