If someone asked you to name the most influential person in Colorado Springs over the past 30-35 years, the first thought for an answer might be someone connected to politics, philanthropy or sports.
Our purpose here isn’t to offer a selection. But we’d like to add a name to the short list of undeniable candidates.
That name is Rev. Gerald Trigg, the longtime senior minister at First United Methodist Church, who passed away on Friday, May 15, in his native Mississippi at the age of 81.
You didn’t have to be a member of his church to know and respect Gerry Trigg. From 1980 to 2002, he led the area’s largest Methodist congregation, taking stands for tolerance and open-mindedness with forceful activism and mesmerizing sermons that truly captivated everyone who heard them, in person or on TV.
He was a legitimate Lincoln scholar who could talk or lecture authoritatively about that president. He also cared deeply about Colorado Springs, and he understood and took seriously the position he held, being able to have an impact on many of the city’s most prominent leaders, educators and businesspeople who flocked to hear his messages of humor mixed with boundless wisdom.
You didn’t have to be a member of his church to know and respect Gerry Trigg.
If a couple came to him for counseling before getting married, no matter what their ages or backgrounds, he wouldn’t simply perform the ceremony. First, he put them through a handful of intensive, personal meetings to make sure they understood the full depth and meaning of their commitment, providing advice that would endure for decades.
Trigg also had a lighter side. He loved photography, and for years he had a photo credential that put him on the sidelines for Air Force football games at Falcon Stadium. Not just for a close view, though he enjoyed that, but to sharpen his picture-taking skills, which were better than most amateurs.
For all those years, though, he was more than just a superlative minister and preacher. He helped lead a group of local clergy from the city’s largest churches who started and developed the Ecumenical Social Ministries. It’s a nonprofit with programs and resources from food and housing to medicine and other assistance for those less fortunate with emergency needs, including homelessness and unemployment.
Also, unlike many others in the ministry who devote all their time to their own congregations, Trigg served on the boards of Goodwill Industries, Citizens Project, Urban League, the Center for Christian Jewish Dialogue and the local Boy Scouts, among others. He also endeared himself to many for having spent his adult life fighting against the racism that he saw all around him growing up in Mississippi, then later voicing his strong support for gay rights in Colorado.
Through it all, Rev. Trigg helped shape countless lives in Colorado Springs, his adopted home where he stayed until moving back to Mississippi in late 2014 for the final months of his life. For so many years, when issues or conflicts arose and the area needed someone to speak out, Trigg willingly filled that role, sending messages that people needed to hear.
That’s how you truly influence an entire city, enough that we feel it’s right to join the many tributes. Just try to name someone who has influenced Colorado Springs more since 1980 than Gerald Trigg. And if you can’t think of anybody, that’s OK. You’re not alone.