Zion United Methodist Church
Monday, December 18, 2017
Stepping out in faith to be Christ to others in the world

History

"Where the Saints have worshiped since 1859"
 
 
The following is the history of Zion UMC lovingly gathered and composed by Leota Pendleton who has been a member of Zion since 1953.
 
 
 
If the walls of Zion Church could speak, they would surely relate fascinating events that took place there in its past. With the help of a few records preserved by church members and friends, we have assembled facts that we know as part of the history of Zion.
 
On November 20, 1850, a small group of people interested in Methodism gathered in a home and organized Liberty Methodist Class. These people worshipped in the homes of neighbors in the vicinity of Spotsylvania Courthouse for some time until they decided to try to erect a church building. The site of this building is located about eight miles north of the death place of Bishop Francis Asbury, the first Methodist Bishop In the United States, who traveled by horseback on his circuit riding from Baltimore to Richmond by this route. John Edward Hilldrup served as pastor and William B. Royer as Presiding Elder.
 
In 1857, records show that the present structure, built along Greek Revival lines, was started but not finished until 1859. The Reverend Samuel Robertson was pastor when the little brick church was ready for occupancy and forty names were put on the church roll. William K. Wheelwright served as Presiding Elder. The name of the new church was Old Liberty Methodist-Episcopal Church, South.
 
The sanctuary was lighted by kerosene lamps and heated by two wood heaters. A white picket fence graced the front of the building and tall trees shaded it. The cemetery lay peaceful on the south side. It was known as the “brick church on the road to Travelers Rest” but unrest crowded around it as Civil War battles loomed in its direction. By this time some of the men had enlisted and were serving their country in the other places. During this period, the name had been changed to Zion ME Church.
 
During the Spotsylvania Court House Battle, the church was used as a field hospital and headquarters for General A. P. Hill. The building suffered much damage during the war so extensive repair was needed before it could be worshipped in after the war. This did not keep the determined Methodists idle long as they banded together for necessary alterations, both inside and outside the church.
 
Very little of the progress of the church had been preserved for the next few years but we do know that three well-known evangelists of that time, Reverend J. W. Hickman, Reverend Leroy Banks and Reverend Bransford, held several revivals with morning services, lunch on the grounds and evening services. These activities were very well attended. According to a record that was found, there were seventeen ministers at Zion over a thirty-year period.
 
A complete renovation both inside and out, took place in 1899. It took on a bright new appearance with the installation of a tin ceiling and chandeliers of oil lamps. Next, the J. P. H. Crismond family, as a memorial to his mother donated the colored windows in the back of the pulpit. During the same year, Joseph A. Pendleton and his wife Nattie donated land for a cemetery with specific instructions that no member ever be denied burial there and that no gravesite could be sold. This land adjoins the church land. The Evangelist Reverend J. W. Hickman pastored Zion from 1899-1902.
 
Reverend Samuel H. Pulliam ministered  Zion from 1917 to 1920. Flaura Jett who now at age 94 (in 2005), remembers him as her family pastor and submitted pictures of Reverend Pulliam to the church’s scrapbook.
 
In 1929 the Reverend William Luther King came to Zion as pastor and stayed for four years until 1933. During his stay he was a most faithful and devoted minister. Some members of his family remained in the community permanently.
 
The installation of electric lights in the sanctuary was the biggest event of 1940. This did not outshine the fact that a few months before, in October 1939, A. H. Crismond had presented a leather-bound pulpit Bible to the church with an inscription on the inside. It read: “Presented to Zion ME Church, successor to Old Liberty ME Church, South”. Also, about this time a gift of a brass altar cross was given in memory of Arthur L. Blanton by his family, one brass candlestick donated by the Doctor W. A. Harris family and the matching candlestick by the Arthur L. Crismond family. These items became an integral part of the beauty of the altar at Zion.
 
In 1949 at the Virginia Methodist Conference, there were 138 pastoral changes out of the 490 changes in the conference. One of these changes affected Zion church. Reverend William N. Raney (1948-50), who had been on a six-point charge, was changed. Reverend Huron G. Collins succeeded him. Both pastors contributed much in time and work while at Zion. While here, Reverend Collins was speaker at Memorial Day Services for the county at the Confederate Cemetery in 1950.
 
Several times during the next few years, Zion felt the threat of having to close its doors, but by the will of God and the faithfulness of a few members and friends it did not happen. Sometimes in the winter months, wood was furnished and fires made in the stoves on Sunday morning by W. Cary Crismond, with about 10-15 people attending. Several times services were cancelled due to the weather and condition of roads. Zion has experienced periods of decline when it could not meet the meager budget asked for by the Richmond District. With divine guidance the little brick church weathered its own storms and remained a beacon for all passers-by.
 
In the fall of 1956, Zion had its first Homecoming Day in at least fifteen years. Reverend George Burroughs, the pastor at this time, preached the eleven o’clock sermon. Dinner on the grounds was served and a revival for the week ahead was planned. Attendance was good and it is recorded that Zion had 55 names on the membership roll at that date. Zion was now a four church charge.
 
