Elliston Zion United Methodist Church has served rural Ottawa County for 151 years. Worship services are offered at 10:00 a.m. each Sunday. A church breakfast is offered at 8:30 a.m. each Sunday, followed by church school at 9:00 a.m. Classes are available for every grade level, young adults, middlers, and seniors. Zion offers a number of mid-week study and fellowship opportunities, including a Tuesday morning women's fellowship. Zion is involved in a wide variety of missions, including an annual trip to Cap Haitian, Haiti; a food pantry program once each month; seasonal gleaning in the summer, blood drives twice a year and a number of multi-denominational activities in the Ottawa County area.
Our StaffLisaAnne Gregg
Ministry Team/Lead Team
Ministry Team/PPRC Representative
Treasurer-Lead Team Member
Lead Team/Missions Coordinator
Food Pantry Coordinator
Sunday Worship: 10:00 AM
Due to the COVID 19 Pandemic, our Sunday Worship has been moved to the Fellowship Hall. There we will be able to worship in a "socially distanced" fashion. Chairs have been spaced out, we have a sanitation team in place, doors will be propped open and some rooms will be closed off. Don't worry! The coffee will still be on!
We have a limited (but still yummy) breakfast every Sunday at 8:30 and Sunday School begins at 9:00 AM.
The LIGHT Neighborhood Pantry is open to residents of Ottawa County on the 2nd Weds. of each month from 5 to 7 PM. Please bring a photo ID or household bill. Food items and personal care items are available. Prayer and spiritual guidance are also offered.
2018-Our Year in Review at Elliston Zion.....
2018 started quietly. The food pantry was open and the worship committee met on January 10th. Our food pantry (The LIGHT Neighborhood Pantry) is held on the 2nd Wed of each month. Pastor Diana took time to do a years’ worth of visioning at Widewater camp, while she was gone Lay Leader LisaAnne Gregg brought the message on the 21st and Lay Leader JoAnne Craft brought the message on the 28th.
The United Methodist Women met on January 28 for their organizational meeting and the Lead Team met on the 31st. In January we began a mission collection for Project PJ sponsored by the Seagate Food Bank. This ran through Feb 25th. While we did not collect a lot, every little bit helps.
With February things started to heat up even though the days were cold. On February 4th, the Superbowl of Caring was held along with the annual Ping Pong championship and potluck. After a wonderful meal and an intense afternoon of competitive play, Ron Smith retained his title. The Red Cross blood drive that was scheduled for Feb 11 was cancelled due to bad weather and extreme cold that day. On February 13 the Tuesday morning bible study started back up at it’s regular 7am start time at the Ignite Coffee Shop in Genoa with their Lenten study. Food Pantry was held on Feb. 14th along with the Worship Committee afterwards. On Feb. 25 the UMW met after church with a light meal and then a program by Mr. & Mrs. Popcorn (aka Mr. & Mrs. Wendell Markley) about their participation in a program called Kid’s Club. This is part of the Children’s Outreach Ministry that goes into the schools after school time and bring the love of Christ to children though fun and learning. Ending the month, the lead team met on the 28th.
March 1st was Ash Wednesday and we joined our neighbors at Elliston Trinity UCC for this service. We continued to share these Wednesday evening services through Lent with Trinity, each church offering a light dinner along with a musical service as we alternated churches each week.
On March 3 the first scrapbooking event of the year was held. Missy Gregg does a really good job when hosting this mission project.
Our beloved Vernal “Jiggs” Below went home to be with the Lord on the 5th. He is greatly missed by everyone here at Elliston. He and his wife, Virgina, were the founding partners of our Food Pantry.
On the 13th Dart Ball Tournaments began in Graytown. Zion won in the semi-finals and moved on to the finals which will be held on the 20th. On the 14th Food Pantry was held.
On the 20th the Dart Ball Finals were held, and Zion WON!!! Mary Stulpin hit a GRAND SLAM HOMERUN helping the team become DART BALL CHAMPIONS FOR THE YEAR!!!!
On March 25th the UMW met after worship with a light lunch followed by a program by Kenn Bower from Lighthouse Sober Living. This is a county wide program that helps those who are trying to recover from dependency. At this time there is only a house for men but a home for women is being completed soon. The Lead Team met on the 28th.
Easter Morning was April 1 and we joined Trinity UCC for Sunrise service and breakfast. Our regular Easter service was held at 10 am. On April 11th the Food Pantry was again held. Pastor Diana was on vacation from the 15th to the 29th. LisaAnne Gregg brought the message on the 15th and JoAnne Craft brought the message on the 22nd. The Lead Team met on the 25th.
The Women’s Spring Banquet was held on the April 29th and it was again enjoyed by the women of the church and their guests. The men served us a wonderful meal and Mike Andryc baked his wonderful bread that was enjoyed by all. The entertainment was brought to us by Kendra German. She shared beautiful music and testimony from her heart.
