|History of Zion United Church of Christ|
|Zion was founded over two-hundred years ago by a faithful people who were far-seeing in their vision and so determined in their convictions as to build upon them. Spire and sanctuary now direct us to the presence of God, but these stand only because of our ancestors’ willingness to match their love of God with their labor, time and limited resources. Pastors and consistories are much like the seasons; they come and go, affecting change and flow, but the nurturing presence of our people is like the land of Upper Adams; it remains, keeping its form and endures. Our ancestors built on their faith for the future here. They built well; our heritage of Zion is a meaningful one, worthy of memory. They built a sanctuary to the promise of God’s love.APRIL 30, 1781This was the day that marked the beginnings of Zion United Church of Christ in Arendtsville. Stophel St. Mire (later written Sentmire) and Jacob Arendt on April 30, 1781 “sold, set over and confirmed unto Frederick Steinour and Philip Hartzell, Trustees for the united congregations of Lutherans and Reformeds, two acres, seventy-eight perches in Cumberland Township, County of York” deeded “to them and to their successors, to be kept for a Church and Burying Ground and School House.” Along with the deed, Jacob Arendt granted “the free use of his spring at all times unto the Congregation and School.”THE FIRST SANCTUARY
The first sanctuary was built in 1787. The Rev. A.J. Heller, writing in the year 1880, states: “This date (1787) was preserved by being engraved on a tablet inserted in the wall over the door. The church was a log building, weather boarded. It was two storied, having galleries on three sides. The pulpit was in the shape of a barrel and set against the wall. The altar was enclosed by chancel railing. It stood on the southeast corner of the square, opposite the present building. The schoolhouse and sexton house formed on building, made of logs and weather boarded. It stood where the present church stands, on the southwest corner of the square and was a story and a half high.” The original graveyard, immediately south of this sanctuary, was first used in 1790 with the interment of Anna Maria Berrin.
EARLY RECORD KEEPING
The first record book of the congregation was purchased in 1785 but no records of the ministers serving Zion are to be found before 1804. It is likely, however, that since Zion was later a part of the Gettysburg Charge that its early services were administered by pastors in Gettysburg. The oldest communion records of Zion are dated on September 24, 1796. The Rev. Lebrecht L. Hinsch arrived to serve Zion eight years later; his ministry continued until 1834.
CONSTRUCTION OF PRESENT SANCTUARY 1850-1851
A joint meeting of the two denominations (Lutheran and Reformed) using the sanctuary of Zion was called on January 1, 1850, for the purpose of considering the rebuilding of the church. The vote in favor of rebuilding was nearly unanimous. Work was begun in the spring of 1851. The foundation of the new sanctuary was dug on the site of the old schoolhouse and sexton house. The total amount subscribed for the erection of this new building was $2,399.93½. The building was forty-two by fifty-five feet in dimension, of brick construction in a colonial style of architecture. A second story was created by galleries on three sides which formed a second floor. The pulpit was high; it was modern in style without the traditional sounding board. The altar was made in the plainest manner possible. A stranger passing through the square may not have recognized this building as a church; there was no spire, no cupola, and no bell. The completed building was consecrated for worship on Christmas Day, 1851.
JOINT USE OF THE SANCTUARY
The demands for the use of this sanctuary grew as rapidly as did the members of the two denominations. In 1880 the problem of a proper division of time in the use of the building by the Lutheran and Reformed groups became a serious concern. A decision on February 14, 1881, following numerous meetings and proposals, resulted in the purchase of Zion’s building by the Reformed members; the Lutheran share of the property was sold to them for $1,000. At a meeting on April 30, 1881, the Reformed Congregation decided to purchase for one hundred dollars the Lutheran share of the “piece of ground known as the Old Grave Yard.”
In 1884, a building committee composed of Philip Beamer, Henry Hartzel, John Lupp, Jonas Orner and Peter Schlosser was appointed to make plans for the remodeling of the sanctuary. The cornerstone of the improved structure was laid on June 6, 1885. The old walls were left standing but the galleries were removed; the space previously occupied as a vestibule was thrown into an audience chamber. The windows, ceiling and roof were Gothic in style. A Gothic window, eighteen feet in height, replaced the central entrance on the eastern wall. A tower was erected at each corner, the northeastern one surmounted by belfry and spire, its finial one hundred and ten feet above the pavement. The belfry contains a twelve-hundred-pound bell of excellent tone. The windows were prepared by Mr. John Gibson of Philadelphia. New entrances were designed into the base of each tower.