Shady Grove Methodist Church went station, so Reverend Donald Durost served as pastor of the other churches on the charge until June 1957. At that time, Reverend Cephas Haynes was appointed to head Eastland and Zion as a two-point charge. The first Sunday that Reverend Haynes was at Zion, there were thirteen members present but he immediately brought new life to the church. The budget adopted for the year June 1, 1957 through May 31, 1958 totaled $1,251. Attendance soon grew to 40 people for worship and an average of 26 for Sunday school. Reverend Haynes contacted all of the members or relations of some whose names were on the roll. This created much interest and soon thereafter, several new members were added.
 
A Vacation Bible School was held the summer of 1957 and was a great success. In August of 1957 the interior of the sanctuary was redecorated in readiness for the second Homecoming Day to be held in a number of years. Guest speaker was a former pastor, Reverend Donald Durost. A week of revival followed that was conducted by Reverend Haynes. At this time the Eastland-Zion charge bought a parsonage located adjacent to Eastland Church. Zion’s portion of this indebtedness was $3,000 with responsibility of one half of the upkeep.
 
Formerly, the ladies of Zion participated in a mission program called the Women’s Missionary Society. This name too, was changed. The new Women’s Society of Christian Service (WSCS) was organized on October 18, 1957 with ten ladies present. Much enthusiasm was shown as plans were made to do mission work and create projects by which the church and building funds would benefit.
 
Shortly thereafter, the WSCS started serving dinners, having hymn sings, bake sales, etc. with proceeds going to church expenses. The fear that the doors of Zion would close was pushed back gradually as the will of God was pushed forward.
 
The people of Zion saw a growth in attendance along with a rise in finances each quarter in 1957-58. The first quarterly conference for Eastland-Zion was held on November 24, 1957 at 2:30 pm with Reverend Doctor Carl Sanders, Richmond District Superintendent presiding. There was good representation from both churches and brought much encouragement by Dr. Sanders.
 
The year 1958 showed some changes in the looks of the sanctuary. An outside stairway to the balcony was built in order for the space to be used as Sunday school classrooms. This was financed by the efforts of the newly organized Methodist Youth Fellowship (MYF). Each year was showing an increase in the church budget as the amount for 1959-60 now had reached $2,028.27.
 
In 1959 Mrs. Alice Coleman, former Postmistress donated a small frame building, which for many years housed the Spotsylvania Post Office, to Zion. This building would be used as a classroom. Although not a member, Mrs. Coleman attended Zion regularly and knew that the space was seriously needed. It was moved from its location near Spotsylvania Courthouse to a position directly behind the sanctuary and installed on a firm foundation by the men of the church. The new classroom was immediately put to good use. Average attendance by now had increased and worship service attendance had doubled. A youth choir had been organized and rendered special music for worship service each Sunday.
 
In August of 1959 Zion celebrated the 100th Anniversary of the completion of its church by having a Homecoming Day with Dr. Carl Sanders, Richmond District Superintendent as guest speaker. In accordance with the Centennial, new hymnals were presented to the church in memory of the Reverend William Luther King and his wife, Mary Ann Waddington King by their children Esther V. King, Reverend Luther W. King and Norman G. King. These beautiful hymnals added much to the worship services and were most gratefully accepted.
 
Early in 1960 the trustees of Zion, after going through proper channels, secured a $2,000 loan from the National Bank of Fredericksburg for the purpose of replacing the floor in the sanctuary. This was accomplished and carpet was installed on aisles and the pulpit. In the process of removing the old wide boards, an old Civil War sword was found under the building, supposedly hidden there by an active soldier. The original flooring was left in the balcony and there were bloodstains on it, supposedly from the wounds of Civil War soldiers treated there during the battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse. 
 
Cement walks were then laid in the front of the church. A new pulpit Bible presented by the MYF, a baptismal bowl given by Mr. And Mrs. H. O. Lovell and son Michael, collection plates purchased by Mr. and Mrs. J. R. Pendleton and son Bobby and linen cloths for the Communion table given by the WSCS all graced the church after this renovation. 
 
Each year Reverend Haynes held revivals and much interest was shown. Guest ministers and various musical groups helped make the services exciting. During this year, a room was added to the Eastland-Zion parsonage, which added to the comfort of the minister’s family.   Also, Zion members helped with a religious census from which several new prospects evolved.
 
The WSCS provided remembrances to elderly people in the church and neighborhood by taking homemade gifts and goodies to them. Many trips were made to nursing homes with entertainment and refreshments. In 1961, Homecoming Day was observed with a full house and guest speaker was Miss Mary Wilkins, a student at American University. The Forum Quartet of Fredericksburg Methodist Church provided special music. Soon after, the sub-district MYF meeting was held at the Bishop Francis Asbury monument just off Route 738 near Snell, VA with youth from Tabernacle Methodist and Eastland-Zion participating in the twilight service. Great news also was the purchase of a new piano and organ for the sanctuary.
 
Reverend Haynes left the charge in 1962 and was replaced by Reverend Robert J. Donnelly, who stayed until June of 1965. He was a great worker with young people and proved to be an inspiration for everyone. While here her composed words to a song about the little brick church at the Courthouse. These words were sung at many Homecomings afterwards. The Easter Sunrise service in 1963 was a combined service with Massponax Baptist church. Reverend Donnelly from Eastland-Zion conducted the services.
 
