Thursday, July 20, 2006

Faith Works 7-22-06
Jeff Gill

A Trip To the South (Not Far!)

After our last two weeks looking at our Licking County religious history, we can’t forget Perry County.
Aside from giving us Dave Lehman, our area’s pioneer church heritage ties directly into some places of worship just over the border.
St. Joseph’s Catholic Church south of Somerset is the first Catholic parish in all of Ohio, with the first mass said by Bishop Fenwick in 1818. The current building is perhaps the oldest structure still in use as a regular service location for the county, dating to 1864. I may well be wrong about that, as Perry County has many buildings and congregations directly preceding and leading to Licking County establishments, but St. Joseph’s deserves and will get her own treatment in this space someday soon.
What we just marked as a bicentennial for a Perry County house of worship is the 1806 founding of Zion Church, along Rt. 13 south of Thornville. I’m sure I’m not the only one to find it ironic that after passing Zion Road exits for what seems half a dozen times between Thornport to the hill where today’s Zion UCC stands, you turn on High Point Road, east where the Backwoods Festival crowds turn west.
Founded as a union church for both German Reformed and Lutheran congregations, the Reformed branch joined under the E&R wing with the Congregational Church 50 years ago to help found the United Church of Christ. Zion Church still honors German roots, Reformed liturgy of the Mercersburg tradition, Lutheran Pietism and Congregational thoughtfulness in her life today, led by Dr. Herb Hicks.
Former Newark area pastors Dick Hurdiss, Dave Mitchell, and Bob Settlage have all preached there in recent years, and your scribe even fills in for Pastor Hicks these days.
The technical date for their 200th anniversary was a few weeks back, but they will celebrate as a congregation in mid-September. Before that happy event, they look forward to the arrival and installation of Perry County’s most recent state historical marker, telling the tale of the oldest church in those parts.
With thanks to David Smith, the congregation historian, here’s the text soon to be seen in gold and brown by High Point Road off Rt. 13:

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Zion (Ribel’s) Church was built on this site in 1808. The log structure was located in the Zion Ridge Cemetery, adjacent to the first school in Thorn Township. The congregation of Zion Reformed Church is the oldest in Perry County still in existence. The church was officially organized in 1806 when the German Reformed and Lutheran congregations joined together in building the first church in Perry County. They purchased this land on June 30, 1806, and shared the building, alternating Sundays, until 1911. In 1803, Reverend Johannes Christian Koenig (John King) became the first minister to settle in Perry County and became the founding minister for the German Reformed congregation. In 1805, Reverend Wilhelm Georg Forster (William Foster) was the first Lutheran minister to settle in Perry County and was the founding minister for the Lutherans. The present Zion Reformed Church was built across the street from the original church in 1910.

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Congrats to everyone at Zion Church on their high historic hill, and we’ll stay tuned for the big celebration in September.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; spin your historic narratives to him through

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Notes From My Knapsack 7-23-06
Jeff Gill

With Summer Set On High

Heat waves are no laughing matter, even for the sun worshipers among us who long for Florida or Arizona or the Riviera.
Some years ago a heat wave across the Northern Hemisphere led to hundreds of deaths in Chicago and tens of thousands in France, both pretty civilized places.
Even when the power doesn't go out, for those who dislike air conditioning, can't afford to run it, or just the bewildered and confused can get caught in a vicious cycle of heat, dehydraytion, and dizziness leading to unconsciousness and death.
This is a good time to get to know your neighbors if you haven't already, throw a late evening picnic or block party, and call relatives who are getting on a bit in years.
Lightning is more likely to strike you than the Powerball, and tornados are dramatic but quite infrequent, especially so far this summer. But people die in central Ohio every summer from heat stroke and related issues, often right in their living rooms . . . talk about your preventable causes of death!
Drink, drink, drink, y'all, and no, not that stuff. All year 'round Americans tend to go about in a general state of dehydration, with impairments from memory loss to slower reflexes to unnecessary discomfort. Soda pop, even in the MegaGulpSlurpCanister size, can help keep you on the down side of fluid balance in your body. Water is great, tap water just fine, but keep on drinking it through the day.
Eating a good quantity of fruits and vegetables has a good influence in making your body want fluid rather than feel falsely filled, so diet can affect this internal sense as well. Plus drinking water supresses your appetite naturally, leading to weight loss . . . it's all good.
As you may be able to tell, I just got back from directing a week of church camp, where the other gospel we preached was "drink water!" Counselors and kids alike, with the steady rains we experienced, had to be reminded frequently, and still the visits to the health officer came for headaches and tummy aches and just plain all body icks that tended to vanish with the application of 2000 ml of H2O between the teeth.
I know I got tedious on the subject at camp, and why should i not be tedious for you folks? As Spiderman says, with great heat comes great responsibility. Or something like that -- I feel tired and confused, and need to go get a drink.
I'll be right back!

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; share a summer tip with him at