Dr. E.V. Gerhart, following a visit to the newly-remodeled sanctuary wrote, “The contrast between now and then is worthy of note. In 1849, Arendtsville was one of four churches constituting the Gettysburg Charge. Now it forms a pastoral charge in connection with one other church. Then this congregation numbered about one hundred twenty-five members who worshipped with the Lutherans in an old union church built of logs. Now with a membership of two hundred, it worships in a new, beautiful brick building which is its own property.”
Zion Reformed Church continued to grow; with growth came change. The growing educational needs of the congregation were recognized in 1897 when an additional “Infant Room” was built out from the western wall. At a congregational meeting on February 26, 1908, a lot forty-six by thirty-two feet on the southeast corner of the square (the site of the original log sanctuary) was sold to the National Bank of Arendtsville. In January, 1911, a Sunday School committee came to the Consistory recommending the purchase of a pipe organ. A Moller organ was duly installed in the spring of 1912 at a cost of approximately $3,000.00. The Willing Workers Class, taught by P.S. Orner, installed a steam heating plant in 1931. The sanctuary was again renovated the following year at a cost of $2,613.00. Certain windows were redesigned, the interior was redecorated, the chancel and choir loft enlarged and a new carpet laid. In April, 1949, a new altar, pulpit, lectern, baptistery and reredos were presented to the congregation by Mr. and Mrs. M.E. Knouse in memory of his parents, Isaiah David and Agnes Sarah Hartman Knouse.
The growing needs of Zion’s people demanded more room. Additional property adjacent to the west side of Zion was purchased on November 4, 1946, from Laura Pettis for the purpose of an alley access to the church. A General Building Committee was appointed in January, 1949, to meet the need for more classrooms. Its members were: Louise Bushey, Warren Bushey, The Rev. Nevin R. Frantz, Betty Hartzel, Ethel Heckenluber, Bernadene Hoke, Dale Knouse, Mrs. D. B. Lady, Isabelle Longenecker, Bradford Peterson, Alice Raffensperger, Miriam Rebert, Eva Rexroth, Sterling Sell, Charles Slonaker, Roy Tate, George P. Taylor, Ralph Taylor, Robert Taylor, Belle Warren, Alma Wert and Charles Zeigler. The cornerstone of Zion’s Church School Building was laid on October 16, 1949; it was dedicated on September 3, 1950, at a total cost of $35,664.83. The ground floor met social needs with a kitchen and Fellowship Hall. The second floor met educational needs with six new classrooms.
In 1957, the following members were appointed to purchase a new organ for the sanctuary: Isabelle Longanecker, Gladys McCauslin, Florence McDannell, Lorraine McGlaughlin, Clyde Sell, Ralph Taylor and Alma Wert. On December 29, 1957, a new Moller pipe organ, with cabinet and twenty-one Deagan Chimes were dedicated at the cost of $9,625.00.
In 1934, Zion Reformed Church became Zion Evangelical and Reformed Church. This merger brought unity to those American descendants of eighteenth-century Reformed and nineteenth-century Evangelical Christians of German heritage. In 1957 a new denomination was formed between the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Christian-Congregational Church. Our Congregation reflected its new name: Zion United Church of Christ.
A growing spirit of independence resulted in our congregation voting to become wholly independent from our sister congregation, Trinity United Church of Christ of Biglerville, on September 1, 1976. After the Rev. Frantz’s retirement on May 31, 1976, our members were ably served by the interim presence of the Reverends Howard Koons, Merritt Jeffers, John Peace and Louis Hammann.
On July 1, 1977, the Rev. Lynn R. Schultz began his ministry as the first pastor of Zion’s newly-independent congregation. Our people shared a very unique and happy occasion on September 18, 1977, when our pastor and the Rev. Sandra L. Morris of Glencoe, Illinois were united in marriage during our morning worship service.