On Cinco de Mayo, Saturday May 5, about 8 women came armed with their sewing machines and met with Kathy and Melissa Gregg in the fellowship hall for a day of sewing dresses, shorts and bags for the Operation Christmas Child boxes. All who helped make this day a success enjoyed this time of fellowship and sewing. Many of those who participated took material home and made more dresses for this mission.
There was flooding of near by Camp Sabroske Christian Retreat Center in April and to help with camp clean up and repairs on May 6 Zion held a Spaghetti Fundraiser that raised over $1000.
The Food Pantry served community families on May 9th and the Worship committee met afterwards. Mother Day was on the May 13th and we began the collecting of Bucks for Babies. This collection of money, formula and diapers and wipes will ran until Father’s Day and benefited Heartbeat of Ottawa County to help mothers have and keep their babies healthy.
The Leist Memorial college scholarships were distributed on May 27. They were greatly appreciated by recipients Alyssa Lassiter, Skyler Stebing, and Charley Neff.
June 2nd saw the 2nd scrapbooking event planned and led by Melissa Gregg. The money raised will be given to Freedom School. On June 3rd the all church potluck was held, also, on June 3 the Annual Conference began in Lakeside. Pastor Diana Mathias’ appointment to Zion was renewed for another year. The Food Pantry was held on the 13th. On Father’s Day, June 17, Elliston held its Red Cross Blood drive. The Lead Team met on the 27th.
On July 1 the Community Church Sservice and Potluck was held at 10am at Graytown Park. The community is invited to this patriotic service with music provided my the Genoa American Legion Band.
Food Pantry was held on the 11th but worship committee for that evening was cancelled. On the 12th Mary Stulpin and JoAnne Craft began a sewing and craft night that is open to anyone who would like to attend. This is an informal evening of just visiting and catching up on those crafts that we never take time to finish at home because of lack of space or time. It is being held from 6 to 8 pm in the big classroom with the understanding if we need this room for classes the room will be made available for that. On Wed. the 18th a group from Zion attended the Stewardship kickoff meeting at the District Office. It was decided to not participate in this stewardship program at this time. On Sunday July 22nd our message was brought by guest speaker Sarah Moon. Lead Team met on the 25th. The message was brought on the 29th by JoAnne Craft.
There are NO “Lazy” Days of Summer here at Zion. We started the month of August on the 1st with JoAnne Craft and Mary Stulpin attending the Fresh Expressions presentation in Findlay. Although they found it interesting, they decided to not follow up with this program on radical hospitality and church planting at this time. On Aug. 5th the message was brought by LisaAnne Gregg. The 6th found volunteers headed to Barb Markley’s home to help load the truck with all the donations she has collected to go to the Friendly Center Garage Sale. Although not all the donations came from Zion the truck was full. Food Pantry was held on the 8th and Worship committee met afterwards. On Aug. 12 we partnered with Trinity UCC and held the Great Breakfast Giveaway. Trinity UCC was passing out backpacks for school children and then they were given the opportunity to drive over to Zion where we were set up under the tree, it was hot that day, and pick up one box of cereal and 1⁄2 gallon of milk for EACH school age child. This was handled through the generous donations, by members, of cereal and as an extension of our Food Pantry.
The August 19th brought the sad news of the passing of our beloved Patricia Young. She was instrumental in the formation of the food distribution projects done now and in the past at Zion. Her funeral was held on August 22 and Lead Team was postponed.
On August 26 we returned to the Sanctuary for services and had our special Blessing of the Backpacks service for our children. On the 26th we began our strategic and visionary planning for the coming year. This was attended by the Pastor and Lead Team but was open to anyone who wanted to attend. Lead Team met on the 29th, Barbara Markley has agreed to preside as Chair of the Lead Team due to the death of Patricia Young the presiding Chairperson.
It was decided to move Worship Planning to September 5th. As it gets to be a late night when we have it after food pantry. On September 9th we held the Blessing of the Boots service to honor and remember Law Enforcement and the First Responders for the service and sacrifice they make every day for our communities. This community service was attended by Allen-Clay Joint Fire District, Harris Elmore Fire and EMS, the Ottawa County Sheriff's Office, Lake Township Police Department, the Ohio Division of Watercraft and other community servants. The service was followed by a potluck lunch.
On the September 12th the Food Panty was held. On Sunday the 16th we were blessed by the Zion Choir lead my choir leader Barbara Smith as they resumed for the fall, winter and spring.
On the 17 we lost another saint from Zion. Marion Rudes entered her eternal home and she will be dearly missed.
On the 22nd the UMW District Fall Meeting was held at Zion. There were about 60 women from our Maumee Watershed District in attendance. District Superintendent, Scott Ocke attended and presented an overview of the Moving Forward homosexuality issue that will be addressed at a Special Conference being held in February 2019. After his presentation the meeting proceeded with the normal program.
