CECILTON — This year Zion United Methodist Church of the Cecilton United Methodist Parish marks its 200th year of commitment to God’s purposes through presence with and service to its community.

The public is invited join the congregation Sunday, Oct. 27, to share in their joy upon reaching this important milestone. Long a place where both Church and community gather, Zion will gather old friends and new to celebrate our past and look to the future.

A joint worship service at 10 a.m., hosted by Zion and its parish partner, St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, will kick off the festivities.

A meal will be served after the service at 11:30 a.m., followed by an anniversary celebration at 1 p.m. where the congregation will welcome current and former members and pastors, community members and friends to give thanks and share a time of remembrance and music. Their hope is that all those who feel special ties to our church community will join in the celebration.

Anyone who plans to attend the meal is asked to RSVP by calling 410-275-8511.

Zion Methodist Church first opened its doors in 1819 on the lot directly across the street from where the present building stands. The new church was erected in 1850 on land deeded to Zion by a community member. From the outset the church has been a vital part of the community.

In 1888 disaster struck the church in the form of a cyclone that destroyed the building, but not the spirit of the people. The outpouring of assistance that came in the wake of the catastrophe affirmed Zion Methodist Church’s valued place in the community. A local man provided the use of his hall as a meeting place. The Protestant Episcopal Church held an oyster supper and festival for three nights and gave the proceeds for the rebuilding of Zion. Members and community gave of their finances and their volunteer labor. The day of consecration of the present church building on June 15, 1890 was a full day of rejoicing. By the end of the day the collection and pledges amounted to enough to cover the remaining outstanding expenses of the building project.

In 1905, the Board of Trustees first granted permission for the high school to use the church building for its commencement exercises. This practice continued for many years and exemplifies the commitment of Zion United Methodist Church to welcome the community to use its facilities even to this day.

Already considerable, Zion’s bond with the community was redoubled with the commitment to build a community hall. The financial challenge was formidable in those fraught years following World War I.

Life-long member Ada Rebecca Smith, 104, was not quite 7 years old at the time. She remembers the excitement of the Sunday School classes as they each placed items in the cornerstone on the day of its dedication. “It was a big day for us,” she said, and added, “I don’t think people today realize how central the church was to the community in those days.”

Space does not permit a full recounting of the decades of Zion’s endeavors to make manifest the love of God for all peoples. (A more comprehensive written history will be available at the event.) Zion UMC strives to meet spiritual needs through preaching of the Word, beautiful music, small group studies, congregational care, and special events for the community.

Each group at Zion, from the younger children, to youth, to men’s and women’s groups supports missions beyond the walls of the church. From emergency assistance, to food pantry, to support for veterans, to homeless ministry, to a weekly after-school program for elementary children, we are engaged locally. From national and international disaster relief, to participation in Operation Christmas Child, to support of the Conference Congo Partnership (providing nutrition programs, eye health, clean water and an expansive children’s Christian education program), it is an expression their commitment to God’s wide world.

The doors to the beautiful building are open wide and the public is invited to visit. The building itself, though, is a manifestation of the reciprocity between generations of folks who have desired to serve God’s purposes, the community that surrounds and supports the congregation, and the common good that has been the fruit of the intertwining.

One cannot miss the true beauty of this place of worship if one tarries a little to feel the warm welcome of those who today gladly continue the tradition of hospitality that has endured for 200 years.

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