Zion Mennonite Church celebrates 125 years
The Zion Mennonite Church will celebrate its 125th anniversary on Sept. 23. Even before the church began its life in 1893 in the Firgrowth area, people were meeting and praying in homes. In these modern days, it has maintained its congregation, social conscience, its standards and the vibrancy of the people who started it many years ago. Today it's still going strong.
The celebration will begin at 9 a.m. with breakfast and fellowship, followed at 9:30 with combined adult Sunday School Classes in the Sanctuary. The worship service, scheduled for 10:30 A.M. will be led by Dr. John Roth, Goshen College professor of history and the director of the Institute for the Study of Global Anabaptism.
After a noon potluck, there will be a children's activity at 1 p.m. with a presentation at 1:30 "The Earth is the Lords: Sharing the Anabaptist Story in the 21st Century." It will end after a second fellowship with refreshments.
The church has its roots in the Anabaptist religion, which advocates peace and follows Jesus' teachings. It is somewhat different from the two religions that stem from those teachings in the U.S.; the Amish and the Mennonites. The Amish do not use technology and typically wear an older form of dress. Zion Mennonites do use technology. They also attend Sunday School and there's lots of music with their services.
As for dress, it has mellowed, and the white prayer bonnets women used to wear to church have all but disappeared—except in pictures.
Other changes also are apparent. No longer are services conducted in German, but somewhere in the library is a hymnal in German. Pastors used to be circuit riders, but in 1956 the church hired its first paid minister, John Letterock, who had been seminary trained. The first ministers were congregants, Daniel Kropf, who moved to the Harrisburg, OR area after a couple of years, followed by Amos Troyer from 1895. Troyer lived until 1935. Another of the congregation leaders was Clarence Kropf, whose family still resides in the area and prays with the congregation.
The church moved to its current spot once. Its earliest years were spent in the Firgrowth area, which couldn't allow any burials because the water table was too close to the surface. The congregation moved to its present location on Whiskey Hill Road in Hubbard when it found they could bury congregants on a sloping hill that wasn't close to the water table. A new church was built in 1956 and expanded more recently.
Today the church serves a wide variety of people, some who've grown up in the religion and others who come to it freely as adults. Zion Mennonite's congregation is made up of people whose ancestors and family has worshiped there from the beginning as well as newcomers from other religions. Most of the original congregation came from Missouri between 1875 and 1890. The original families include the Hostettlers, the Kropfs and the Troyers.
Current lead pastor Mathew Swora was raised in the Roman Catholic religion, but he and his wife joined the church in 1981, "making an adult voluntary choice," he told the Herald.
Mennonites also provide service through volunteering all over the world. Many of the new congregations are in South America and Africa including Brazil, Honduras, Libya, and even Burkina Faso. Congregants also have been available, in partnership with FEMA, to help with disasters in U.S.
But it's the history and the caring that make this church so fascinating. The congregation is like a family. If someone is sick, loses their job, has a death in the family or some other problems, congregants take over providing funds, meals, babysitting or whatever is necessary.
"Over the years, the church has given more than $500,000 to the Mennonite Central Committee," said Swora. "And throughout the years, our families have benefitted from other members coming to their aid," added Pat Hershberger, the church's historian.
For years the church has featured its women congregants making quilts. But it's not just the quilts, the women make quilts, but they also teach how to make them and many have attended these sessions and are now making quilts on their own. This year, there will be a display and sale on Oct. 13 entitled the Oregon Mennonite Festival for World Relief.
Held on Saturday Oct. 13 at the Linn County Fair & Expo Center from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. with all kinds of features. One of the most popular will be Marta's Haus, which will offer a huge selection of fabrics along with supplies, patterns and books. Additional items for sale include gifts and décor, a Country Store offering fresh produce, kitchen and home items, baked goods and used books.