In the spring of 1978 a portion of the Church School was converted in a Conference Room and Church Office. New drapes, new furniture and class dividers were added to accentuate Zion’s multi-use space. A Resource Center, designed by Myrna Morton, was filled with books and other educational media from our gifts and memorials. In the summer of 1980 the pale green walls of our sanctuary were repainted in warm beige with gold trim. During this same time the parking lot east of Zion was resurfaced and expanded to accommodate our growing membership as Zion prepared for its bicentennial commemoration in April 1981. Rev. Schultz served Zion until August 24, 1986.
During our search process, the Rev. Tom Lush, pastor of Trinity U.C.C. in Biglerville, served as our part-time supply pastor from August 25, 1986 until August 30 1987. On September 1, 1987, Zion called the Rev. David M. Hammett to be our next pastor. During Rev. Hammett’s pastorate, Zion again saw changes to its physical plant. The steeple was repaired in 1991-1992 and a ramp was added in 1994 to the front entrance of the Church to make it more accessible for our disabled members and friends. Rev. Hammett served Zion until August 31, 1995.
Once again Zion found itself in the search process for a new pastor. From December 1, 1995 to April 13, 1997, the Rev. Larry Knutson ably served as Zion’s interim. (Little did we know then, how entwined our relationship with Larry would turn out to be!)
On July 1, 1997 Zion experienced another milestone by calling its first female pastor, the Rev. Darcy B. Otis. On June 25, 1998, Zion purchased a structure next to the parking lot for use as office and meeting space. The building was lovingly remodeled by members of Zion and today it includes a conference room, small kitchenette, parlor and offices for the pastor and office manager. Rev. Otis would serve until August 24, 2003.
More Transitions and Changes
God blessed us once again by providing our next interim, the Rev. Kim Blocher, (who just so happened to be Rev. Knutson’s wife)! During Rev. Blocher’s interim, from September 7, 2003 until September 7, 2004, Zion experienced more changes. Our old Moller pipe organ, that had served us for over 45 years, was replaced with a new digital organ with speakers mounted on the front walls of the church on March 21, 2004. After serving Zion for a year, Pastor Blocher left to pursue her doctorate at Lancaster Theological Seminary and to serve as interim at two small churches in Lancaster. Still in the search process for a permanent pastor, God sent the Rev. Larry Knutson to us once again to be our part time supply pastor in September of 2004!
During both Rev. Knutson’s and Rev. Blocher’s stays, Zion continued to grow and change. Under the guidance of Ryan Taylor, Jerry Cutshall and Brandy Schwab, Zion went “online” with our new website in 2005. We also took on a major capital improvement by voting to install central air conditioning in the sanctuary in 2005.
Thanks to a very generous gift from Marie Blough, Zion was able to renovate the kitchen, with the dedication service being held on April 24, 2005.
Zion, once again, saw a “vision” realized, when our first Contemporary Worship Service was held on May 7, 2005. That service eventually evolved into our current Monday Night Light service.
Finally, after many months of searching, God answered our prayers by bringing the Rev. Kim Blocher back to us. On May 8, 2005, the members of Zion voted overwhelmingly to call Rev. Kim Blocher to be our 21st pastor.
Another vision of service to the community was realized when we became a home for an Adams County Head Start center in September of 2008. We are so happy to have the “pitter patter of little feet” heard in our fellowship hall every weekday of the school year.
In 2008 Zion was blessed to receive its first grant, a $5000 gift from the Robert C Hoffman Foundation. This Adams County foundation serves many worthy causes in our community. The grant was written for our stained glass window covering project. We have also received a grant for conversion of our upstairs restroom to one that is handicapped accessible.
A new ministry was launched in 2009, when we formed our veteran’s action team. Several projects were undertaken, one of which was assisting with the wounded warrior bike ride organized by World T.E.A.M. (the exceptional athlete matters) Sports. We also assist the American Legion Post in Biglerville with placing flags on the graves of veteran’s in our local cemeteries, and hold a special service on Veteran’s Day to honor our local veterans. New projects are being added every year. We partner with Harrisburg Area Community College to support local veterans who have gone back to college.
In 2016 we began an exciting partnership with our neighboring churches, called “Upper Adams Christians Together” or UACT. UACT is now a 501c3 with ministries that include a weekend packback feeding program for the local schools, joint confirmation, and youth mission trips. Together we can do more than we do alone, and we magnify the message of the good news.