On the 23rd we began collecting pet food that will end at the Blessing of the Pets service scheduled for October 14th. Lead Team met on the 26th. ON the 30th of September the UMW meet and start with the first program from the Program Book on the 150 years of UMW. This will be a year long study celebrating the missions of UMW around the world and our active part in it.
On October 12, 10 members of Zion went to Bowling Green First UMC to hear Bishop Palmer speak. The Food Pantry was still held that evening, but Worship team meeting was cancelled. Blessing of the Pets was held in the Fellowship Hall on October 14. This service was held in our Fellowship hall and there were many pets of all kinds, including a miniature therapy pony named Peanut. We were excited to have Mary Stulpin bring us the message for the day. The pet food collected was delivered by Mary to help at local animal shelters. On Sunday October 21 we held our Red Cross Blood drive from 1 to 6 in the afternoon. Lead Team met on Oct. 24. UMW met on the 28th with a light lunch and short meeting and then we went right on to our yearly Charge Conference that was held on the 28th at 2pm at Oregon Christ UMC with Rev. Rae Lynn Schleif presiding. November starts with a very busy week. Worship team meeting on the 1st. on Nov 2 & 3 Aaron Leist, Mary Stulpin, LisaAnne Gregg & JoAnne Craft attended Lay Servant training at Wide Water UMC camp and on November 4 All Saints Sunday was observed remembering the members we have lost since last year and all the members that have passed through our door and are now in their heavenly home. On November 11, Veteran’s Day, the message was given by Chuck Kaylor in honor and remembrance of our Veterans past and present. On Nov. 14 Food Pantry was held, besides their normal food choices each family received an additional Thanksgiving Dinner box along with a ham. This was made possible by the generous donations from the community and the members of Zion. The worship team met on Thursday the 15th. Reed Oestreich was scheduled to speak on Sunday Nov 18 but due to illness he was unable to come so we worshiped through song with a hymn sing. This impromptu hymn sing was enjoyed by all. The UMW met after church for their meeting. The worship team gathered on Wed. the 21st in the evening along with Skyler Stebing, Charlie Neff, and Sean Adair to begin the arrangement and placing of the garlands for the Hanging of the Greens service to be held on Sunday. It was great to have these young men available to do the ladder work.
Our Annual Hanging of the Greens was held on Sunday evening Nov. 25th. The service was as beautiful as ever. Friend of Zion, Rene Ackerman provided the music for the service.
Sadly on the 28th we lost another beloved member of our Zion family, Carol Mesker. She had brought the love of Christ to many of our children over the years when she taught Sunday School.
As we give thanks for all we have on Thanksgiving we are reminded to give to those in need. Instead of our hat and mitten tree this year we are collecting undergarments and socks for those who have so little. We realize that the poor need clothing and coats and hats but we forget the need for more basic items. We had a very good response from all our generous members to his collection and items will be taken to St. Paul’s in Toledo to be distributed at the Marketplace for all People. After Thanksgiving a small tree was placed next to the east entrance door with papers so prayer concerns and joys could be written and put on the tree. These will to be gathered and the prayer warriors from Zion will pray over these.
It is time to now start winding down for another year but that does not mean to much rest here at Zion. December 2 was the last church wide potluck for 2018. The cookie exchange was held and all those who participated got to take home a nice variety of cookies. On the 5th the worship committee met. Dec. 12 was the monthly Food Pantry.
On the 16th the Annual Blue Christmas Service was held. This service was for everyone, all who struggle with this time of year for any reason, be it loss of a loved one or loss of financial stability, loss of job or loss of health or just regret over the loss of the reason for this season. We offer this service to give those who need hope and peace a place and time to come and just rest in God’s love. This service was as beautiful as always and those who were unable to come missed a time of peace and uplifting hope for what has been and for what is to come in all our lives.
On December 18 a small group of members manned the Salvation Army Bucket at Miller’s Supermarket taking 2 or 3 hour bell ringing shifts. It is wonderful seeing the generosity of our community for this collection. We hope to do this again next year and maybe will see more members participate. On Sunday December 23 we had a guest speaker, Sarah Covert Chapman. Her message was uplifting and enjoyed by those were present. Christmas Eve service was wonderful and Communion was given. After the service all families received a loaf to take with them of home baked bread from Mike Andryc. Our last service of the year was held on December 30th. We gathered the prayer requests and concerns from the Prayer tree and these were placed upon the alter and brought to God in prayer during the service.
Now as we say goodbye to 2018, we see it has been a year of eventful highs and very sad lows. We have said goodbye to good friends but also hello to those we have met and built relationships with through our many ministry outreaches. May you all find your calling to reach others in 2019 and may we continue to share the blessings we received from our Father God with all those we meet along our way.
