Zion Episcopal Church, located near Washington, North Carolina, is one of the oldest churches in the State.
It recognizes Robert and Lucy Cutler, and their neighbors, as organizers. Robert Cutler came to North Carolina from Boston and married Lucy Carter of Virginia at Bath, in 1738. Their marriage is the first of which there is a record in the annals of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Bath. Mr. Cutler was a cousin of the Reverend Timothy Cutler, first Rector of Old North Church, Boston, and Miss Carter was a relative of Anne Carter, mother of General Robert E. Lee.Following their wedding, they lived at their Goose Creek plantation and began the work, which led to the organization of Zion. In 1738, when Zion was established, services were held at the local school, in homes, or at Old Zion Chapel. The earliest records of the Old Ford Church indicate that Old Zion Chapel was a "free church" in 1809, i.e. free for use by all denominations, which included Primitive and Missionary Baptist. Old Zion Chapel was eventually acquired by the Disciples of Christ and is presently known as Beaver Dam Church. The fact that Old Zion Chapel was built mostly by Episcopalians but was a "free church" and the fact that it was inaccessible to a large number of parishioners induced members to seek a church of their own in a more central location. Zion Church was organized and admitted into the Diocese of North Carolina in 1823, under the leadership of the Reverend Richard S. Mason, Rector, who also served neighboring churches, in addition to Zion. Churches admitted to the Diocese of North Carolina were St. Thomas, Bath; Trinity, Chocowinity; St. Paul's, Edenton; St. James, Wilmington; St. John's, Fayetteville; Calvary, Tarboro; Christ Church, Rowan County, Raleigh and New Bern; St. Mary's, Halifax; and St. Stephen�s, Oxford. It is interesting to note that of the twelve parishes forming the Diocese of North Carolina, three were in Beaufort County. North Carolina was divided into three dioceses in 1885, the Beaufort County parishes becoming a part of the Diocese of East Carolina. For many years Zion shared clergy with neighboring parishes. The Reverend Mr. Pierson of St. Peter's, Washington, served in those early days. In his address to the Convention in 1824, Bishop Ravenscroft stated: "On the 29th of January, I left Bath for my next appointment at Zion Chapel, on the road to Washington, where the usual services were performed, to a crowded and engaged audience, and where I baptized six adults, one of them sixty-seven years old, and twelve infants; and administered confirmation to 24 persons. Here I must take leave to remark that the lively condition of these two congregations (St. Thomas, Bath and Zion) and the deep interest felt for the revival of the church is, under God, due to the zealous, persevering and discreet exertions of the two Lay Readers who officiated among them, Mr. Jarvis B. Buxton and Mr. Marsh." In 1825 Zion was represented at the Annual Convention held in Washington, by Lay Delegates, Jarvis B. Buxton and Timothy Cutler. From 1825 through 1850 the following assumed the pastoral care of Zion Parish: The Reverend George W. Freeman, Phil B. Wiley, John H. Norment, Seth H. Rogers, Robert Shaw, Harvey Stanley, John Tolan, M. Ashley Curtis, William E. Snowden, N.C. Staughton, William Passmore and Ferdinand E. White. The Reverend N.C. Hughes became Rector in 1851, and in his report to the Convention, remarked: "In addition to my former parishes, I undertook the care of St. Thomas, Bath; Zion and St. John's at Durham's Creek."Mr. Hughes remained in charge until the close of 1856 when he resigned and was succeeded by the Reverend Israel Harding. During that year a substantial church building was erected, mainly under the supervision of Mr. Henry C. Harvey, upon a one-acre lot donated by Mr. Harvey. The building was consecrated by the Right Reverend Thomas Atkinson, D.D., Diocese of North Carolina, November 14, 1856. At his Convention Address of 1857 records: 'I consecrated Zion Church in Beaufort County, at the same time preaching, confirming twelve persons and administering the Holy Communion; Messrs. Hughes and Geer assisting in the services.' Beaufort Country was occupied by the Union Army in 1862, which meant there was no Episcopal visitation or oversight. Local clergy who kept their cures were not permitted to render services. The churches were