BROWN TOWNSHIP — A local congregation is reaching yet another historical milestone next week. A special celebration service will take place June 3 when the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church will celebrate its 175th anniversary.
Situated one mile south of Jelloway on Ohio 3, church services began in 1837 with members meeting in area homes. A log church facility was first built in 1855, followed by the first frame building in 1874 on what is called “Dutch Hill.” This structure burned in 1926 with a new facility built on the same site in 1927.
Services were initially conducted in German and continued until 1893 when German was dropped for English. Expansions have taken place on the church building and on the property ever since, and the church has continued to prosper.
Currently serving as pastor is Tom Heil, who has been at Zion for nearly three years after serving previously in Coshocton. He has also served at other churches, including one in the Virgin Islands which celebrated its 325th anniversary while he was there. “But 175 years is old for around here,” said Heil.
Missions have always been at the heart of the Zion congregation. Two separate church groups traveled to Mississippi to assist with cleanup efforts after Hurricane Katrina. Local efforts routinely aid the Food Pantry in Danville, and care packages are assembled occasionally and sent to soldiers overseas.
“The women’s group is always collecting items to donate. I’m impressed with the fact that they’re always giving something away,” said Heil.
Strong family ties have kept the church thriving over the years. The oldest member of the congregation is Mary Frank, who recently turned 96 years old, and Zion Church has always been an important part of her life.
“It’s just the biggest social thing we’ve had,” she said with a smile. Of the many records compiled about the church’s history, Frank wrote the 1927-77 history segment.
As a youngster, Frank attended church services where men sat on one side of the sanctuary and the women on the other side. “That’s just the way it was always done,” she said.