May God Bless You,
Skyler Stebing, Historian
By Kenneth Leist
Church Historian (2011)
The history of the Elliston Zion Church is actually a history of four separate groups. The original members came from the Aaron Street Mission of Cleveland, Ohio; the organizers of Elliston Zion; Toussaint Charge, Blackberry Mission, and Rocky Ridge Church. The story of the growth and development of our present church is related to these groups, their dedication to the work of the church, the needs of the community, and mainly God’s will and kingdom.
The founding father of Zion was August Peter, a fireman on the Lake Short Railroad who came to this area from Cleveland. He worked on runs between Cleveland and Graytown, transporting farm produce and lumber from the large wooded areas of the Great Black Swamp. At the time, sawmills were scattered throughout the township.
Seeing the fine homesteads in the area, he decided to quit the railroad and clear land and set up a homestead of his own. He returned to Cleveland after staking a claim, for the purpose of bringing his wife, Catherine, and other members of the Aaron Street Mission of the Evangelical Church. The first family to return with him in the spring of 1861, was the Fred Lenz family. Robert Spalt and Conrad and Catherine Bittner followed soon after and were joined four months later by Henry and Helena Peter.
The group brought a tradition of worship and glorifying God from the Aaron Street Mission, where they all had been members. Upon their arrival; they began holding prayer meetings and Sunday School classes.
The group was visited by members from the nearby Lindsay Church in Sandusky County; Daniel Kern, Elias Loose, and Peter Kemmerling. They were followed by Frederick Zeller, a pastor on the Sandusky Circuit, who organized the church. Henry Peter was named first class leader, and Peter Spalt was named exhorter. Over the next few years other families from the Aaron Street Mission arrived and increased the size of the congregation. During this period a group from the Lorain Area arrived, led by Martin Boss; a shipbuilder. Mr. Boss went to the Bono Shipyards for employment, but soon became dissatisfied there, and decided to homestead in the township. He then returned to Lorain to bring his family to his new home and to induce others to join him.
In 1863 the Elmore Circuit was established, and Elliston Zion was recorded as the Benton Appointment. The groups first met in the homes of Conrad Bittner, Henry Peter, and Fred Lenz. In 1865, a log church was built on the Conrad Bittner Farm about a half mile north of the Village of Elliston. Fred Lenz selected the location following a four-week revival. He had involved himself in personal prayer and meditation, listened to Christian music, then traveled to the Bittner farm. He later told others he set a stake there when he heard music and said, “Here is where we will build our church.”
The church was completed and dedicated by J. J. Kopp. The log church was used until 1873.
In the annual report for the church; W. H. Pfieffer made the following report in 1873: “Our loyal people in Elliston, by the help of God, erected a new church, which was dedicated Dec. 29, 1872.”
Mr. Pfieffer gave the first sermon on Saturday evening, and the next day Bishop Yeakel led a dedication service and announced that $600 was needed to dedicate it free of debt. J. W. Walkey; Presiding Elder, preached that evening and, speaking in English, said the church had received more than enough to pay all debts.
“On Monday,” Mr. Pfieffer wrote, “we conducted The Lord’s Supper. The people are praiseworthy and full of joy and gratitude to God. The church is a frame building (34’ X 50’); but , only sixteen feet high; whereas, it should be four feet higher..
“An awaking took place in the new church, sinners were converted and a good number received into the church. And too, the brothers and sisters have stepped deeper into the stream of God’s love….At Stoney Ridge the Lord also came to our aid….The Toussaint Class is eager to pursue the Lord’s work. They will erect a new church this summer…”
In 1895 a new parsonage replaced one which had been destroyed by fire. In 1905 the old frame church was in need of serious repairs; therefore, it was decided to replace it with the current brick building. Bishop Thomas Bowman presided at the dedication, and Charles
Wohlgemuth became pastor in 1907. Through his continued efforts and successes the Ottawa Circuit was dissolved, and Elliston Zion became a full charge. The following year Blackberry Church was closed and the building sold. The Blackberry congregation then joined Elliston Zion Church.
Conference sessions were held at Zion in 1911and 1919. At the Eire Conference Session, the Golden Jubilee or 50th Anniversary was held. The present parsonage was built in 1925 at a cost of $7,358. After completing $3,000 worth of repairs, including the digging of the church basement under E. W. Yaecker, a reopening service was held with J. R. Niergarath presiding. The 75th Anniversary was celebrated by Zion’s pastor, L. H. Naumann, during Holy Week of 1936. Participating in that service were E. W. Yaecker, pastor for fifteen years; C. L. Allen, District Superintendent, and former pastors; Dr. H. R Heininger, Naperville, Illinois; who gave the morning message on Easter Sunday.
From this congregation; August Peter and W.A. Tabbert joined the ministry in the Eire Conference. One of the Meinke daughters married Rev. S. R. Schieb. W. W. Peter became a noted medical missionary to China.
