One of Ohio’s oldest churches celebrates 175 years

By Elizabeth Studebaker Special Correspondent

April 22, 2014

XENIA — Xenia is home to Ohio’s fourth oldest Missionary Baptist Church and it is getting ready to celebrate 175 years.

Next weekend will be a time of celebration at Zion Baptist Church, 565 E. Main St. Two hundred or more members and other celebrants will gather at 5:30 p.m. in the Ward Ballroom at Central State University for a banquet honoring those who have been instrumental in making the the church what it is. Special Sunday services are planned at the church at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Zion became a member of the Colored Baptist Association — now called the Western Union Baptist District Association — in September 1840. Starting with only 14 members, the church now has nearly 200 members.

Twenty-six of those members, the Senior Saints, will be honored at the banquet. Ranging in age from 75 to 93, they include Jean Bailey, Lois A. Baxter, Ames and Burnice Chapman, Ruth Coffey (posthumously), J. and Irene Colbert, Bernice Collins, Pauline Ewing, Charles P. and Mae Feaster, Mary Gavin, Gladys Hamilton, Harvey and Gladys Johnson William Marsh, Gwen and Morris Means, Mildred Miree, Irene Sellers, Jean and John Shoates, Allyne P. Stewart, Joyce Stills, Betty Thomas and Pluma Thomas. Coffey passed away recently at the age of 93.

Rev. Gary Chapman has been pastor of Zion Baptist 20 years. Bishop Donald Washington, pastor of Mt. Herman Missionary Baptist Church of Columbus, will be guest speaker at the banquet. Rev. Bruce Jivens, Zion associate minister, will open the program with invocation. Sunday’s guest speaker will be Rev. Leroy Anthony, pastor of Middle Run Baptist Church of Xenia. Hayden Jackson and the Gospel Explosion, will provide the music. Jackson, 17, a self-taught musician, is Zion organist.

The church organ still used on special occasions was installed in the early 1900s. It is registered on the Organ Historical Society Pipe Organ Database of North America.

Fred Hall, a member of Zion 37 years, is chairman of the 175th Anniversary Celebration Committee.

As Zion continues to serve the community in various ways, the church proudly acknowledges those listed on her roll; men and women active in professional, scientific, vocational industrial, military and political worlds. It is important to know how many souls have been saved through contact with Zion Baptist; nor can it be established how far reaching her influence has been in the world.

More about Zion Baptist Church in a story tomorrow.