Zion Church Lewistown Valley
Offering Christ and Making Disciples in the Lewistown Valley and all the World.   
Call Us at (570) 668-4124
 
     
 

489 Valley Road

Tamaqua, PA 18252

Our History


Zion Church began as a union of two Congregations, Lutheran and Reformed, sometime before 1816 and perhaps as early as 1787. There is no exact date for the founding of these two congregations, but their early beginnings can be traced back to the time when the valley was first settled. Land changed hands for the first time in 1787, placing the original settlement earlier. It was also around 1787 that the cemetery was dedicated. Although there was no established place for public worship, preachers came from nearby settlements to conduct services in the homes. The first regular preacher was      F, C. Kroll in 1810. He was not ordained, but had received permission from the Reformed Church to work as a catechist.

The first church building was constructed in 1816 for school and church purposes. In those days education and religion went hand in hand. The Bible was the textbook of the school, and the church's hymnbook furnished the songs for the school children. The following is a translation of the contract between Andrew Gilbert and the Lutheran and Reformed congregations:

"I, Andrew Gilbert, promise to build a joint congregation school house on the land which Andrew Gilbert and Jacob Schock gave for school and church by the Old Cemetery plot in the Cold Run Valley. This house shall be one story, built of frame, thirty feet long and twenty feet broad - with a small cellar under the house and a chimney therein, four windows in the schoolhouse, two in the dwelling house and one in the church, each with a dozen windowpanes, and one small window in each gable end, and all that belongs to a finished house. This house must be built this year so that this coming winter school may be held therein and also church services until we can build a church. For this work we promise to pay Andrew Gilbert three hundred dollars ($300) as soon as the work is done."

This old church and school was later changed to have movable partitions, so that by throwing the whole building into one room, larger audiences could be accommodated. In 1849 this old building was declared "unbeguem und laufaellig" so that no worship could be held in it anymore. A new church was then built. The old building was still used as a school until 1859 when it was sold to Adam Schock for $57.00. It was moved to his farm where it stood until 1929 when it was torn down because of its decayed condition.

The church of 1849 was a stone building and was built at a cost of $1876.59. It measured 40 by 60 feet, with an entrance on three sides, and an inside gallery on three sides, with an elevated box pulpit on the fourth side. In the center of the ceiling was an artistically wrought representation of the sun with a center and circumference in gilt and rays of sky blue. The cornerstone for this second building was laid on May 27, 1849. It was also at this time that the church adopted its name - "Zion."

On March 14, 1885, a movement was begun to construct the third and present church building. Subscriptions were taken and $1350.00 was raised. Excavation for the foundation and basement began when Adam Schock, plowing his field across the road, loosened the ground with his plow on each return trip. The loosened soil was then removed by hand. The stones of the former church were used for the foundation, and the keystone above the door of the 1849 church was fashioned into a cornerstone for the present building.

The cornerstone was laid September 13, 1885, "amid a large throng of worshipers." The pastors then were Rev. Isaac Newton S. Erb and Rev, Lewis D. Steckel. Due to a lack of funds, the main auditorium wasn't finished until 1888, when it was dedicated on August 12 of that year. The pastors at that time were Rev. M. H. Mishler and Rev. J. 0. Schlenker. The first service held in this auditorium was a memorial to Rev. I. N. S. Erb, who had departed this life on June 3rd.

The present church was thus completed at a cost of $3302.85. A bell was later added to the steeple at a cost of 8101.71 and was dedicated on September 15, 1889.

Although Zion began as a union of two distinct congregations, only one minister, either Lutheran or Reformed, served the two congregations until the year 1873. In the Spring of 1873, two pastors were elected to serve the congregations: Rev. Henry Leisse, Reformed, and Rev. I. N. S. Erb, Lutheran. At that point began both a Lutheran and a Reformed ministry, which continued until the congregations merged in 1969.

For more than one hundred and fifty years the Lutheran and Reformed congregations worshiped together in mutual respect and harmony. In 1969 these congregations merged and became one. At a uniting service held on Sunday, September 7, 1969 the members of Zion Lutheran congregation and the members of Zion Reformed congregation joined in creating the newly chartered Zion United Church of Christ, After the signing of the documents, the union was consummated with the Lutheran Elder, Arlin Ruch, and the Reformed Elder, Daniel Leiby, each clasping the others right hand, the symbol of union and friendship. Since then, the members of Zion have moved forward in a united effort, proclaiming the good news of God's love by word and deed. With God's help, Zion will continue