A very important part of our present congregation came from the former Rocky Ridge Evangelical United Brethren Church when it closed in 1957. This church was first mentioned by L. Sheuerman, pastor of the Fremont Mission in a report dated December of 1863. He stated that:
“…the people; German backwoodsmen, had not heard a preacher in several years.”
He said, however, that they “received the precious Gospel with hearty expressions of praise and thanksgiving, and yielded their all to the Lord. I was glad to make my way to these people through any kind of weather”. The new appointment was transferred to the Perrysburg Circuit in 1864 and this was the beginning of the Rocky Ridge Charge”.
Records also show an appointment located on Toussaint Creek, but it is not known where that church was actually located. It is mentioned in 1863. A church was built under W. H. Pfieffer in 1873 and dedicated as Trinity Church. The appointment was discontinued in 1893 and the building was sold. It was under the Erie Conference. It seems highly probable that those members came either to Rocky Ridge or Elliston after the closing.
In 1880, J. J. Bernhart, a pastor on the Ottawa Circuit, took up Blackberry as an appointment. In 1888 a small frame church was dedicated by Presiding Elder, J. D. Seip. The church closed in 1910, and its holdings were sold. The members transferred to Elliston Zion, and proceeds from the sale were sent to Rocky Ridge Church for repairs to its parsonage.
In the spring of 1927 a balcony was erected in the sanctuary, and the basement was improved with a rear entrance added. By July, 1928, this work was finished.
In the fall of 1930, improvements were made to the church building. A new asbestos shingle roof was put on, the church was painted and decorated inside and out, and the current stained glass windows were installed, replacing older frosted-glass windows.
On March 17, 1944, the Progressive Sunday School class was organized. It continued to serve under that name until 1998, when it combined with the Win-a-Kuple Class, which itself had existed since 1952. A third class, the Christian Servants Class, which had started in 1962, folded together in 2004 into a group called the Christian Ambassadors, which continues to study together to this day in Elliston. Through it all, the class functioned as a traditional study of the gospels.
Through most of this period of the church’s history, the dominant language was German. Services were conducted completely in the German language until around 1938, and all church records up to the beginning of World War II were in German.
In 1945, while Rev. E. F. Braden was pastor, a two-car garage was built next to the parsonage. The project cost $1,000.
During the pastorate of H.D. Kern, extensive improvements were again made to the church basement. New restrooms were added, a kitchen area was remodeled, and a new heating system was installed. The dedication service took place on June 1, 1947, with Superintendent Arondt and children from the Flat Rock Children’s Home as special guests.
In 1948 a new Hammond electric organ was purchased by the Y.F. under the leadership of Rev. Charles Holzworth. This was a memorial project in memory of Orland Dipman, who died in World War II, and other leading members or past members. The organ was later replaced, but the original memorial plaque remains on the south wall of the sanctuary near the front entrance and the sound system station.
In 1952, during the pastorate of Rev. Clyde Huther, the interior of the church was redecorated and a new layer of brick was added to the exterior of the church at a cost of $12,000. A rededication service took place in November, 1953, with Bishop Fred Dennis officiating.
In 1957, Rev. Earl W. Leist was assigned to Zion and would become its longest serving pastor. In all, he held the position for 25 years. In the same year that he arrived, Rocky Ridge Church closed, and many members transferred to Zion. The Win-a-Kuple Class also redecorated the basement and added new light fixtures. The kitchen at the parsonage was expanded, new cupboards were added, and several rooms were redecorated. The work was dedicated in April, 1958.
In June of 1960, the church purchased the Robert Bast property north of the parsonage and east of the church for $10,500. The house was used as a parish house for office space, Sunday School classrooms, and upstairs storage. Improvements totaling $1,000 were made in September. Sidewalks were added, and a new north drive was installed. The property was dedicated by Superintendent John C. Seadle.
Several projects were undertaken for the 100th anniversary of the church during 1960 and 1961. First the exterior of the church was redecorated, and lighting was added to the parking lot at a cost of $525. In November, 1960, new glass and aluminum doors were purchased for $600. In January, 1961, the interior of the church was redecorated at a cost of $950. In March that year, the youth fellowship purchased and erected a bulletin board in front of the parsonage.
A special celebration of the centennial was held from March 19 to 26, with services conducted by Rev. Leist, Superintendent Rev. Dan Corl and Superintendent Rev. John Seale, Sr. Bishop Paul Herrick, of Dayton, served as a special guest speaker at morning and afternoon services.
New light fixtures were added to the sanctuary, a gift from the family of Clarence Bringe, and the Progressive Class joined with the Bringe family to donate a cross for the altar, collection plates, and candle holders.
On April 23, 1968, in Dallas, the Evangelical United Brethren and Methodist Episcopal churches merged to form the United Methodist Church, and Elliston Zion became part of this newly formed denomination.
In May of 1979, a new garage was added to the parsonage by Arthur Young, a member of the church. Derrel White did the electrical work, which was paid for through the general fund, aided by a large donation from the Win-a-Kuple class and Matt Sells. A number of members helped with the work.
