BRANCH OF JERUSALEM
1845 – 1872
From 1845 to 1872 what is now the Zion Congregation was a branch of the Ebenezer Congregation. By 1872 the branch had become a tree and ready to pull out from the mother congregation to rear children of her own. In time, two congregations came mainly from this congregation: namely, Miller Chapel, 5 miles south, in 1888, and Mt. Olivet, 5 miles north in the community of Marlow, in 1919.
Prior to 1845 the Lutherans in this neighborhood attended Sunday School and Church services at Jerusalem, although it wasn’t very practical due to the long distances.
Sometimes they worshipped in a “Meeting House” on the land of Mr. Lewis Grovenstein, known as Union Church, and in other churches in the community.
The Rev. P. A. Strobel became pastor of the Ebenezer Parish in the Summer of 1844. On page 269 of “The Salzburgers and their Descendants” by Strobel is written “During Mr. Strobel’s stay at Ebenezer, a new church was built…near the Ogeechee River. This church was designed for the accommodation of those members who had removed so far from Ebenezer that it was impracticable for them to attend preaching at the present church.” Mr. Strobel left Ebenezer at the beginning of 1849. This church of frame structure remained standing until the new one was built in 1872. The old church stood between the new one and the cemetery. The people called their church “Zion” no doubt in memory of the church by that name dedicated March 7, 1743 and located four miles south of Ebenezer.
The original lot of land for Zion Church containing two acres was not bought by the Zion, but the Jerusalem council from Hugh Cassidy. After 1872 other land was received at various times. The congregation now owns about eight acres. The deed to the original lot, dated June 20, 1845, says, “a Lot of land containing two acres, to build a Meeting House on, and, a burying place for the dead.”
This proved to be a wise move, for the people used their church building for all religious services such as baptisms and confirmations. However, they were not quick to leave the mother church for they kept their membership there and remained a part of Jerusalem congregation until 1872. Men living near and worshiping in Bethel and Zion churches were on the Jerusalem Council.
Under date of August 20, 1853, there was a petition that “we, the undersigned members and friends of the Lutheran Church believe that the pastoral field of labor too large for one minister to cultivate properly and that another Lutheran Minister would tend greatly to the prosperity of the Church and be instrumental in the salvation of immortal souls, do hereby pledge ourselves for the accomplishment of this worthy object for the amount annexed to our names to be given for the support of said minister annually.” (Note book among Jerusalem records in Vault.) Then follows the names of persons whose money was credited to Ebenezer. Then another list credited to Bethel and a third list with twenty names, each pledging from one to five dollars and credited to Zion. It should be noted it does not use the word “Congregation” in reference to the groups but simply “Ebenezer,” “Bethel,” and “Zion.” Also above it says “Lutheran Church” not “Churches.” The amount given from each place was Ebenezer – $181.00; Bethel – $69.00; Zion – $51.00; making a total of $301.00. The assistant pastor was added. (Probably J. Austin who came in 1855 as assistant to Rev. Mr. Haltiwanger.)
At the time of the Civil War there were two parsonages connected with the Ebenezer parish; one three miles southwest of Jerusalem and one eight miles southwest. The latter was for the Assistant Pastor.
We are highly indebted to Mr. J. B. Dasher, the first Secretary of the Zion Church Council for his statement as to when the Lutherans in the Zion section organized into a congregation of their own. He wrote on the front page of Zion Church Book, “The Congregation at Zion Church was organized, September the 16th, 1872. Elected as elders, B. Dasher, Wm. R. Conaway, L. B. Dasher, J. W. Heidt, and J. B. Dasher. Elected and called on the same day, Rev. J. Austin as pastor of the church.” To judge from his handwriting and the way he kept his books, Mr. J. B. Dasher was an able and exact secretary, well suited for his job.
The parish was divided among the pastors about 1871, when Rev. P. N. Derrick’s charge became Laurel Hill and Bethel, while Rev. J. Austin’s was Jerusalem and Zion. At the Synod meeting, September 26-29, 1872, there was a “Petition from Zion Ev. Lutheran Church…praying to be received in connection with this body.” (Minutes of Georgia Synod, 1872.) There was a similar petition from Bethel. To quote again from the same minutes of Synod, “The Ebenezer charge is also alive to the interest of the Redeemer’s Kingdom on earth. They have completed a new church building and have now two separate and distinct charges, under the care of brothers Austin and Derrick, which are in a flourishing condition. These people not only support their pastors, but are zealously engaged in every good work.”
