The History of Zion Church

The Beginning

Zion United Church of Christ was born as Zion Reformed Church in 1892. The Cincinnati area of the Reformed Church had invited a missionary, the Rev. Joseph Schatz, to do outreach work with the German immigrants in Norwood, and the result was Zion Church. The Reformed denomination came to the United States from Germany, and most Germans of the Reformed faith first settled in Pennsylvania. As they moved to other parts of this new country, their denomination moved with them. When Zion Reformed Church began, it was a group of 38 German speaking and worshipping Christians, who met in a room at City Hall.

Sherman Avenue

By 1906, the new church was self-supporting, and had been worshipping for thirteen years in a two story frame church building at Sherman and Walter Avenues in Norwood. The congregation was growing, with Cincinnati and the United States around them.

Sherwood Lane

In 1926, under the leadership of their seventh pastor, and having weathered the stormy times that all German communities did during the First World War, Zion moved to its present location on Sherwood Lane. At that time, the building consisted of the Springer mansion--currently the Founder's Hall, kitchen, and the upstairs classrooms surrounding the Children's Chapel.

The Great Depression

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, Zion Reformed Church rose to the challenge of hard times. Church members baked in the kitchen together, and sold their goods to help support each other. The church community served as a clearing house for odd jobs for the many unemployed. In 1935, this formidable group of folks managed to build a beautiful sanctuary onto the mansion where they had been worshipping for nine years. The sanctuary was erected during these hard times with the help of one particularly resourceful member who arranged to purchase building stones from a wrecking company that was dismantling mansions in Walnut Hills. With the help of these "mustard seed" (Mark 4:30-32) stones, and the generosity of members who were only themselves squeaking by, a new sanctuary embraced this people in worship.

 

By the time Zion began worshipping in the new sanctuary, we also had a new denomination. In 1934, the Reformed Church united with the Evangelical Church, another German denomination hailing from the St. Louis area.

The 1950's, 60's, and 70's

By the 1950s, Zion Evangelical and Reformed Church had grown significantly. Having cared for one another during the Great Depression, the members now turned outward to care for the larger community of Cincinnati to help grow new churches and mission programs. The boom of church growth that hit most mainline Protestant denominations caused Zion to add an educational wing, and even to expand their sanctuary.

 

The early and middle part of 20th Century in the United States was marked by a sense of unification, seen in such things as the birth of the United Nations. Many churches also felt a desire for unity, and a need to follow the mandates of their faith, as in Jesus' prayer "that they may all be one." (John 17:21) For the Evangelical and Reformed Church, this meant conversations with the Congregational Christian Churches about union, and in 1957 the United Church of Christ was born. In 1961 this new denomination elected its first President, the Rev. Ben Herbster, who had been Zion's pastor for thirty years.

Into the 60s and 70s, Zion United Church of Christ provided a place for young people in the Norwood at the "Millstone," a youth center for fellowship and recreation in the church basement. In the following decade, the youth were active with bus trips to various spots across the country, often performing at Seminaries and Nursing Homes. The church continued its outreach work by sponsoring Home Away From Home (or HAFH House), for children who were temporarily ineligible for adoption.

The 1980's

The 1980's were a rough period for Zion Church. During the 80's Zion experienced the same decline as other mainline Protestant churches, but continued to do mission both locally and globally, enjoying fellowship with one another, and receiving helpful leadership from the pastors.

The 1990's and the New Millenium

In 1991, Zion hired Howard Storm as a student pastor, and then called him as the full-time pastor when he was ordained in 1992. Rev. Storm served as pastor of Zion United Church of Christ until April 2005.

 

From 2006-2013, Rev. Dr. Daniel Meister pastored Zion Church.

 

John & Donna Winkler are the historians of Zion Church.