Zion celebrates 200 years in Episcopalian Diocese

Published 4:28 pm Tuesday, April 11, 2023

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This weekend, Zion Episcopal Church in Washington will celebrate its bicentennial  membership in the North Carolina Episcopal Diocese. This is not to be confused with the church’s founding which was 85 years prior. 

A diocese is a group of churches in a district that are supervised by a Bishop. 

Reverend Alan Neale is Zion’s current pastor and has served since October of 2021. He says tradition, openness and inclusivity are “very attractive and vital ways of looking at Christianity. It’s not the only way, but for some people it just fits.” He said these are keys to Zion’s longevity. 

He continued to share that when visitors attend on Sunday mornings, they are welcomed and invited to engage as much as they want. 

Neale said the congregation’s generosity has had a “deep impact” on him. The church coordinates yard sales every six weeks. These yard sales have collected an upwards of $25,000 annually all of which is donated to local charities, he shared. 

“I’ve never known a parish in all the ones I’ve served in England and in America that raises so much money for outside interests. It’s quite remarkable,” Neale said. 

Zion’s parishioners’ dedication to openness and inclusivity extends to historic members of their church. 

In 2018, the church placed a memorial marker in its cemetery where eight members – formerly enslaved persons- were buried. These six women and two men were freed persons who were baptized at Zion and full members of the church. This upcoming weekend, the memorial will be consecrated. The event will take place on Saturday, April 15 at 10:30 a.m. at the church. Remarks will be given by Zion member and Historian Jim Hackney as well as Leesa Jones who is the director of the Washington Waterfront Underground Railroad Museum. 

Zion will also have an organ concert by Gene Lloyd to celebrate the weekend. I will be Saturday April 15 at 4 p.m. Services at Zion Episcopal begin at 10 AM every week. 

Zion was initially founded in1738 by Robert and Lucy Cutler. It started as small groups meeting in homes and a former chapel two miles west of the church’s current location at 7302 US-264 in Washington. It was an Anglican parish until it became part of the Episcopal Church in 1789 upon the separation of the United States from the Church of England. The sanctuary was free for all denominations to use in 1809, but most congregants were Episcopalian. On April 11, 1823, Zion was one of the first 15 churches in North Carolina to join the statewide Episcopal Diocese. The current sanctuary that can be seen today was constructed in 1855 for a total cost of $714.85.