David Boyd was happy with his life as a swimming coach when he went on a religious retreat many years ago with his father and other men from Janesville’s Trinity Episcopal Church.

The gathering proved to be pivotal.

“On the weekend, I discovered that Jesus Christ is real,” David said. “I felt called to go to seminary and to be a priest.”

The sharp turn in his life happened more than 40 years ago, but David still remembers every detail of it.

“It is still remarkable to me,” he said.

Trinity’s congregation sponsored David at seminary and has stayed in touch with him over the last 35 years since he was ordained.

“I’m proud to be a boy from Janesville and a boy from Trinity church,” David said.

The Williamsburg, Virginia, resident will return to his hometown and a church dear to his heart for Trinity’s 175th anniversary celebration the weekend of Sept. 21-22.

Many remember David as a strong swimmer from Craig High School.

Many also knew his father, Don, who was their hometown sportscaster for 34 years at Janesville’s WCLO radio, where he worked from 1946 to 1980.

Both were inducted into the Janesville Sports Hall of Fame.

But it was David’s sister, Pam, who started the family’s nearly 50-year connection with Trinity church.

Welcome to Trinity

In the 1970s, Pam was in a civic production with people from the church, and they invited her to sing in the church choir.

“My parents followed her into the church because it was so welcoming,” David recalled. “They attended and embraced the Episcopal way of thinking.”

The Rev. Wayne Smith, who was rector at the time, visited Don Boyd in the hospital before he even attended the church.

Both Don and his wife, Sidney, are interred in Trinity’s columbarium.

Their son David is not the only priest to be raised up by Trinity.

“The church has sent multiple priests to be ordained, and they have served the church far beyond Janesville,” David said. “I am not unique by any means.”

But he is deeply grateful to the people of Trinity who were instrumental in helping him discern his calling.

In the setting of a religious retreat, “I finally was able to hear what God had been trying to tell me all along … that I was deeply loved,” David said.

Smith advised David to wait a couple of years to make sure of his feelings before entering seminary.

During that time, David moved back to Janesville and became the sexton at the church.

“It may have been the best training for the priesthood,” he said. “The theological education is important. But being intimately involved with the people of God is vital to being a pastor.”

When David married his wife, Cathy, several people from Trinity came to Missouri, where he was living.

“They have supported us, including my wife’s call to ordination as a priest,” said David, who is now retired.

He is “deeply honored to have grown up in Janesville.”

And he is thankful to those who helped him along the way.

“I give great credit to the teachers and mentors who shaped me for the rest of my life.”

A historic church

David’s story rises from a congregation rich in history.

People organized the parish Sept. 18, 1844, when the population of Janesville was only 200.

The first rector and the moving force behind the church was the Rev. Thomas J. Ruger, for whom Janesville’s Ruger Avenue is named.

The first services were held in a small brick schoolhouse on Bluff Street, which is now Parker Drive, on the east side of the Rock River. Eventually, workers built a church, consecrated in 1848, on the northwest corner of Laurel and North Jackson streets.

The existing Trinity Episcopal Church building was constructed in 1930 and renovated in 1978 and 1979.

The parish has the distinction of having had the first pipe organ in Janesville at a cost of $1,000, the first marble altar in the Wisconsin Territory and the first “vested choir in the West.”

The Rev. Kathy Monson Lutes is the current rector of the church.

She said it takes strong faith for a congregation to last 175 years.

“It is good to live with gratitude for those who came before us,” Lutes said.

As people who have committed to “living and loving the way Jesus did and does,” she said the congregation has important work to do.

“Our job as followers of Jesus in the 21st century is to love our neighbor, our neighbor who doesn’t look like us, think like us, love like us, speak like us, pray like us, vote like us, no exceptions,” Lutes said. “Today, as much as any day before us, we love our neighbor.”

Anna Marie Lux is a Sunday columnist for The Gazette. Call her with ideas or comments at 608-755-8264 or email amarielux@gazettextra.com.