Reverend William Carter was sent to Zion to succeed Reverend Donnelly in 1965. His time at Zion was rewarding and he shared his talent of a beautiful voice by providing special music many times. A large group of children received instruction under the leadership of “Bill” Carter and the organist, Anne Vojnovich. At this time, the budget of the church had expanded to $3,883 for year 1966-67. Zion was still on the Eastland-Zion charge and shared pastor’s salary of $1,263 each for the year. At times, it took an extra special project to meet all of the expenses but with God’s help and guidance, Zion persevered.
 
Next came Reverend Brantly Thornes, 1968-69. He was a very outgoing and likeable person as pastor. Mr. Walter Knight was Sunday School Superintendent and together they made a great team. Talk among members at this time centered on the fact that Zion needed better facilities. For example, up until now the outside bathrooms built in 1957 by Mason Carter were still in use as no water was available to the church. If Homecoming Day was rainy, boards were put across the backs of pews in the sanctuary and food served there. With the change of pastors in 1971 to Reverend Lewis Minter, plans were still being discussed.
 
On May 7, 1971 ground was proudly broken for a new educational building with the first shovel being moved by Mrs. Annie Jett, the oldest member of Zion at that time. The new building consisted of much-needed classrooms, a kitchen and bathrooms.   A dream of the congregation was coming true because of the generosity of member Susie Swift, the continuous hard work of members such as Lynwood (Slim) Landram and volunteer work by the men and women of Zion. The building was named the Swift-Landram Building. Membership rolls showed 90 now and there were a large number of children eager to study God’s Word.  The rooms housed the newly formed Sunshine Nursery School which was fully attended each year.
 
Reverend Barry Minnick was appointed to Zion in June of 1973 and stayed through 1977. During that time new hymnals were purchased for the sanctuary by members and friends. Each was inscribed as a memorial to or in honor of someone special to members of Zion. This proved to be an inspiring project.
 
On July 4, 1976 the local newspaper, Spotsylvania Times published an article about the history of Zion that ended with the following: “In the years following the war, Zion continued to have periods of growth and decline. Zion Church has survived many crises and still continues to preach The Good News of Jesus Christ which is from everlasting to everlasting”. A copy of the entire article was placed in the Zion scrapbook.
 
1977 brought a young pastor, Reverend Jeffrey Pugh to the Eastland-Zion charge. He delivered ambition, boundless energy and a love of music to the churches. Reverend Jacob Miller, who was there for only a few months due to declining health, then replaced Reverend Pugh in June 1978.
 
On July 1, 1979 a young man named Wesley Astin came to the Eastland-Zion charge as his first major appointment. He was 25 years old. Wesley Astin served as associate pastor of Zion United Methodist church in Danville, VA, attended Ferrum College then received a degree in music and business from Averett College in Danville, VA. He had worked in youth activities with the Billy Graham Association and sang with musical groups in Virginia and North Carolina as well as with the USO in Germany, France and Holland. He graduated from Wesley Theological Seminary while on the charge and he married Elaine Wungler while here.
 
In 1982, Zion went station with Reverend Astin as its first full-time pastor. Also that year a daughter, Melissa was born to Rev. and Mrs. Astin. “Wes” was very outgoing with a wonderful personality and a great voice. He made a host of friends in the community and he preached with the belief that “Sunday was not the only day for God”. He contributed much to the growth and spirituality of the church.
 
In 1982 a parsonage was built and furnished by the men and women of Zion. It was a project that took involvement of all of the church. Reverend Astin and his family found it a comfortable place to live.
 
During Reverend Astin’s years at Zion, much renovation of the sanctuary took place. The David Streubing family presented a beautiful baptismal fount and cross to the church. These items contributed much to the beauty of the old historic building. New electric chandeliers, the American Flag and the Christian Flag were installed. On January 15,1984 the pews in the sanctuary were dedicated to loved ones or in honor of a special person by a small monetary gift to help defray expenses of the church. A plaque was placed on each pew depicting the honoree. All these gifts were received into the church and blessed by Bishop of the Virginia Conference, Robert M. Blackburn and Ashland District Superintendent Henry Matthews. 
Following Reverend Astin came Reverend Beth Marie Barnett, a graduate of Virginia Wesleyan College Class of 1978 and Duke Divinity College in 1981. She was married to John Wesley Barnett of Richmond. Reverend Barnett was the first lady to pastor the church and as such, acceptance brought many changes to the church. Beth Marie declared that her dreams as a small child were that she was a dedicated minister and that she was determined to enjoy her ministry as long as the Lord saw fit for that to happen. 
 
While Reverend Barnett was here, Zion celebrated the 125th anniversary of the building with an all day service. There was an 11 o’clock worship followed by dinner on the grounds and an afternoon service. Some attendees were dressed in period clothes, which provided much color and nostalgia to the services.
 
The next two years, 1986-88 were under the leadership of Reverend David A. Goodpasture. He was married to Reverend Janette Cleavez. Reverend Goodpasture was a quiet, reserved and dedicated preacher much respected by all. Christmas 1986 was a festive occasion with the children of the church presenting a beautiful “Happy Birthday, Jesus” service, complete with a birthday cake and all the trimmings! Adults and children alike felt the sacredness of the time of year in the worship service and the joy and fellowship that followed.
 
