Zion to hold special service

Published 7:57 pm Friday, February 20, 2015

A special event this Sunday at Zion Christian Church will honor the history of the church and a neighboring church whose history is intimately tied with its neighbor.

“It’s not black history, but it’s our history,” said Pastor Ben Fitzgerald, who leads the church at 5200 Quaker Drive. “It’s a much more inclusive spin than what is traditionally done.”

Fitzgerald said Sunday’s event at 11:30 a.m. will honor the congregation of the Somerton Friends Meeting, which helped make it possible for Zion Christian to get started in 1867.

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“That was two years after slavery had ended, and conditions still were not to where people wanted blacks to have land in Suffolk,” Fitzgerald said. “They made it possible for Zion to get that land.”

A Somerton Friends parishioner named Elijah Hare was the main person pushing for the church to receive land, Fitzgerald said.

In addition to honoring the Somerton Friends, the church will pay tribute to four black people who, collectively, have given many years of service to the city.

Parks and Recreation Director Lakita Watson, Fire and Rescue Chief Cedric Scott, retired police Lt. Margaret Earls, and the family of the first black social worker in the city all will be honored.

“We expect the vice mayor to be in attendance and it to be a fairly large crowd,” said Al Chandler, the chair of the event. “We are expecting it to be pretty large, especially for a little country church.”

Chandler said the church does a special event during Black History Month every year, but “this year we wanted to do something different.”

The church has set a goal of 80 new members and 100 people brought to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ this year.

“We’re looking to do some very different things this year to try to attract new people into the church,” Chandler said. “What mainly started this particular service, when you see all the racial tension and racial divide in the country, we wanted to have a history program that is a positive.”

The church’s website is zionsuffolk.org.