The "Holy Trinity" Parish Church in Madison, Illinois, has the distinction of being the first and oldest Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Church in America. The first Bulgarian Orthodox church board in Madison was organised in 1906 with the firm intention of building a magnificent parish church in which to worship and have its spiritual center. For the purpose, a 100 foot lot on Madison Avenue between 13th and 14th Str. was purchased, and in the spring of 1907, the building of the church was started. As the roof was ready to be put on, the great financial panic in September, 1907, took place, followed by the worst depression in American history, and the completion of the church was abandoned. More then $10,000 invested was lost. The old building was first used as warehouse, and was later razed.
Near the end of 1907, Hieromonk Theophilact was sent by the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church to Granite City and Madison, to strengthen the spirit of out immigrants, and to help them organize their own church communities. The existing church board in Madison was revitalized and though greatly discouraged, started to plan for a new Parish Church. In Lincoln Place, a section in Granite City, the spirit at chat time was better. A church board was established, and as a result, on September 14, 1909, a small parish church, entrusted to the heavenly protection of the Holy Apostles of our people, Sts. Cyril & Methody, was erected and consecrated placing Holy Anthimins from the Holy Synod. Rev. Fr. Theophilact assisted by Rev. Fr. Christo Karabasheff offered the first Divine Liturgy. By the end of the following year, 1910, the second "Holy Trinity" Church in Madison was completed on the corner of Grand Avenue and 13th Street. Rev. Fr. Theophilact was the Parish Priest for "Sts. Cyril & Methody", and Rev. Fr. C. Karabasheff for "Holy Trinity". Later on, Rev. Fr. Theophilact was transferred to Steelton, Pa., to organize the parish church there, and Rev. Fr. C. Karabasheff was appointed to serve both parishes.
From 1913-1920, "Sts. Cyril & Methody" was closed much of the time because there was no priest available to serve. In 1919, "Holy Trinity" in Madison was destroyed by fire and all records were lost. Rev. Fr. Velco Popoff was appointed as parish priest for "Sts. Cyril & Methody" and parishioners in Madison and Granite city worshipped together.
On September 1, 1928, the Chief of the Bulgarian Orthodox Mission, V. Rev. Protoprezviter Dr. Krusto Tsenoff, assisted by Rev. Fr. V. Popoff conducted services for the cornerstone of the New Bulgarian Orthodox Church "Holy Trinity" in Madison, on the same site of the destroyed church. This was the third "Holy Trinity" Church in Madison. By the end of 1929, the church was completed and consecrated again with Holy Anthimins. Through 1933, the two parishes (Madison and Granite City) had an agreement that only one priest would serve both. In due time, however, "Sts. Cyril and Methody" Church was sold to the Armenian Congregation in Lincoln Place, thus consolidating both parishes into one, "Holy Trinity" in Madison. Today, "Holy Trinity" serves the entire Greater Metropolitan St. Louis Area.
During 1968-1969, the parish purchased the building on 13th and Madison Avenue. It was remodeled and furnished, and was used for parish social events, and was known as "Holy Trinity" Hall Through 1974-1975, the parish church was enlarged with a beautiful brick addition. On all windows there axe beautiful stained glass icons. Two painted icons are in the church vestibule (Jesus Christ and the Holy Mother of God). The icons on the windows of the new addition (St. Clement of Ochrid, St. John of Rila, St. Athanasius, St. Basil, St. Naum of Ochrid, St. Apostle Paul and St. Apostle Thomas) are masterpieces of art. The old icon of the parish, Holy Trinity" the heavenly protector of the parish, is affixed ceramicly on the front side of the erected belfry, to witness before God and men bow our forefathers bad the strength, faith, and courage to build POUR PARISH CHURCHES, through extreme times of difficulty:
1. "Holy Trinity" on Madison Avenue between 13th and 14th
2. "Sts. Cyril & Methody" in Granite City (Lincoln Place) (1909)
3. "Holy Trinity" on 13th and Grand (1910)
4. "Holy Trinity" on 13th and Grand (1929) - Enlarged (1974-75)
Throughout the years since the expansion, there have been numerous improvements on the inside of the churh also. The iconistas, royal doors, and side doors were covered in marble. The Bishop's throne was also coveted in marble. The reader's stand and pulpit from which the Gospel is read were crafted and covered in marble. The candle stand for deceased family and friends was crafted of wood, marble and brass. Another addition was a huge bookcase on the balcony level of the church which was donated in memory of a deceased parishioner. A hand-carved, wooden, life-sue crucifix was carved by a St. Louis artisan in memory of a deceased family member. All of these additions have helped to create the "Holy Trinity" that we see today.
During the lifetime of the parish from its beginning, the parish has had the following devoted priests in Madison-Granite City, who served to the best of their talents and abilities:
V.Rer. Fr. Archimandrite Theophilact (Dr. Malm)
Rev. Fr. Dr. Christo Karabasheff
V. Rev. Fr. Velco Popoff
V. Rev. Fr. Protoprezviter Dr. Krusco Tsenoff
Hieromonk Dionisie (Dimitar Doncheff)
V. Rev. Fr. Kiril Antonoff
V. Rev. Peter Stamboldjiev
Rev. Fr. Ivan Malinov (2006)
Rev. Ft. Michael Arbanas (2006)
From the very beginning, the parishes of the United States were under the canonical jurisdiction of the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. V. Rev. Fr. Archimandrite Theophilact was the first missioner-Chief (1907-1922) followed by:
V. Rev. Protoprezviter Dr. K. Tsenoff (1922-1937)
Metropolitan Audrey (1937-1969) as head of the Diocese
V, Rev. Peter Stamboldjiev Admin, of the Akron Diocese (1969-1970)
Metropolitan Joseph (1970-1975) as head of the Akron Diocese
Bishop Simeon as head of the Akron Diocese (1975-1979)
Bishop Dometian as head of the Akron Diocese (1980-1984)
Metropolitan Joseph (1984-2007) head of the Bulgarian Eastern Orthodox Church of the U.S.A., Canada and Australia
Hopefully, the faithful of the parish will continue to follow in the steps of their forefathers and will preserve the church for many generations to come.