Lutheran work in Chapel Hill began with ministry to students at the University of North Carolina at least as early as 1911. Formal Synodical support of this work began in 1924 when the pastor of St. Paul’s in Durham was charged with student ministry in Chapel Hill. Various seminary graduates doing advanced work at UNC or Duke served as student pastors between 1928 and 1944. In the absence of a student pastor, the pastor at St. Paul’s served the student community.
The last student pastor, starting in 1942, was Dorus P. Rudisill. Upon receiving his doctorate from Duke in 1944, he was called by Synod to be the first fulltime Lutheran parish pastor in Chapel Hill. His work led to the organization of Holy Trinity congregation on July 21, 1946. The initial service in Gerrard Hall on the UNC campus was attended by sixty-six persons; and fifty-seven persons became charter members. His development work completed, Dr. Rudisill resigned a month later.
Dr. Edgar C. Cooper became pastor in September 1946 and served until 1953. It was during his pastorate that the congregation first acquired its own facilities. The site, at Rosemary Street and Pickard Lane, is one block north of the UNC campus. A parsonage was built there in 1949 and the opening services in the completed church were held on January 6, 1952. These facilities were almost entirely supported by gifts from outside the community.
From 1953 to 1959 Dr. Wade F. Hook served as pastor. This was a period of steady growth during which the congregation evolved from a student ministry to a more stable congregation as permanent residents were incorporated into the worshiping community. Holy Trinity went off mission status in 1955. In 1959 Frank C Perry came as pastor and the congregation completed its first major project on its own—air conditioning its building. In 1964 a new parsonage was built two miles away and the old one was converted into a Campus Center. In 1965 the residence on the other side of the church was purchased and named“Parish House”, to be used for Christian education and youth ministry. During the next dozen years a capital funds campaign was conducted which culminated in the dedication of the Aubrey Mauney Building for Campus Ministry and Christian Education on September 16, 1979. This facility replaced the former Campus Center and Parish House. It was paid for largely with locally-raised funds, along with generous gifts from Aubrey Mauney and from National Lutheran Campus Ministry.
From 1946 to 1963 the pastor of Holy Trinity had been directly responsible for the ministry to the UNC students, but beginning in 1963 a separate pastor was charged with student work at UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC-Greensboro, and Duke University. In 1976 Jon R. Fogleman was called as a full-time Campus Pastor. He served through 1981, and was succeeded in 1982 by Pastor Larry F. Hartsell. This ministry at that time was almost entirely underwritten by synod and churchwide funds.
Pastor Perry resigned in 1984 and his office was vacant for seventeen months while Rudolf Ludwig served as Vice-Pastor. Pastor Louis E. Bauer, was installed on March 9, 1986 and during his tenure (1986-1996), Sunday attendance continually increased. Sheaffer House, an emergency residential facility for the children of Orange County came under the care of Lutheran Family Services in 1981 and Holy Trinity was a partner in support of this vital ministry. The Helen Miller Peacock Library, so-named in 1983 in honor of its founding librarian, grew to be the largest church library in Chapel Hill.
In 1990, Holy Trinity purchased the “Yellow House” at 303 East Rosemary Street and rented the rooms to college students (many of whom were participants in LCM). The 1990s saw expansions in the church’s staffing as leaders for lay ministries, education, and youth were all hired. Pastor Dianne Amidon served as the interim pastor at Holy Trinity from 1996-1998. She was succeeded by Pastor Terry Morgan who resigned in December 2000 in order to take an administrative position in the Ohio Synod of the ELCA. Pastor Mark Coulter became campus pastor in the spring of 1999. Mark was an active member of LCM during his college years at UNC. Under his pastoral leadership, attendance in LCM has blossomed.
Three significant events since 2000 were: 1. the purchase of the Theta House property across the street from the church, 2. the creation of a strategic plan for the future, which was unveiled at the end of the summer (2001), and 3. the search for and calling of the new congregational pastor, David M. Hood, in early 2002. Plans for the Theta House property were to build a Worship Center (an 11,000 square feet structure completed in 2008) that include a sanctuary and narthex, a crib and a toddler nursery, a music room, sacristy, clergy vesting room, and an HTLC Youth Room. Additional parking is available behind the building. The program ministry experienced another spurt of growth and the addition of staff. The congregation and campus ministry work individually and cooperatively in areas of worship, education, social ministry.
Lutheran Campus Ministry has grown dramatically since 2000. That year, a group of 10-12 worshipped and ate in the campus center. In 2006, a group of 40-45 had to move worship and dinner into the fellowship hall. As of today, the group of 55-60 are worshipping in the former nave and go to the fellowship hall for dinner. At this time, one-third of the financial support for campus ministry is from the NC Synod and Churchwide while the congregation now provides two-thirds of the financial support. In the summer of 2010 Pastor David Hood retired from Holy Trinity. Pastor John Nagle of Cary served as the interim for Holy Trinity until it called Pastor Will Rose in February of 2012. The church is currently living out the five year strategic plan that it put in place in 2009. This plan, together with God’s steadfast guidance, will help Holy Trinity write many new chapters in its history of service to God, its members, and the university and town communities.