During the years 1980-1983, many changes and upgrades were made in preparation for the church’s 125th anniversary in 1986. In 1980, storm windows were placed over the stained-glass windows, and new shrubs were planted. In 1981, a new fence was installed, and new appliances were purchased for the parsonage. In 1982, the church and parish house were painted, and the United Methodist Men joined with men from Trinity United Church of Christ to put up new signs for both churches along State Routes 163 and 579. In 1983 the church pews were stripped and the seats padded, and other church furniture was refurbished, with funding provided by the Win-a-Kuple class. The parsonage garage was completed and dedicated that same year.
The church honored Rev. Earl and Selena Leist on Sunday, May 16, 1982, two days before his 65th birthday. Following the Sunday service, a community dinner was held at Trinity UCC. Rev. Leist later told his son, Ken, that the event was one of the greatest kindnesses ever shown to him and his wife. After 25 years of service to Zion UMC, he was retiring.
Rev. Richard Smith came in 1982 to replace Rev. Leist. He was active in a radio ministry in the area.
The week of April 1-8, 1984 was the bicentennial of the United Methodist Church. The local United Methodist Women made a banner depicting a circuit rider. The banner hung in the sanctuary until 1995.
In 1985, a new Allen Organ was purchased for the sanctuary and dedicated on Sept. 29. This completed preparation for the 125th anniversary, which was celebrated on April 27, 1986.
The church celebrated its 125th anniversary in 1986 with a service conducted by Rev. Richard Smith and presided over by Toledo District Superintendent Vance Summers. In March, masons had come to the church to remove its cornerstone, and its contents were displayed at the service. It contained a German Bible, an evangelical prayer book, a Catechism, a list of memberships in classes, and a list of members of the administrative committee and the trustees. It also contained coins from 1901 to 1905. Water had damaged some of the materials.
A reader read the history of the church and described the contents of the box from the cornerstone. During the meal following the service, items from the box were displayed, and the box was later resealed and placed in the south wall of the sanctuary, containing all the historical material and new items from the historical period up to 1986.
On Sunday, Nov. 30, 1986, through the efforts of Jean Smith, one of the church’s most revered celebrations, a special annual Hanging of the Greens service, began. That service has become an annual community tradition which fills the church on the evening of the first Sunday of Advent each year and which allows every person present to participate in honoring Christ’s birth. The service, now supervised each year by Kim Traver, has become the largest community celebration of the Advent season each year.
When Rev. Smith left the church, Rev. Jerry Cole arrived. Rev. Cole began to work toward construction of a new fellowship hall, which could handle activities housed in the church basement and parish house. After much discussion, it was decided to proceed.
In 1988, the church proposed to buy 1.918 acres from George Kuhlman’s farm for $5,750. The issue was approved, the property purchased, and District Supt. Vance Summers dedicated it.
In 1989, the church basement was remodeled, a new altar table purchased from Sauder Manufacturing, and the exterior of the church again painted. The altar table remains in use to this day.
In March, 1990, the sanctuary was redecorated, with new carpeting, new altar paraments, and the addition of a sanctuary clock and a decorative tree. Outside, 22 evergreen trees, a gift of Esther Myerholtz, one of Zion’s most dedicated Christian teachers, were planted in honor of her 80th birthday. On Sept. 30, 1990, District Supt. Dr. Fred Heath dedicated the improvements.
Several improvements were made during 1990 to 1992. The Win-a-Kuple class replaced the windows in the parsonage. In 1991, the Earl and Selena Leist Scholarship Fund was established, offering funds to college students who wanted to continue their education. The fund has continued to help students without interruption since that time. That same year, Robert Boss painted the stained glass window frames and installed aluminum frame coverings on them. Overhead fans, a gift from the Progressive Class, were installed in the sanctuary.
Charles W. Smith enhanced the church’s worship with several handcrafted pieces of furniture, including a kneeling bench in 1992 and a baptismal font in 1993. In 1995, he constructed a new cabinet for the sound system that was donated by the Win-a-Kuple class.
In 1992, after examining the church’s existing ministry and looking to future ministries, the administrative council voted to examine a building program.
This decision set off a years-long process. The United Methodist church requires congregations to vote to explore construction, to develop a preliminary plan for congregational approval, to finalize that plan for yet another vote by the congregation.
Zion began its work with an informal poll in which 51 out of 63 votes favored investigation of the project in phases. A temporary building committee was established, and its members included Lloyd Behm, Dick Iffland, James Smith, Rollin Barshall, Charles Kaylor, Charles Smith, Howard Lohr, Myron Schiller, and Pastor Jerry Cole.
Several committees were formed to facilitate this work. The lives of the committees varied, but they operated roughly between Jan. 1, 1993, through July 1, 2002.
