Zion UMC marks 150th anniversary


Bells to ring 150 times on Oct. 7

1868 church building

MENDOTA – This year marks the 150th anniversary of what is now Zion United Methodist Church in Mendota. Located at 808 Jefferson St., the church has served God and the community continuously since 1868.

The church began as a stop for circuit riders. Itinerant preachers sponsored by the Evangelical Association of America led services in private homes and at the old Library Park schoolhouse. In 1868, this group was formally organized into a congregation with a membership of 16. The members were almost exclusively German immigrants and services were held in German until 1912. In October of 1868, the membership of 20 built the first church building, a frame structure with a bell tower measuring 34 by 52 feet and costing $5,700.

The present church building was erected in 1900 and completed in 1901 at a cost of $9,000. It was constructed of mottled pressed brick and Joliet stone, had a pointed steeple and measured 48 by 60 feet, and was 60 feet high. A pipe organ was added in 1902.

1901 church building

In 1922, the Evangelical Association merged with other denominations to become the Evangelical Church. A later merger in the 1940s resulted in another name change to the Zion Evangelical United Brethren Church. Also in the 1940s, the steeple was removed and was replaced by the crenelated tower present today.

In 1968, the Evangelical United Brethren merged with the Methodist church and Zion became the Zion United Methodist Church as it remains today. In 1992, a large addition of classrooms, kitchen, offices and fellowship hall was added to enhance Zion’s opportunities for worship and outreach.

Zion UMC today

For 150 years, Zion UMC has fostered worship, outreach and fellowship in Mendota. The church has extended its hand in mission, serving on mission trips, volunteering at the local PADS shelter and food pantry and lending a hand in the community as needed. Zion donates to many causes each year, earning the status of a Rainbow Covenant mission giving church in the Northern Illinois Conference.

Over the years, there has been an ongoing outreach to children and youth, with youth groups and Sunday school being a priority for the congregation. Zion has sponsored a Vacation Bible School throughout their history, recently welcoming 100 children to a week of evening worship and fun. Festival goers will remember Zion’s Sweet Corn Festival weekend breakfasts, lemonade stands, parking and lately, free donuts and water. Zion’s building has also served a number of community needs, hosting organizations such as Migrant Head Start, the Red Cross and the Mendota Mat Masters.

Most importantly, Zion continues to be a house of worship and prayer, continuing the 150-year tradition of prayer meetings, Bible and faith study and Sunday morning worship, which is currently held at 9 a.m. An anniversary celebration is planned for Sunday, Oct. 7. A special 9 a.m. worship service will be followed by the enjoyment of historical displays and activities, the ringing of the church bell 150 times, and a congregational dinner.

(Photos contributed)

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