There is very little known about the building of the church in 1872 other than Mr. D. Frederick Nease made the Altar and in the 1872 minutes of Synod the parochial report shows $2000.00 for local expenses from the Jerusalem Congregation. In the minutes of 1873 the item “local expense” from Jerusalem was blank, indicating the church building cost Jerusalem congregation, of which the Lutherans near Zion were members, $2000.00. The tallest part of the present building including the steeple is the 1872 building. From pictures taken in the 1950’s, the interior was patterned after that of Jerusalem with a central pulpit and an altar table in front of it.
There were approximately 115 charter members. The Synodical Minutes of 1875 are the first to contain a parochial report of Zion congregation. It states there were 107 communicant members. In the Sunday School there were 32 scholars and six teachers. For benevolence was paid: Synodical Fund, $10.00; Home Missions, $50.00; General Benevolence, $12.00; Total, $72.00. Nothing is listed for local work.
THE SUNDAY SCHOOL
It is known that a Sunday School started in Jerusalem Church about 1823 and one in Union Church on April 6, 1845. The record book records two teachers for the Sunday School at Union Church in 1845. They were Mrs. Rebecca Dasher, formerly Miss Rebecca Zittrauer, and Mrs. Keziah Grovenstein. The former was a Lutheran, her husband was a Lutheran preacher. It is thought that the latter was also a Lutheran. She moved some distance from a Lutheran Church and her children were reared Methodist. It can be assumed that soon after the first church building was erected at Zion, no time was lost in organizing a Sunday School.
After 1845 the next records about a Sunday School tell of the one at Zion, May 5, 1872. Present were two male and one female teachers; six male and eleven female scholars, making a total of twenty. Some of the early teachers were Cyrus Zeigler, J. B. Dasher, W. H. Miller, Harriet Zeigler, Georgia Zeigler, Rev. J. Austin, and J. W. Heidt.
The school was held only during the summer from April through September. For the year 1874 the school closed September 20. There were seven teachers and 31 scholars present with a total of 36 on the roll. The average attendance for the year was 31. The superintendent proposed that they use the “Sabbath School Ministrel” in the school. Small children were taught the alphabet and numerals along with Bible stories.
The Sunday School enjoyed a slow but steady growth. By 1922 fifty years after the organization of the congregation, there were 123 enrolled in the Sunday School with an average attendance of 77. For the year 1946 there were five officers, sixteen teachers and assistants, 149 scholars; making a total of 170 enrolled. The first and third Sundays averaged 107 while the other Sundays averaged 53.
The Sunday School made a big step forward October 6, 1940. On that date it voted favorably to have Sunday School every Sunday instead of semi-monthly. A short time prior to this day the officers and teachers of the Sunday School met with the Educational Cabinet. They regulated the educational program of the Sunday School so the courses could be given systematically and promotions made accordingly. The classes were re-organized to study the Christian Life Course as adopted by the United Lutheran Church in America. The first official promotion day was the last Sunday in September. Promotion Sunday has changed over the years to correspond with public school opening, first to the third Sunday, then the first Sunday in September, and in 2003 to the third Sunday in August.
Sunday School enrollment and attendance continued to increase through the mid-1960’s. In 1965 there were 236 on roll with an average attendance of 148.6. Sad but true, there has been a gradual decline, especially in attendance, since 1965. In 1972 the number on roll was 207, the average attendance 106.
While there has been a more marked decrease in the Sunday School enrollment numbers during the past 30 years to 165 in 2003, with an average attendance of 98, this is due in part to changes in enrollment procedures. Also there are now 4 adult classes, twice as many as there were in 1973. The biggest physical change, which also made possible new Sunday School programming possibilities, was the completion in 1979 of the Education Building with a large fellowship hall (seating 200 at tables), and eight classrooms, plus a stage, kitchen, entrance hall and restrooms. This building has greatly enhanced the life and mission of Zion Church. During each year the congregation enjoys a number of productions and concerts on the large stage, and many fellowship meals. But not only has the congregation utilized these facilities but the community as well – receptions, recitals, and for several years now as a polling place for elections.