occupied by Union Chaplains and were sometimes used as hospitals or for other military purposes. As a consequence of the Civil War, the Reverend Israel Harding retired, but was again called as Rector of both Zion and St. Thomas, Bath, in 1866. From the close of the Civil War in 1865 to 1883, there is little to note except the successive flow of rectors which included the Reverends Luther Ebron, Israel Harding, H. G. Hilton and Nathaniel Harding. In 1883 Zion was under the care of the Reverend R. B. Windley, a Deacon. The Parish supported their minister, without aid, and aimed at establishing weekly services. In 1884 a neat and commodious Rectory was built, meeting the objectives envisioned, and was occupied April 3rd of that year. For a number of years, Zion sponsored a parochial school under the direction of the Reverend Francis Joyner, the Reverend Mr. Malone and Miss Lucy Joyner. The wonderful results of the foundations laid there are still discernible in the community and county. Moving into the twentieth century, Zion was served by numerous rectors, priests, and members serving as lay readers. The Reverend A.C.D. Noe served Zion for sixteen years; Miss Maud Cutler, a member of Zion, was recognized by the National Episcopal Church as one of its outstanding religious education directors. On April 2, 1977, Mrs. Wendy Raynor, a member of Zion, was ordained by the Right Reverend Hunley A. Elebash, Bishop of East Carolina, at St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church, Edenton. Mrs. Raynor was the first woman ordained in the Episcopal Church in North Carolina. In the late 70's and early 80's, Zion's membership declined. At that time, the Coalition was formed to assist small parishes such as Zion. However, in the 1990's, John Harvey (a devoted member of Zion for most of his adult life), upon his death, left an endowment fund designed to be used for perpetual upkeep of the grounds and refurbishing a memorial garden begun in 1969. The funds also provide for essential repairs, including the remodeling of the Parish Hall (now called Douglas Hall). Mr. Harvey's gift helped Zion survive the tough years, but additionally, during the 90's, an influx of retirees, many from Pamlico Plantation, "adopted" Zion, increasing the membership, but, more importantly, providing the energy and spirit needed to create the family atmosphere that Zion Church presently enjoys. Old and rich in history, Zion Episcopal Church stands today as a visible reality of the Church of Jesus Christ. The present congregation of faithful men and women has confirmed its proud and unique tradition and, under the guidance of God, will continue to grow and welcome new members. Priest-in-Charge: Reverend Barbara Chaffee Written by Emily D. Padgett Presented by Emily D. Padgett and Olive C. Douglas Revised by Emily Albera February 24, 2011
Zion Episcopal Church is fortunate to have a 13 rank tracker pipe organ. The organ was built by W. Zimmer and Sons Incorporated, of Charlotte, North Carolina. It was built in 1966 for East Carolina University (ECU) and installed in Fletcher Recital Hall. The organ was used primarily by organ students at ECU. Doug Cutler, former organist at Zion, became aware that ECU was selling the organ. He proposed that Zion buy the organ from ECU for the sanctuary at Zion. At a total cost of approximately $70,000, the vestry approved the purchase and installation costs of the organ. The Harvey Trust Fund was used to finance the project. Under the supervision of two Zimmer technicians the organ was moved from ECU to Zion. It was first located in the Parish Hall where it was painted, cleaned, and repaired. Several members of the parish worked very hard, and doubtlessly strained quite a few muscles placing the console and the pipes in the church. They included John Register, Jim Hackney, and Doug Cutler. The organ has been carefully maintained since its arrival at Zion in 1996. Since 2004, Norman Ryan of Edenton has been responsible for tuning, for voicing the organ, and for making substantial repairs to the stop action and rebuilding the pedal board. Mr. Ryan is the curator for the Perkins and Wills Memorial Organ, C.B. Fisk, Op. 126, at St. Paul�s Episcopal Church in Greenville. Thanks to efforts of many, Zion has a quality musical instrument to lead the congregation in worship and praise. Written by Dr. Jane Taylor, Organist, Zion Episcopal Church, August, 2012