The Meeting House, mid-twentieth century
Interior of Meeting House, early twentieth century (Image courtesy of St. John United Church of Christ, Naperville)
“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports…. ‘tis substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government.” President Washington’s Farewell Address of 1796 set the tone for the evangelical fervor of the 19th century which likely influenced Joe Naper’s concept of an ideal community. In Ohio, where Naper lived before moving to Illinois, religious revivals were commonplace—as they were all over the country. The general consensus was that religion was good for democracy. Although not an evangelical himself, Naper, being a man of his time, donated the land for the construction of this church—the first to be built in DuPage County. The Germans who built Zion Evangelical Church were pioneers from Lancaster, Pennsylvania and immigrants fleeing the failed revolution in Germany. Although it housed a German speaking congregation, the building, in the spirit of 19th century evangelicalism, was open to preachers from other denominations and also used as a community meetinghouse.