The council was alert to the need of a school building expressed in Sunday School minutes in 1845. It recommended “and we hope the congregation will build a school house.” Soon after the first church building was complete, a one room school house appeared by its side. Parents paid tuition for their children to attend school. Attendance was not limited to Zion members.
Since the best teachers were college students this school operated at first three or four months during the summer, while college students were on vacation. This served a two-fold purpose. While educating the youth it also helped financially to educate the young adults.
Each student progressed individually at the rate of speed he chose. Some finished their arithmetic books and went on to the next one in one school term, while others worked slower and required two terms to finish. The teacher checked the slates on demand. All work was checked.
This school continued to operate, changing with the times. When tax money was used for schools, it became a public school. Consolidation closed it about 1925.
THE CHILDREN’S HOME AND FOREIGN MISSIONARY SOCIETY
During the life of the congregation the members have formed various organizations. Other than the Sunday School the oldest was the “Children’s Home and Foreign Missionary Society” which later became the “Light Brigade” and then the “Children of the Church.”
Regarding the organization of this society we quote, “Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, April 1, 1888. The Children’s Home and Foreign Missionary Society met and was opened with prayer by our pastor. The certificates were then given to the members after which the constitution was read and explained by the pastor.” (Record Book of the C. H. & F. M. S.) B. B. Dasher was elected Secretary and W. A. Dasher, Treasurer. The Sunday School Superintendent was the exofficio president of the society. Any person could become a member of the society by paying 25 cents a year. The first year $7.50 was collected.
At first the programs consisted mainly of the men members making talks and addresses. April 16, 1899 the first woman was put on the program, Miss Georgia E. Heidt. After 1907 the children began to have parts on the programs regularly. As the years went by, the children were given enough recitations and songs to take up the entire program. Men, women, and children belonged to this society.
The children were organized into the Light Brigade under the sponsorship of the Women’s Missionary Society. This was done September of 1940, with Mrs. J. R. Conaway as Secretary and Mrs. E. W. Heidt as Treasurer. The largest amount received in one year by this group was $35.00 in 1934.
The Children of the Church was discontinued and a weekday church school started about 1950. This school met after public school once a week for twelve weeks each year. Since Zion congregation was so scattered this school was discontinued after a few years. However, in 2003, a new after school program for 4th and 5th graders was begun. This has now expanded into Kindergarten – 5th grade. Called Faith Weavers, these classes meet on the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of the school year.
THE WOMEN’S HOME AND FOREIGN MISSIONARY SOCIETY
January 7, 1894 “ The Ladies of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church met, and organized themselves into a Women’s Home and Foreign Missionary Society” with eleven charter members. Six years later the officers were: President, Miss Lena Fetzer; Secretary, Miss Susie Dasher. A previous secretary was Mrs. J. W. Johnson. At this time (1901) the society and the Children’s Home and Foreign Missionary Society were meeting twice a year. During the year $17.00 was collected. Monthly meetings began in 1931.
In 1933 for a local project the women made a signature quilt. With the funds raised the first individual communion set was bought for Zion. The cost — $35.00.
The influence of this society has been very great. They have influenced the congregation to be mission minded. A number of missionaries have visited and brought messages to the congregation. During 1946 they had 25 active members with an average attendance of 15 at the monthly meetings. They gave $243.00 for mission work. During the ten-year period from January 1, 1936 to December 31, 1946, $1,345.00 was contributed to promote mission work.
A few men were accepted as members of this organization, since they paid annual dues. The Rev. B. S. Dasher was the last male member. The year 1960.
In 1935 the name was changed to Women’s Missionary Society. Later changed to United Lutheran Church Women, then in 1963 became Lutheran Church Women.
Enrollment changed very little. In 1951 there were 44 members. Active members in 1972 numbered 35. During seven years 1966 to 1973 total money collected was $4,560.92.
In the 35 year time period since 1973 much has changed for this organization. In 1988 its name again changed – Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (Women of the ELCA — also known as WELCA). During these years Zion’s WELCA organized itself into 4 Circles, having in 2008 a combined enrollment of 53. The 4 Circles meet monthly for Bible Study/Programs, with joint business meetings held quarterly. Total receipts for 2007 were $6028. Many of the activities and needs of the congregation, and in the community as well, are sponsored by and met by Zion’s Women of the ELCA.
