Ruth A.M.E. Zion Church, at the corner of Connelly Boulevard and Sterling Avenue in Sharon, will have served the community for 125 years come May 25.
Special services and guest speakers are scheduled to mark the anniversary. Theme is “Celebrating a Church Built on Faith, Hope and Love,” based on First Corinthians 13:13.
A Ten Commandments service and luncheon are planned for 11 a.m. May 25. The 11 a.m. service May 26 will feature the Rev. Arthur L. Holloway II, pastor of St. Luke A.M.E. Zion Church in New Castle, as guest speaker. At 4 p.m., Rev. Terrance Harrison, pastor of Valley Baptist Church in Farrell, will speak.
The celebration will conclude with a revival May 29-31, with Minister Shiloh Johnson, interim pastor of New Trinity Baptist Church in Akron, Ohio, serving as revivalist at the 7 p.m. services.
Longtime church pastor is Rev. Geraldine D. Williams.
Ruth Church, as its members sometime call it, was founded in 1888 and holds claim as the oldest African American church in the Shenango Valley. It’s early beginnings started in a building the size of a two-car garage in 1892 after having met in various homes. The building was located on Ellsworth Street on the west side of Sharon and served the congregation until 1899 when a larger building was erected on the same site. Monies to pay for the church were raised by holding camp meetings and dinners.
One camp meeting was advertised by Fredonia Houston, who, using a hired horse and buggy, took a bucket of paste and posted hand bills on telephone poles throughout the area.
In 1910, a home was purchased on Lucy Street in Masury and served the first church parsonage.
In 1923 the building on Ellsworth was sold and the money used to erect the church that stands at its present location.
The beacon church has endured the Great Depression and repeated flooding in downtown Sharon until the Shenango Dam was built.
The A.M.E. Zion church was founded and organized in 1796, calling itself the “Freedom Church” because individuals stood before God as free men and women. Some had put their lives in jeopardy for social justice, including James Varick, founder of the denomination, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglas and Soujourner Truth.
Ruth Church is part of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, which numbers more than 3,000 churches in America and overseas, with an active membership of some 1.5 million people.
The A.M.E. Zion Church is governed by 12 bishops who oversee 12 Episcopal districts. Ruth Church is in the Mid-Atlantic I Episcopal District under the direction of the Rev. Louis Hunter Sr. Bishops are elected by the common church at a General Conference held every four years.
Ruth Church goes forth so that many may have freedom to worship his God, observe his beliefs and keep mindful that an eternal kingdom awaits the true believer.