Eventually, Lloyd Behm was named chairman of the building committee, and Howard Lohr vice chairman. Janis Smith was placed on the committee to serve as its secretary, and Jean Smith, Merle Carr, Jay Helwig, and Barbara Markley were included as members. Mr. Helwig and Ms. Markley were added at the committees first meeting. A number of subcommittees, with varied functions, were named. They included:
Study committee: Jean Smith, chairperson; Darling Mensing, and Willard Witt.
Finance and promotion committee: Janis Smith, chairperson; Richard Iffland, Marion Rudes, Marge Bringe, and Jay Helwig.
Plans and Construction committee: Rollin Barshel, chairman; Merle Carr, Carol Scharer, Al Boss, Howard Lohr, and Barbara Markley.
On January 9, 1994, the congregation approved preliminary drawings and plans at a conference presided over by Rev. Joe Miller, of Woodville UMC. By a vote of 40 yeas, 11 nays, and one abstention, the project was approved and a financial campaign begun. On Feb. 7, the official financial draw was started. The church also received a report on May 12 that $91,576 was needed to bring the parish house up to standards — but this would not improve insulation, heating, water, or access. That report led the committee to formally decide to proceed with planning for a new addition to replace the parish house.
On Oct. 2, a Koinonia Group was formed and met at different homes to discuss building plans. Charles Smith, the church’s financial secretary, was named treasurer of the building committee. On May 28, the district church extension committee met with Zion’s committee, and finally, on Dec. 4, Phase II was started. A special church conference approving drawings for the building, 44-0, with one abstention. The congregational conference voted, however, to place a number of restrictions on the plan. Spending was to be limited to $400,000, and the church was required to have at least half of the actual cost in hand before construction could begin. Borrowing was to be limited to $50,000.
The members and friends of Zion had already raised or pledged $134,479 during a campaign and were well on their way to raise the $200,000 needed to begin work.
On Oct. 29, 1995, Dr. Robert Ball, the Toledo District Superintendent, presided over the annual church conference, and the church voted to purchase 9.2 acres adjacent to the present property. The property roughly extended from the north property line of the church west to Packer Creek and south to the Norfolk-Southern Railroad tracks. This property would be used for the new building and for future growth. Part of the newly purchased land was rented to Wes Gahler and his family for farming operations.
Rev. Tom Schwind replaced Rev. Cole in 1998 and continued working toward the new building.
It was in his tenure that a member of the congregation, Barbara Smith, came forward to request permission to begin a children’s choir called Kingdom Kids. Rev. Schwind approved, and the program took shape with such success that the children were often asked to perform at venues outside the church.
The group began to receive donations, and all funds raised were used to support mission programs, including an orphanage in Russia and relief for victims of Hurricane Katrina. Eventually, Pastor Schwind and his wife, Beth, recruited a team of volunteers and added a biblical component to the children’s activities called Pioneer Club. This eventually became began a regular Wednesday evening program in which children shared dinner, studied the Bible, made crafts, and participated in songs, games, and drama projects. The program, open to students from four years of age through high school, evolved and changed over the years, finally becoming known during the tenure of the church’s next pastor as the WOW! (Waz Up on Wednesday!) program.
The new addition to the building was completed and dedicated in 2001.
Under Rev. Schwind’s leadership several young families began attending and several study groups were added. The church began to offer two worship services, a contemporary service and a traditional one. A church secretary was hired and a worship team was formed.
Rev. Schwind was replaced in 2005 by Rev. Barbara Jean Pope, the first woman pastor in Zion’s history.
District Supt. Rae Lynn Schleif asked the church’s pastor-parish relations committee and administrative council to consider taking on a part-time retired elder. The Rev. Lawrence Keeler, a newly retired pastor from Walbridge accepted the position as a 30-hour-a-week job, and the church was able, because of reduced expenses, to balance its books for the first time in several years. In addition, debts that had mounted in the previous two years were paid off.
Rev. Keeler chose to continue a process, Natural Church Development, that had started under the guidance of Rev. Pope, and the church began to focus intently on improving its worship service. Rev. Keeler convinced the church to resume the use of live music — it had been discontinued some years earlier because of financial pressures — and two members of the congregation, Lorene Klingbeil and Amy Sutter, agreed to serve as church organist and pianist. By the end of 2009, worship attendance had risen from the mid-50s each week to the mid-70s, and growth continued in 2010, with worship attendance reaching 80 a week.
The church school, which had lost several of its adult classes in the early and mid 1990s, began the long process of re-establishing a complete Christian education and small-group fellowship program. Rev. Keeler urged men of the church to hold monthly breakfasts, and they began to consider various mission tasks. In 2010, the men purchased study Bibles for use by teens in the church, and in 2011, they voted to hold a special dinner to raise funds for groups working with children and teens, including the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, an organization that had a strong local chapter in the Genoa schools and which sent a contingent to worship regularly in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
The church school established several new classes, including one for toddlers, another for young adults, and a third for adults reaching middle age. The young-adult class, under the leadership of Ron Smith, thrived and grew, and attendance in the more than doubled, particularly after a breakfast was added in 2010. A group for teens was re-established in the last half of 2010, conducting a half-dozen different programs for teens.