THE LADIES’ AID SOCIETY
The Ladies’ Aid Society is an organization of the church whose aim was to improve and add to the property of the church. It dates from 1924. The officers were: President, Mrs. B. C. Fetzer; Secretary, Mrs. R. E. Fetzer. At one time it was composed of men and women who paid their twenty-five cents a year membership dues. Later only women were members. This organization became inactive about the middle of the twentieth century. While active they found great joy in giving their time and gifts to promote the cause of Christ in the local church. On a following page is a list of some of the accomplishments of The Ladies’ Aid.
THE LUTHER LEAGUE
Zion Luther League met to organize September 18, 1921. They elected as President, Mr. Ralph Conaway, and Susan Dasher as Secretary. The first meeting was held October 15, 1921. The first committee appointed consisted of Lonnie Dasher, Woodberry Conaway and Florence Conaway. It was not to arrange a social or some other activity, but to buy lamps for the church. This they did before the end of the year.
The following year they decided to take an offering at each meeting and to invite members of other denominations to join the League. The membership grew rapidly. Two years after the organization, the attendance frequently was as high as fifty. The aim of the Luther League was to enrich the lives of the youth, to encourage them to assist the local church and the church at large with its missionary program. The highest amount collected at the meetings, which were then semi-monthly, was $106.00 in 1945.
In the 1960’s and 70’s League members made banners on several occasions. The 1972 project was the out-door lighting of a large cedar for the Christmas season. The enrollment was 20.
Over the past 35 years the youth have gone through several name changes, including Zion Lutheran Youth Fellowship (LYF), with the current one being Zion Lutheran Youth Organization (LYO). For many of these 35 years the youth met every Sunday evening for programs/activities usually followed by recreation, but in 2002 they began an alternating weekly schedule of Sunday afternoon activities and Wednesday evening Bible Studies.
For a number of years the youth have been cleaning the church and education buildings to earn money for local, Conference, and Synod youth events. Now, in addition they receive money through the congregation’s budget.
On another page are listed something about the gifts the local church has received from the Luther League, LYF and LYO.
THE EFFINGHAM COUNTY LUTHER LEAGUE
The Effingham County Luther League was started about 1926. It was composed of all the Luther Leagues of the county. In 1929, they began calculating the percent of the members present at the regular meetings of the various Luther Leagues. At the end of 1931 the County Luther League awarded an attendance banner and a merit banner. Until after 1938 Zion Luther League did not win either. During the next eight years it won the Merit Banner five times and the Attendance Banner six times. This organization ceased to exist at some point in the intervening years. It has, however, been succeeded in more recent years, by gatherings of the Ebenezer Conference youth and All-Georgia youth.
There was a Brotherhood in the Zion Congregation in 1920. In December, they were asked to distribute the envelopes. In that year, $127.00 was received through this organization. For some reason the Brotherhood did not last long.
After being inactive for a number of years, it was re-organized about 1949. In 1972 there were ten active members. This organization supports Boy Scout Troop 691 and also sends contributions to the Williams-Henson Home for Boys in Knoxville, Tennessee. In 1972 twenty-five dollars was sent to the boys for Christmas and the same amount was donated to the Home. This amount was later raised to $100.
This organization likewise has experienced changes in name. Known for some years as Lutheran Church Men, the local group is now called Zion Lutheran Men in Mission (LMM). The men’s group meets monthly for a Sunday morning breakfast and program. In addition to the Scout program — Cub Scout Pack 691and Boy Scout Troop 691– Zion’s LMM in 2003 worked with other Effingham Lutheran congregations to construct a Habitat for Humanity house in Guyton.
THE PASTORS OF ZION CONGREGATION
When the congregation was organized the pastoral charge consisted of Jerusalem and Zion Congregations. As early as 1896 Zion considered giving one Sunday a month to Miller Chapel. The churches of Zion, Mt. Olivet and Miller Chapel became a pastoral charge in 1904. Rev. C. A. Phillips was the pastor.