The year 1987 found Zion still moving upward, but slowly. At Halloween time, the whole Sunday School visited the Pumpkin Patch which was a real treat for everyone attending. In June of 1988, Reverend Goodpasture and his wife, Janette both moved to different pastorates.
 
Zion welcomed to the pulpit the Reverend John R. Esaias, Jr., a retired Naval Chaplain of World War II. He was a member of the Baltimore, MD Methodist Conference. Reverend Esaias was married to Ruth Dodsworth, daughter of distinguished Malaysian missionaries. John and Ruth made many friends and became active in the church family as well as in the community. Membership at Zion grew rapidly and many new activities were initiated into the church.
 
In March of 1990 the Virginia Conference gave Zion $3,200 to help buy the Fairchild land adjoining the back of the church property. This parcel added 1.12 acres and was much needed for expansion of the playground, parking or future growth. Among the varied activities of the folks at Zion, Reverend Esaias announced that Mrs. Flaura Jett had made and sold $4,100 worth of crocheted Easter baskets for the building fund of the church!
 
On November 18, 1990 Founders Day was observed with a service based on the foundations of the church. It was described as being on a “solid base on Jesus Christ!”. Zion had withstood so many crises and God’s miraculous love was always there to preserve it and bless it.
 
While pastor, Reverend Esaias and his wife journeyed to England to witness the enthronement of the Reverend George Carey as Archbishop of Canterbury on April 19,1991. John relayed that he felt that he was there as a witness for all the Methodist churches in Virginia.
 
On December 1, 1991 Zion was honored to help host a program, and social hour for members of the Virginia Conference commemorating the 175th anniversary of the death of Bishop Francis Asbury, the first Methodist Bishop in the United States. Bishop Asbury journeyed by horseback along the road in front of Zion on his regular Circuit Riding from Baltimore, MD to Richmond, VA. He died at the Arnold house eight miles south of Zion, just off of Route 738. Reverend Robert Ragan, the pastor of Fredericksburg Methodist church, dressed as Bishop Asbury, was the dramatic attraction of the program.
 
Memorial Day weekend, May 28-29, 1994 was celebrated with much excitement in the vicinity. John Young, a member of Zion was the coordinator of the Civil War reenactment events that took place at Zion in May of 1864. It was designated as a “Living History” weekend. Since Zion was used a field hospital for many men from the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Courthouse Civil War battles, members of the 44th Georgia Infantry along with the men and women of Zion joined together to present some “behind the scenes” activities. These activities took place at churches such as Zion along the battle lines.
 
In May of 1864, the church sanctuary was used as headquarters for General A. P. Hill and the balcony as an observation post. The church probably received some rough treatment, including benches thrown outside and much confusion reigning. During the Memorial weekend performance, the scenes being played out by the men at Zion, in the makeshift hospital inside the sanctuary as they “amputated” limbs and performed “operations”, alarmed visitors. Other members simply nursed “patients”, seemingly unaware that they were being observed. Bob Weeks, one of the organizers said that it reminded him of Halloween because everyone was anxious to go into the “haunted house”.
 
Bodie Williams, an acting surgeon, did the gruesome job of “amputating” Justin Williams’ limb. It was a well-planned reenactment that required the help of the entire congregation of Zion. The choir helped with a concert on Saturday evening.
 
The Civil War dead were remembered at a church service on Sunday, May 29. The reenactment ended with a march down Route 208 to the Confederate Cemetery to pay tribute to three members of the original 44th Infantry who are buried there. Visitors from many states enjoyed the artistic projects and displays on the church grounds. It was a memorable weekend for all who watched and all who participated. The proceeds were used to update the church.
 
The church is still progressing in membership and attendance. A successful vacation Bible school was held during the summer of 1994. On October 9, 1994, Founders Day was celebrated by having Reverend Robert J. Donnelly, a former pastor of Zion as guest speaker. Dressed as John Wesley, founder of Methodism and leader of the Church of England in the 1700’s, Reverend Donnelly delivered a most interesting sermon. On display in the sanctuary that day was the Civil War sword that had been found under the church floorboards when the floor was replaced in 1960. It had been given to Reverend Cephas Haynes, pastor at that time. His widow, Catherine Haynes returned it to Zion as a memorial to her late husband. It was examined and found to have been the only Civil War Sword used in the battle of Spotsylvania to be discovered on the battlefield in the 20th century.
 
On February 12, 1995 plans were shown to the congregation for a new addition to the Swift-Landram building. On July 23, 1995 final plans were approved so the trustees could make financial arrangements to start construction. On Sunday, September 24, 1995 ground was broken for the new fellowship hall. Mr. Granville Wade, an Ashland District chairman, gave untiring effort in the planning and labor on the new building. Dedication of the newly completed building was held on Homecoming Day, October 13, 1996. It was a great day for the growth of Zion.
 
