The doctrine of the Trinity was developed by the Church centuries ago in an attempt to help explain the nature of God. For many people, the doctrine raises as many questions as it answers.
Several years ago when I was rector of Galveston’s Trinity Episcopal Church, a local news organization sent a photographer to cover an event we were having. After the event, which was held on the sidewalk in front of the church, she followed me back inside the building and asked if she could talk with me for a few minutes. I told her I would enjoy the opportunity.
She then told me that she had not been inside a church since she was eleven years old. (I secretly guessed that would have been about thirty years earlier.) It seems her family was attending a church in Florida at the time and she had an experience in Sunday School that was the reason she decided to stay away from churches.
The Sunday School lesson concerned the Trinity. After listening to the teacher talk about the Trinity, she asked, “How can one God be three persons? It doesn’t make any sense to me.”
The teacher and the other children laughed at her. She never went back.
I expressed my sadness about that incident and told her that in our Church we had a Sunday School program for children called Godly Play and that children were encouraged to ask questions. In fact, our teachers and our children are taught that every question deserves to be heard respectfully.
Since we were standing in Trinity Church beneath the beautiful window with the traditional symbol that has long been associ-ated with the doctrine, I asked her if I she would permit me to respond to her long-unanswered question. She said she would appreciate that.
I said, “You are someone’s daughter, right?” “Yes,” she answered. “Do you have siblings?” She told me that she had a brother and a sister. “So, in addition to being a daughter, you are a sister, correct?” “Yes, she replied.” I asked if she had a husband and she told me that she did, so I said, “Then, besides being a daughter and a sister, you are also a wife.”
All of a sudden her eyes lit up and she exclaimed, “But I’m still me! I’m one person but I have different roles in the lives of other people. That must be what the Church is trying to say in describing God as Trinity.”
We talked on and discussed several other analogies for understanding God, the holy and undivided Trinity. I assured her we can never fully comprehend the majesty and mystery of God. Our doctrines are truth in the sense that they represent the best we can do as we reach for the Truth.
In the end, I believe she had finally gained an appreciation for this doctrine that had been a source of embarrassment and anger for so long. But, even more, I believe she found some peace that day in her relationship with God, her creator, redeemer, and sustainer.
P.S. The image above is the Trinity Window in Trinity Episcopal Church, Galveston, Texas, one of the oldest stained glass windows in Texas.