Below is a list of the pastors who served with Zion Congregation:
Rev. J. Austin, Sept. 16, 1872 – December 19, 1897
Rev. D. N. Bodie, 1898 – 1903
Rev. Derrick, 1903 Student Supply
Rev. W. B. Derrick, 1904
Rev. Charles A. Phillips, 1904 – 1906
Rev. J. Wertz Nease, 1907 – 1910
Rev. Shed L. Nease, 1911 – 1921
Rev. Charles R. Patterson, 1921, 1922
Rev. S. Traver, 1922 – 1924
Rev. Fred L. Lineberger, 1925 – 1928
Rev. Fulton B. Counts, 1929 – 1938
Rev. Thomas H. Weeks, 1938 – 1943
Rev. E. A. Felker, 1944 – 1949
Supply Pastor, Rev. B. S. Dasher, 1949 – 1952
Rev. J. H. Meyers, 1952 – 1954
Supply Pastor, Rev. B. S. Dasher, 1954 – 1955
Rev. R. H. Kepley, May 1955 – September 1970
Rev. Jack Wray, June 1971 – May 1973
Rev. Charles J. Thomas, Jan. 1974 – June 1999
Interim Pastor, Rev. Jack Ohsiek, July 1999 – Jan. 2001
Rev. Richard A. Sebastian, Feb. 2001 – June 2007
ADDITIONS, IMPROVEMENTS, AND SIGNIFICANT EVENTS
Below is a partial list of the improvements and additions that have been mentioned above, together with some significant events in the life of the congregation. By each item is a notation of the date and the organization (other than the congregation council which acts for the congregation) that took the leadership in financing the project. The approximate cost is by some of them.
1889 – Church repainted
1891 – Organ – $90
1893 – Church repaired due to storm
1898 – Stove
1899 – Fence around church
1904 – Parsonage – Zion parish – $1389 or more
1907 – Cemetery fence – $128
1907 – Collection plates
1908 – Cemetery enlarged
1908 – Brick under church
1911 – Large Bible
1912 – Monument to deceased pastor
1920 – Large Bible – $6
1921 – New parsonage in Marlow – Zion parish
1925 – Piano for sanctuary – Luther League
1925 – Cemetery arranged into sections of family plats
1926 – Trees removed from cemetery
1927 – Two rooms added at parsonage – Zion parish
1927 – Inside church painted – Ladies Aid – $120
1929 – Church sign
1931 – Hetrela heater – W. M. S.
1931 – Eastern end of church braced, steeple repaired, new chimney
1933 – Repainted church exterior – Ladies Aid – $98
1933 – Communion Set – W. M. S. – $35
1934 – Cemetery enlarged
1937 – Parsonage wired – Zion parish
1938 – Wired the church
1939 – Partitions put in school house for Sunday School Rooms
1939 – Heaters for S. S. Rooms – Luther League
1939 – Rubber floor covering – Ladies Aid – $85
1940 – Water in parsonage – Zion parish – $228
1942 – Chancel carpet – Ladies Aid – $30
1944 – Galvanized roofing on church – $411
1944 – Hymn Board – Luther League – $19
1944 – Green Chancel paraments – $46
1944 – Monument to former pastor’s baby – Ladies Aid
1945 – Church interior, including floors and pews, refinished – Ladies Aid
1945 – Church exterior painted – $227
1947 – Carpet – Ladies Aid – $320
1947 – White chancel paraments – Ladies Aid – $21
1947 – Rostand Brass Cross – Luther League – $43 – “In memory of our seven
members now in full time Christian service.”
1947 – Pair of Rostand Altar Vases – Mem. gift
1952 – Mt. Olivet, Marlow, merged with Zion (Note p. 79 in minutes)
1957 – New electric organ purchased
1960 – Inside of church remodeled and two rooms added to front of church. New
pews, carpet, and chancel furniture donated by members
1963 – Miller Chapel merged with Zion
1963 – Sunday School at 10 o’clock each Sunday and Services at 11 o’clock A.M.