 The Reverend Jay Luther was appointed interim pastor from October 1, 1996 until July 1, 1997 to replace Reverend John R. Esaias, Jr. Reverend Luther was a retired U.S. Army Lt. Colonel who attended Wesley Seminary 1970-73. He was ordained an Elder by the Virginia Conference in 1974. He was well liked by all and he, along with his wife Ruth, left many fond memories of his short pastorate at Zion.   As they left, Margaret Carter wrote a poem praising them for their work as they made a second retirement and a copy was anchored in the scrapbook.
 
While the Luthers were at Zion, the family of Bob Weeks, in memory of his mother, Maureen who passed away on April 29, 1996 and was buried at Zion, lovingly presented a much-needed piano to the church. A dedication service was held on October 13, 1996 and the piano was accepted with God’s blessing. The dedication of the new building addition was on the same day.
 
In the summer of 1997, John A. Martin was named pastor of Zion. He was a local full time minister who received his BA degree from Virginia Wesleyan College in 1991 and a Master of Divinity degree from Duke Divinity School in 1995. He was the son of a United Methodist preacher and said he brought to his ministry a “general upbeat love of life”. Also, July 1, 1997 the Reverend Lee B. Sheaffer became superintendent of the Ashland District.
 
Reverend Martin announced an exciting event at the worship service on September 20, 1997. Two of Zion’s members, Bob Weeks and Justin Williams had declared their intention to be candidates for ordained ministry in the United Methodist Church. According to available records, these men are the first members in the 147 years of Zion’s existence to follow this calling. The members of Zion had been given the opportunity by the grace of God to be in ministry at the grass roots level with two wonderful persons now seeking this specialized ministry.   The congregation agreed whole-heartedly to give them full support by prayers and commitment in any way.
 
In November 1997, the Reverend Albert Fritter gave some books from his collection to Zion church library. These included conference reports from 1902-1995 and a collection of Methodist Disciplines from 1800-1992.
 
A new organ was bought for the sanctuary and was dedicated for church use on March 22, 1998. A plaque was installed on the organ with the names of donors on it. At the same time, choir robes and acolyte robes were accepted as a gift from the Nordby family in memory of Geraldine Nordby.
 
Later, the Administrative Council voted to become a part of the Civil War Trail Tour. The tour group installed a sign on the yard bearing a picture of the church and with a brief description of the church’s history and its importance to the history of the area. Zion is on the Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission and the National Register of Historic Places. Probably many tourists will see the outside of the building but sadly will never feel the love, joy, heartache and fellowship that has always existed inside those brick walls.
 
A young man, Brandon Sheets, son of Dr. and Mrs. Cliff Sheets received his Eagle Scout award at Zion in April of 1998. His project, that made this possible, was the renovation of the playground in back of the church and installing a basketball goal nearby. The project required that Brandon plan, fund and implement the renovations. The playground is primarily used by the Stepping Stones pre-school that was using the educational building. This was a vast improvement for the young folks.
 
An Act of Dedication Ceremony was held at Zion in June, 1998 for Bob Weeks as he had received his first appointment to a charge in the United Methodist Conference as a full-time local pastor. The Weeks family was sent to the Phoenix Charge in the Farmville District. A going-away barbecue was held after worship on June 28, 1998. Zion is proud to have had a part in this new endeavor for Bob and his family. Everyone wished God’s blessings to travel with them.
 
The ladies of Zion’s UMW have many ongoing mission projects but none more popular than assembling “Kits for Conference” yearly. These kits include Baby Layettes, Health Kits and School Kits. The kits are assembled and then taken to the Virginia Conference each June to be distributed worldwide. They are made according to specifications published by the Conference and during the lean years or the good years, the ladies have responded magnificently to the needs.
The UMW has projects going continuously promoting bake sales, yard sales, dinners, etc. that help finance home and foreign missions. They helped renovate the church kitchen, put a roof on the parsonage and always cooperate with the United Methodist Men (UMM) when they can. A yearly donation is made to the “Christmas for Others” that is sponsored by the UMM and individual gifts are added to their collection for the needy.
 
The UMM was charted in 1979 and has actively engaged in keeping the grounds and buildings in excellent condition along with sponsoring fish fries, spaghetti dinners, etc. with proceeds going to send children to camps, Blackstone Retreats and the list could go on and on telling of their good deeds. For over 20 years the men have sponsored a “Christmas for Others” project annually, which gives a complete Christmas to several families. A complete Christmas includes gifts for each family member, clothes and much food for all. This is a huge success as it provides a chance for everyone to help someone.
 
Zion pulpit was gracefully filled at the end of 1998 by the arrival of Reverend Jerry Weigel. He was retired from the U. S. Navy and after a few years, decided that just being a member of the United Methodist Church was not enough for him so he made the decision to join the ordained ministry. He and his wife Barbara immediately became friends of everyone. Reverend Weigel was an excellent organizer and worked closely with Lay Leader Wade Hulon and the administrative council. Much was accomplished during his ministry with Zion.
 
For many years the UMW held a mother-daughter banquet in May, having a guest speaker and entertainment. In 1999, a special collection at the banquet was forwarded to the Virginia Conference to be used for children of poverty, hungry people and adults who needed a caring place to stay.
 
