Odessa Zoar Church Comes to Life with Restoration Plans | Delaware News

By KRYS’TAL GRIFFIN, The News Journal

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) – As the oldest living member of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Zoar, Lucretia Munson, 92, has prayed for decades for the reopening of the historic Black Church.

After 23 years, her prayers can finally be answered.

Located near the meeting house of the Appoquinimink friends in Odessa, the exquisite brick building of Zoar Church was built in 1881 by free black residents, all of whom were successful landowner farmers. The church replaced a meeting house a few blocks away, where they had met as early as 1845.

The neo-Gothic style church with vaulted ceilings, stained glass windows and an adjacent social hall, closed in 1998 due to declining membership and deterioration. But members like Munson continued to donate money to the church in the hopes that Zoar would be open again.

Political cartoons

“It was beautiful. Most of our people, and I, were workers. The old people back then were cooking,” Munson said. “It was fun. Everyone came together … worked together … in a peaceful way.

As the oldest living member of the Zoar Methodist Episcopal Church, Lucretia Munson, 92, has prayed for decades for the historic Black Church to reopen.

After 23 years, her prayers can finally be answered.

Located near the meeting house of the Appoquinimink friends in Odessa, the exquisite brick building of Zoar Church was built in 1881 by free black residents, all of whom were successful landowner farmers. The church replaced a meeting house a few blocks away, where they had met as early as 1845.

The neo-Gothic style church with vaulted ceilings, stained glass windows and an adjacent social hall, closed in 1998 due to declining membership and deterioration. But members like Munson continued to donate money to the church in the hopes that Zoar would be open again.

“It was beautiful. Most of our people, and I, were workers. The old people back then were cooking,” Munson said. “It was fun. Everyone came together … worked together … in a peaceful way.

Munson said attending church in Zoar was a full-day affair, with parishioners arriving for the first service at 8 a.m. and not leaving until 8 p.m.

Munson’s favorite memories at church were celebrating Christmas with the congregation. Everyone would go there to decorate the church.

“It was just a beautiful place to go, that’s it,” Munson said.

Friends of Zoar hopes to completely renovate the church and retain as much as possible the original architecture and design of the building. ‘

The first step will be to gut the interior and alter the structure. What cannot be salvaged will be modeled as close as possible to the original design of the church, said Steve Johnson, treasurer of Friends of Zoar Inc.

Once restored, they envision Zoar Church as a way to share the legacy of previous generations of African Americans in the Odessa-Middletown area. Plans to host corporate events and services are also underway.

The non-profit organization welcomes volunteers and donors who wish to support their mission. They can be contacted directly by email, via their website or their Facebook page.

Standing at the altar, Friends of Zoar Inc. Vice President Anthony Johnson looked through the pews and remembered Munson’s daily prayers for the safeguard of their beloved church.

“We are delighted to be able to have the opportunity to restore,” Johnson said. “There is a historic foundation that was planted many years ago. “

Aside from the building itself, Zoar’s church service records from the early 1900s have been archived, including meeting minutes and diaries of various clergymen.

For Munson, the church’s rebirth is less a fluke and more a testament to the faith she has held through all these years, hoping for Zoar’s return.

“I continued to pray. Talk about praying, I prayed for this church. This is all the work of God, ”she said. “It was God’s work just to be here.”

Copyright 2021 Associated press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Jerry B. Hatch