1964 – New constitution adopted
1966 – New organ purchased for $2700
1966 – Old organ sold for $150
1968 – Miller Chapel church and one acre, sold to Berea Methodist congregation
1969 – New Baldwin studio piano in sanctuary – Mem. gift
1973 – 100th Anniversary of Organization celebrated
1973 – Sanctuary Lamp – Gift – $125
1974 – Hanging Cross above altar supported by columned reredos – Mem. gifts
1975 – Central heat installed for S. S. and assembly rooms
1975 – Central heat/air conditioning installed at parsonage – $2645
1975 – Center Altar Vase – Mem. gift – $75
1975 – Processional cross – Mem. gift – $100
1976 – Zion observed National Bicentennial with special service and picnic
1976 – Christian & American Flag set for sanctuary – Mem. gift – $185
1976 – New one-piece robes for Senior Choir, sewn from kits – $665
1977 – Groundbreaking for Education Building
1979 – Zion Senior Citizens organized
1979 – Education Building dedicated – $180,000 – furnishings as Mem. gifts
1979 – Began using new Lutheran Book of Worship – Mem. gifts – $1640
1980 – Lenten Series of Presentations on Sunday nights begun
1981 – Tennis court – LYF – $3000
1982 – Stained glass cross for Ed. Bldg. Stage – made from glass saved from
windows at Mount Olivet – Mem. gift – $100
1982 – Inside of church building painted – $3170
1982 – Tennis court fencing – LYF – $1800
1983 – Copier purchased for office – $2075
1984 – 2nd bathroom & walk-in closet added to parsonage – $4150
1984 – Parsonage roof replaced – $2000
1985 – Allen organ installed – $18,000
1985 – Funeral Pall – Mem. gift – $330
1985-1986 – First Pictorial Congregational Directory
1986 – Vinyl siding installed on church building – $9885
1986 – Brass Advent Wreath – Mem. gift – $300
1988 – Stained glass windows installed in sanctuary –Mem. gifts – $24,000
1988 – Central heat & A/C installed in sanctuary – $15,000
1990 – “Praise!” hymnals given to Sunday School – Mem. gift – $860
1991 – Tin roof on church building replaced with one of shingles – $12,500
1991 – Computer purchased for office – $2220
1992 – Aluminum framed windows in S. S. area of Church Building – $5200
1992 – Education Building shingle roof replaced – $4100
1993 – New Junior & Senior Choir robes & stoles – Mem. gift – $5000
1994 – Larger well and submersible pump – $3000
1994 – Education Building built-up roof replaced – $8000
1996 – Vinyl siding, shutters, storm windows and doors at parsonage – $14,220
1996 – New PA system for sanctuary – $7500
1996 – Old bathroom at parsonage remodeled – $1040
1997 – Commercial dishwasher installed in church kitchen – $3690
1997 – 125th Anniversary of Organization celebrated
1997 – Inside of sanctuary completely redone & furniture refinished – $53,300
1998 – Church Building Sunday School rooms redone – $15,780
1999 – “With One Voice” Service Book & Hymnals – Mem. gift – $2050
1999 – Keyboard purchased for Sanctuary – Mem. gift – $2310
1999 – Parsonage sold to former pastor – $100,500
2000 – Twenty-nine passenger bus with wheelchair lift = $66,500
2001 – Brass Paschal Candlestick and Permanent Candle – Mem. gift – $650
2001 – Drives for parking lot paved – $44,000
2002 – Storage building (for bus, mowing equipment, etc.) – $14,000
2003 – Basic landscaping around buildings & parking lot – $3545
2003 – New piano given (placed in Children’s Assembly) – Mem. gift – $4764
2003 – Wooden chancel appointments for Lent – Mem. gift – $1693
2002-2003 – Set of seasonal church banners – Mem. gift – $3200
2004 – Congregation voted to purchase the Barnes Tract of 35+ acres
2005 – New stove for Education Building – $4664
2005 – Two brass standing candelabra – Mem. gift – $1266
2006 – New double-faced lighted church sign with changeable letters at Highway
17 entrance – Mem. gift – $11,481
2006 – Hand chimes and accessories – Mem. gifts – $2936
2006 – Education Building repainted – $3200
2006 – Became a Mission Partner with Abundant Life Community Church, a
Lutheran presence in Pooler
2007 – Began using Evangelical Lutheran Worship books – Mem. gifts – $14,889
2007-2008 – Fenced playground for nursery and pre-school children
MISCELLANEOUS, TRENDS, AND INFLUENCES
Those who entered the ministry of the Lutheran Church from Zion congregation are Bergman Dasher, Dewey Zipperer, Lewis Dasher, Emory Heidt, O. G. Dasher and Everett Dasher. Miss Delphine Dasher entered the Diaconate.