The year 2000 brought more changes to Zion. Justin Williams and his family left on June 28, 2000 to serve his first charge as a full time local pastor on the Farmville District. This was a sad and joyous occasion as they were sorely missed. They left with the prayers of the people of Zion surrounding them.
 
Each year shows on increase in membership and attendance, which means an increase in the budgets. Members of the administrative council approved increases that Zion has had the good fortune to honor in the past few years. A greater outreach in missions is supported each year.
 
Homecoming Day was celebrated on October 19, 2000 with the Reverend Jay Luther as guest speaker. 
 
Another highlight for Zion was always the seating of Mr. Harold Abmyer, former organist of Fredericksburg Methodist Church, at the organ for a recital or as Sunday morning worship organist. Mr. Abmyer could play over 200 hymns from memory! Zion celebrated Founders Day on November 19, 2000 with Reverend Bob Weeks as guest speaker and with Mr. Abmyer playing hymns from the 1800’s. It was an uplifting and spiritual day.
 
A close-knit church family has always been shared at Zion as they prepare and serve meals together, have Bible studies, picnics, and craft sales or do mission projects. It is a church that believes that prayer and fellowship woven together does much toward governing its actions. Zion always has volunteers who participate in Hike for Hope, which benefits the Hope House, Rappahannock Council on Domestic Violence, Thurman Brisben Homeless Shelter, SECA and Mary Washington College Campus Ministry. Each spring the UMW has a shower for the Thurman Brisben Shelter, which is church wide and gives everyone the chance to help a child of God.
 
The children and youth share their talents all year by volunteering as acolytes, helping with worship and in special programs. The capable leaders of the youth group are to be commended for their faithfulness in preparing them to be the future leaders of the church.
 
Zion has a food drive on the first Sunday of each month whereby canned foods may be placed at the alter as they prepare for Holy Communion. All the mission projects are alive and well as a spaghetti dinner in February of 2002 netted $267 to go to missionaries Charles and Patty Maddox in Haiti for much needed transportation. On March 10, 2002 over 50 school kits were dedicated and sent to Afghan children by the church ladies.
 
Brian Manvilles, vice-president of the Virginia Conference United Methodist Men on April 22-24, 2002, held a spring revival
 
Much good was accomplished through the work of Reverend Jerry Weigel and his wife, Barbara while at Zion. They have since transferred to the Winchester District.
 
Following Jerry, Zion was privileged to welcome Reverend Barbara Jacobs to the pulpit on June 30, 2002. She was a probationer under the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry. Barbara came to Zion after serving three years on the clergy staff at Fredericksburg United Methodist church. She is a graduate of Westhampton College of the University of Richmond with a BA in Sociology, Union Theological Seminary and Presbyterian School of Christian Education where she received a Master of Divinity degree. Her husband, Alan is principal of Chancellor Middle School and they have a daughter, Robin.
 
Zion has potential for much growth from all areas. A rapid population increase around the courthouse brings new visitors often and with an enthusiastic leader in “Rev. Barb” the members foresee expanded programs in missions, fellowship and attendance. August 4-8, 2003 was the date for a very successful Vacation Bible School. Homecoming Day was celebrated on September 21, 2003 with the Ashland District Superintendent Reverend Brooke Wilson as guest speaker. 
 
Pastor Linwood Cooke, President of the Friends of Barnabas Foundation of the Virginia Conference encouraged a trip to Honduras for a medical mission in June of 2004. Zion had four people interested so plans were laid to help them raise money to take "over-the-counter" medications to distribute to the children who needed them. One successful project increased funds as the children brought change during the first Sunday children and youth sermon and kept it in a “fishing fund” jar.
 
Participation in the community choir at Spotsylvania Courthouse on December 5, 2004 was a highlight for Zion’s choir. This caroling concert was called “A Courthouse Christmas and Luminaria” and was sponsored by the Tourism and Special Events Commission of Spotsylvania County. It featured choirs from Christ Episcopal, Sylvanna Baptist and Zion United Methodist churches along with the Spotlighters. It was held on the lawn in front of the old Spotsylvania courthouse. Participants met at Zion for a fellowship hour afterwards. It was the start for a wonderful Christmas at Zion.
 
These churches along with Shady Grove United Methodist and St. Matthew Roman Catholic churches hold Ecumenical services together several times a year. Services are rotated so that each church may host and share the fellowship with the others.
 
On December 21, 2003, Zion held its Christmas Cantata at the 11 o’clock worship service and the children’s play at 4:00 pm. A beautiful candlelight Holy Communion was celebrated on Christmas Eve led by Reverend Jacobs. The year ended with a watch night service on December 31, 2003 with music, praise and fellowship.
 
Stewardship played a big part in the life and growth of Zion. Education in this area was presented to the congregation at intervals as a reminder that the connection should not be forgotten.
 
On June 14,2004 three members of Zion and Rev. Barb formed a team to travel to Honduras on a medical mission to serve with other members of the Friends of Barnabas committee to treat needy children with medical problems. The team consisted of George Applin, Bodie Williams, Dianne Williams and Rev. Barb and ran from June 18, 2004 to June 28, 2004. They were commissioned to help with eye problems, to dispense over-the-counter medications and many other problems and needs. By the time the team left, the children had collected over $750 to buy aspirin, Tylenol, et.al. Many pairs of flip-flops were donated by church members to be given to children who had no shoes. This team from Zion were volunteers who gave of their own finances, time and love of God’s children that made the mission more meaningful. 
The reports given by the returning Honduras team were both awesome and emotional.  It was a life changing experience for all of them, as they could not fathom living under those conditions. Each reported that they would like to make a return mission sometime.
 