Rev. Keeler also urged the church to focus intently on mission work, and he took teams from the church to Haiti, in 2009, 2010, and 2011. The groups worked with a mission in Cap Haitian called Living Hope. They worked with children in Haitian schools, undertook two construction projects, including painting one school inside and out, and conducted a Vacation Bible School in 2011 for 148 children. In all, the groups raised more than $12,000 for mission work in Haiti in 2010 and 2011. Meanwhile, the church had continued two mission projects that were already in place – Operation Christmas Child and gleaning of pickles for distribution to soup kitchens. In 2010, Administrative Council Chairperson Patricia Young recruited a team of volunteers to run a food-assistance program called Angel Food Ministries, which provided monthly grocery baskets at prices far below those in local stores.
In 2011, the church turned its attention to ministries for youth and children. Memorial gifts made it possible for the church to purchase and install a playground area as part of the Sesquicentennial celebration, and the administrative council voted in August to hire James Nevel, a candidate for ministry in the Maumee Watershed District, to work on children’s and teen ministries.
Small groups and mission
Small groups and mission are an integral part of Zion’s history.
A dartball team has operated without interruption since the late 1930s at Zion.
Men’s and women’s groups operated for much of the church’s history under various names. Since 1968, both became part of the United Methodist Women and United Methodist Men ministries. The UMW supported countless missions, including Friendly Center in Toledo, and a member of Zion, Jean Smith, now heads the board of the Friendly Center Guild. The men participated in district activities, and from that a gleaning ministry developed that has helped soup kitchens in Toledo for years.
Patricia Young began an “Angel Food” ministry project in 2010 to provide food at reduced prices to all who need it, and she is now studying the possibility of greatly increasing the church’s pantry operation.
Melissa Gregg and Christie and Carrie Andryc began an active annual project to support missions to Haiti. The church’s annual Haiti Dinner and Scrapbook Crop have become major fund-raising ventures each spring.
Barbara Smith leads an adult choir in the church.
WOW, a Wednesday evening children’s program, operated for more than 10 years.
Rev. Tom Schwind began a Tuesday prayer group during his tenure, and Rev. Keeler resumed regular Tuesday-evening prayer gatherings in 2011.
The “classes” at Zion
One must mention, at some point, the history of some of Zion’s Sunday School classes. When my father, Rev. Earl Leist, came to Zion on Aug. 10, 1957, he was impressed by the strong class structures in the church. Here is a bit of history:
WILLING WORKERS: This was the oldest group. Teachers included June Grahl, Fred Eppling, Beryl Schiller, and Ed Tank. These members were active in developing an ethic of strong Christian service.
LOYALTY CLASS: This class included some of the oldest members of the church. It was taught at various times by Ed Tank, John Stick, Howard Lohr, and Rev. Leist. Class members carried out much of the work of the church, and many served as officers.
PROGRESSIVE CLASS: This class was active in the period 1960-1990. Many members served on a building committee in the 1990s. Teachers included Lloyd Behm, Howard Lohr, Earl Moore, Ervin Klingbeil, Helen Lewis, Charles Smith, and Loren Schiller.
WIN A KUPLE CLASS: This class raised more funds for projects than any other group. It bought pianos, an organ, paint supplies. It paid to recover pews, decorated the parsonage, remodeled the parish house, installed sidewalks, built a parsonage garage, and completed many other projects. The group raised funds through an annual sale of nuts. Every Monday from late September until Christmas, the group would meet at Myron Helwig’s hardware store and pack tons of nuts in one-pound packages for sale throughout the community.
CHRISTIAN SERVANTS CLASS: This class was taught by Edna Magsic for many years and later by Randy and Kenneth Leist and Lorine Klingbeil. Many current leaders (2011) were members of this group.
FRIENDS OF FELLOWSHIP CLASS: This group’s teachers included Myron Helwig and Jeann Smith. The class tried to serve young married couples and post-high school single persons.
In addition, Zion provided classes for children and youth. These classes performed Christmas programs, Children’s Day Programs, and trained young people in the name of God. It is almost impossible to name all the people who volunteered to teach children. A few of the most prominent were Dorothy Behm, Laura Dipman, Marcella Klingbeil, June Grahl, Ola Mae Moore, Donna Witt, Barbara Markley, Jean Smith, Lillian Gregg, Wilma Behm, Carol Mesker, Virginia Barshel, Dora Schiller, and Nona Boss.
Zion also currently provides two weekday study groups for adults. Leslie Vogelpohl and JoAnne Craft lead a Women’s study and fellowship group that meets each Tuesday in a Genoa restaurant.