The congregation has used various methods to receive gifts. At first the Box Custom was adopted by the council for benevolence. One quarter of 1873 they were opened and contained $37.00. If the council wanted some money for some cause they had the Ladies in charge of the boxes to put them out for a quarter of the year. If not, they were not put out. Envelopes were bought as early as 1899 for the pastor’s salary. The duplex system was adopted and the envelopes distributed in December 1911. An every member canvass was begun in 1913 and was carried on for many years.
A number of trends took place from 1920 – 1925. One trend was a definite emphasis being placed on Lent and Easter, together with a deeper appreciation of the Holy Communion. The Preparatory Service was authorized. The new Book of Worship was adopted for the Congregation and the Parish School Hymnal for the Sunday School and Luther League. The Secretary was asked to keep a record of those who communed. Also by this time, the council was no longer used as a court to settle difficulties among the members. (Prior to 1920, nearly without exception, every quarterly council meeting had from one to three different parties before it in need of spiritual counseling and to settle disputes.)
The council recommended to the congregation (1926) to provide ample rooms for the Sunday School. An every member visitation was arranged in December 1939. At the next council meeting they reported a “very successful visitation.” The church bulletin services were started by Pastor Tom Weeks.
A barrel of syrup, made by members of the congregation, was sent to our Lutheran Orphan Home every year from 1920 until about 1950. This practice was stopped because members turned from agriculture to other work.
No small amount of good has been derived from the donations from the Trustees of the Ebenezer Fund. Until 1936, $75.00 a quarter was paid toward the pastor’s salary. It continued to increase. In 1945 the congregation received $100.00 a quarter; in 1972 the amount was $300.00 a quarter; in 2002 and beyond, $600 per quarter – a nice gift to each of the Effingham Lutheran parishes. In addition, the Ebenezer Fund contributes toward the expenses of official delegates to all church conventions, for Bible School, youth activities, and has helped fund several of Zion’s major building projects through the years.
The congregation has entertained organizations of Synod at various times. On the year of its organization conference was entertained; Synod in 1901, and the Ga. – Ala. Luther League in 1945. Since then Zion has, at various times, hosted area meetings of women, youth, and the conference.
As of 1947, the congregation’s 75th Anniversary, the largest amount paid out in any one year for current expenses was 1945, $1,948.00. The largest amount paid for benevolence was $1,586.00 in 1946. In the seventy-five year life of the congregation it had paid for current expenses $39,132.00; for benevolence $19,266.00. The highest baptized membership in that time period was 205 in 1914.
In 1972, at the time of the congregation’s 100th Anniversary, the budget was $21,071.00. Of this amount $5,100.00 was paid to benevolence and $6,000.00 pastor’s salary. The remainder of the budget went for general expenses of church and parsonage. The baptized membership in 1969 was 259. In 1972 the membership had decreased to 247. Active membership in 1972 was 183.
In 1997, the 125th Anniversary, the budget had jumped to $72,000, of which $9120 was for benevolence and $33,000 for pastor’s salary. The baptized membership had increased to 371, with active membership at 207, and average attendance at 137. By 1999, average attendance had increased to 154, and in 2003 to 178.
These increases in membership and attendance reflect a change in the makeup of the surrounding community. In the past 25 years, the area around Zion has been transformed from a mostly rural area to fast becoming primarily a suburban one, with many housing subdivisions in the immediate area. In those years, 2 new elementary schools, a middle school and high school have been built in Zion’s service area. In 2004, Marlow School occupied a new campus, a mile south of the old one (and then Zion was no longer, as long advertised, “across the road from Marlow School” – but now it has been turned into the Marlow Learning Center). Of course, the road too, has changed – from a dirt one to a paved one. And at the turn of this new century, the intersection of Highways 17 and 30 was changed – and the outcome of that realignment increased the size of Zion’s parking lot and gave us two definite entrances – one from Highway 17 and another from Highway 30, with grass and landscape plants growing on what had in former years been just sand!
Yes, everything changes – the hymn, “Abide with Me” says, “change and decay in all around I see” – but some changes are for the better, and are vast improvements on the old. In conclusion, therefore, let us note with gratitude, using the opening phrases of yet another hymn: “To God be the glory,” — for in and through Zion congregation for almost 160 years — “great things He has done.”