The Administrative Council approved the yearly budget of $108,540, which represents the totals needed to finance its plans and programs for maintenance and discipleship. All budget items were paid in full with increased giving by faithful members and friends. God’s hands are on Zion church in 2004.
 
The United Methodist Women celebrated its 135th anniversary on July 20, 2004 in the fellowship hall along with the annual Prayer and Denial service. The unit has taken food to bereaved families, participated in the worship service on Sunday, established an active prayer line, made and delivered Valentines to nursing homes and had many more outreach mission activities. 
 
The church held a successful Vacation Bible School in August of 2004. Homecoming was celebrated on September 19, 2004 with Reverend Rob Almay as guest speaker. Hugh Montgomery and Heidi Bass provided special music. An abundant dinner was provided by the UMW and the UMM. Reverend Almay is pastor of the newly organized New Season United Methodist church in the Massaponax area of Spotsylvania County. Zion was privileged to have contributed to his introduction in the county.
 
September brought needs to help flood victims. Zion assisted in furnishing items to update the UMCOR Flood Bucket kits. 
 
The Sacred Dance Ensemble of Fredericksburg led the worship on Reformation Sunday October 31, 2004 with beautiful renditions of hymns symbolized by their graceful movements.
 
Zion’s congregation enjoyed, following the 11:00 am worship on Sunday September 26, 2004, a sampling of Honduran cuisine. The Honduras team had proudly provided it. They also provided food for thought as they showed tapes and made commentaries on the many needs of the people of Honduras. One member has volunteered to join the medical team in 2005. 
 
A living Nativity took place on the church grounds December 22-23, 2004. It took courage and a love of God’s work to withstand the cold weather for interested people to participate in this endeavor. It created much interest in passers-by.
 
On January 9, 2005 Rev. Barb conducted a very impressive reaffirmation of the Baptismal Covenant. The entire congregation participated.
 
Beginning in February of 2005, Brenda Pusso, an Asbury Seminary student pursuing a Masters of Divinity degree, worked under Rev. Barb in a class called “Supervised Ministry”. She worked with the lay leadership to develop an interactive evangelism program. While at Zion, she participated in the worship service and taught a seven-week study on the book “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren. God has richly blessed Brenda with many talents.
 
The third annual variety show and dinner was held at Zion on April 15, 2005 with much success. Both teens and adults portrayed amazing talent. This was another of Zion’s outreach missions. On April 17, 2005 a potluck lunch was served after the worship service and a shower for the Thurman Brisben shelter was given. Cooperation in this endeavor was outstanding. 
 
Another mission project is Fred Camp for youths 14 years or rising 9th graders. They spend a week helping other youths improve living conditions for needy people. Zion had two volunteers in 2004 and has five youth volunteers and three adult volunteers in 2005. The ladies of the church help provide food for the group and the church provides adult chaperones.
 
The United Methodist Men grow and sell vegetable and flowering plants with proceeds being used in their ministry. Zion is blessed with a very active UMM group, which has made many improvements to the buildings and grounds.
 
It was announced that the goal of providing 75 Conference Kits, sponsored by the mission team, had been reached. Options were to make and equip school kits, health kits, baby layette kits or provide funding for the kits. The response was excellent and the conference delegate will deliver them to the proper channels on June 12-15,2005.
 
In 2004, a Linus quilting group was formed by the UMW to sew and distribute baby quilts to children with cancer and to needy mothers. This group expanded into making large quilts, tote bags and school kit bags. Another phase of the mission team is the knitting or crocheting of Healing Prayer Shawls for people with serious illness, facing surgery, grieving or just facing difficult circumstances. This has proven to be a most effective ministry.
 
An Ecumenical service for the life and ministry of Pope Paul II and for peace and unity was held at Zion on Sunday night, April 17, 2005 sponsored by Christ Episcopal Church, Shady Grove-Olivet United Methodist charge and Zion United Methodist. The service was offered as an expression of love and support ofr their brothers and sisters in the Roman Catholic Church and proved to be very meaningful.
 
Due to the location of Zion, it has had the distinction of serving in Three Virginia Methodist districts. It was in the Richmond District in the early 1960’s and then due to rezoning of churches, it was placed in the Alexandria District. Zion was the southernmost church in this district and since most of the meetings were held in Northern Virginia, it did not attend many. In the early 1970’s, Zion was again transferred and this time to the Ashland District. It was fortunate indeed to be placed with Ashland, as it has been so helpful to Zion. The church has been blessed with financial help from the conference and district during its down times as well as being encouraged in its better times.
 
Reverend Jacobs was ordained on June 13, 2005 at the Virginia United Methodist Conference in Hampton, VA. The ordination service was a significant worship experience for the sixteen ordinands (including Rev. Barb) who were ordained Elders in the Virginia Conference. The congregation at Zion confirmed after seeing her in action that she was fully qualified to be a great furtherance in speaking God’s word and in furthering Methodism. A delegation from the church attended the ordination service, which was led by presiding Bishop of the Richmond area Charlene P. Kammerrer.
 
