Zion United’s rich history remembered

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Pat Durfy and Gladys Thatcher stand by the new plaque that was unveiled recently.

By Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative
The Ridgetown Independent

A local church celebrating 155 years of worship has been recognized for its historical significance.

The Zion United Church has withstood the test of time at its location on Pinehurst Line.

In 1883, pioneers started to settle in that area, and in 1841 the first school was built, and a teacher was hired. That year would be the beginning of the Zion pioneer community.

A mere 23 years later, a church would be built across from the school, and that church, which served so many with fellowship and memories to last a lifetime, still stands today, although it is now a residential home.

During the period of time in 1864, a frame church was built at the site on land donated by Joseph Nash. The church was called the Zion Methodist Episcopal Church.

Twenty-two years later, the church trustees bought a quarter acre of land for the church from Nash. At the same time, a shed was built for horses and buggies.

The second floor would be used for suppers and for meetings of a lodge, known as the Foresters.

In 1899, a new church was built, which still stands today.

Robert McCully proudly spoke of the history of the Zion church and the memories it has given so many.

More than 30 members of the church, a clergy and a historian gathered to speak of the lasting memories left by the church.

“At the beginning of the 21st century, attendance was dropping, and by 2019 the attendance at the church had dropped to 10,” said McCully.

Rev. Wanda Burse, the final minister at Zion United Church, was present for the plaque unveiling ceremony. She wrote a poem summarizing the church.

Also on hand were local historians Jim and Lisa Gilbert.

“We think that it’s important to have communities, and communities are often centred around churches,” said Lisa Gilbert. “When this church was first established, when the lot was donated, there was going to be a narrative in the ground here as well. But it never materialized.”

The last church service held at Zion United Church was on Oct. 27, 2019, at the same church site for the past 155 years.

Today the church is a family home and is now owned by Martin and Denise Ramirez.

“We feel so honoured yet humbled to be the new caretaker of this property that has such a long history in the community. It was a place of worship, rest, fellowship and family for more than 120 years,” said Ramirez.

She added it is her desire to continue that legacy by eventually opening a bakery and cafe, where friends and neighbours can continue to come together for refreshment.

Ramirez said she has been working to make the sanctuary into a kitchen, dining area and public cafe area.

“We have been getting to know this old building and its many quirks and feel quite at home here. The community has been very welcoming, and we are so thankful.”

McCully, whose family attended the church for many decades, decided to erect a historical plaque on the property of the former church.

He and some other board members thanked the family for allowing the plaque to help remember not just the church but the community it once served.

“This church has been a big part of local history, our family’s history. It has to be recognized and remembered for what it has meant to the community,” said McCully.

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