These statements were gathered from available records, handwritten histories, church bulletins saved for many years, and from conversations with people who have been members for many years.
 
Bob Weeks, now Reverend Bob Weeks, wrote “On The Road To Travelers Rest” and another member, the late Charlie Bell wrote a brief history of Zion in the Journal of American Military Past, Fall 2004 issue that are very valuable to Zion and are worthwhile reading.
 
Zion continues to be a beacon in the community around Spotsylvania Courthouse and encourages all, who will, to stop and reflect on its historical past and its interesting present activities.
 

Zion Methodist Church and the War Years

   Prepared by: Dennis Gallahan; Zion’s Church historian (tkfarm1@yahoo.com)    

                                        Contributions by:  Bill Crislip; Local historian

 

   Welcome to Zion United Methodist Church where the saints have gathered since 1859.

 

  If you were to close your eyes and allow your mind to wonder back to the beginning of the Civil War, you would be visualizing a sanctuary that was only two years old.  It would look much like it does today, with large oak trees scattered around its grounds.  The road to your front, served as a major thoroughfare to Richmond and it was only wide enough for two wagons to pass.  It was worn well below the banks and furrowed.  

 

   By the time a Union cavalry scouting expedition passed by this Church in 1862, most of the young men in this quiet hamlet had left for war.  They most likely would be serving in either the 30th. Virginia Infantry or the 9th. Virginia Cavalry, both of which were formed from Spotsylvania and surrounding counties.  On May 4, 1863 civilians lined the roadside in front of you calling out “Clear the road” and “It’s ole’ Jack” as an ambulance caring the wounded Lieutenant General “Stonewall” Jackson passed by Zion on the way to Guinea Station. 

 

  By 1864 many church’s in Virginia had been razed by Union troops. Thankfully Zion did not suffer that fate.  It was still standing as it looks today at the opening engagement of the battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse on May 8, 1864.  At about that same date it was pressed into service as Gen. A.P. Hill’s 3rd. Corps headquarters and as a divisional command post for Gen. Henry Heth.  On May 9th, the church yard was filled with increased activity as the 9th Virginia Cavalry arrived and set up bivouac just a few yards from here.  That afternoon, Gen. Heth led the 11th. Mississippi Infantry past Zion as they successfully executed a wide flanking maneuver in an attempt to find the Union Army’s right flank. The following day, the 9th. VA cavalry were deployed along Myer’s Hill (about one mile in front of the church) as dismounted pickets.  On or about May 12, following fighting at the Mule Shoe, Zion was pressed into service as a field hospital and all the pews were taken outside to make room for the wounded.  At about that same date the southern defensive line begin shifting closer to the Courthouse and the church became a frequent meeting spot for General Lee and his staff.   On May 13 Lee was awaken from a nap he was taking on one of the church’s pews, by Lieutenant James Washington (of the 9th. VA cavalry), and informed of Jeb Stuart’s death at Yellow Tavern.  On May 14, the 9th. VA cavalry scrummaged with the 91st. Penn. and 14th. NY regiments along Myer’s Hill before giving up their ground to superior numbers.  It was probably during that fighting that Zion’s second floor was used as an observation point.   Church records indicate that Zion suffered “major damage” during the war, but the extent is unknown.  However, we do know its original floors were bloodstained and there was some damage to the exterior walls, windows and to the roof.   The exterior damage likely was caused by Union artillery when their II Corps took control of Myer’s Hill and repelled a makeshift defense assembled by Gen. Early in an attempt to protect Lee’s right flank. When the original floors were replaced in the mid-20th century, a cavalry saber was discovered under the church. The balcony floors and pews are still original. 

 

 Three Confederate veterans rest in the cemetery. Pvt. Thomas A. Harris, Co. D, 30th. Va. Inf.; and Co. E, 9th. Va. Cav., served with distinction throughout the war. Afterwards he went on to serve as Spotsylvania Sheriff and Clerk of the Court.  Pvt. Charles R. Chewning, Co. E, 9th. Va. Cav. was severely wounded at First Manassas by a saber wound to his thigh.  Deemed unable to ride a horse, he continued to serve doing clerical duties for his beloved regiment until the war ended.  Pvt. H.A. Carner (Henry), Co. I, 6th. Va. Cavalry enlisted 11/1/64 and was present at final roll on 3/20/65.

 

  The single door on the south wall was used as a slave entrance to the balcony.   The white wood structure to the rear of the church was formally a post office.  In 1959, it was donated to Zion and moved from near Christ Episcopal Church and set on a foundation behind the sanctuary. It presently serves as the Pastor’s office.  The two large stones immediately in front of the church entrance were the original steps for the two front doors.  In 2012 the Church made the entrance special needs friendly and the old stones that once were walked on by Robert E. Lee and his generals now rest beside their respective doors paying honor to our past.

 
 
 
 
 Zion United Methodist Church 2005
 
8700 Courthouse Rd.
 
Spotsylvania, Va. 22553
 
(540) 582-6532