THE EARLY HISTORY OF THE ZION LUTHERAN CHURCH
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Through the Holy Spirit, He
"calls, gathers, enlightens, sanctifies the whole Christian Church on eart, and pre, serves it
in the one true faith." Fifty years of consecrated labors have gone by and we are still called
to work for the extension of Christ's Kingdom. May the remembrance of divine blessings
in the past be a mighty incentive for greater zeal on the part of all members of ZION
Congregation. The founders of this congregation were concerned with laying foundations
and maintaining them. They wished to establish a congregation and fellowship through
which those people who emigrated from foreign lands, might receive the Gospel in the
language of their forefathers, which was German.
Much of the history of ZION
Congregation has been written only in the hearts of her members: their devotion to God,
their sacrificial service, their vison for a spiritual heritage to be passed on to their chldren.
Some of her history has been written in the hearts of those shepherds of the flock; - her
faithful pastors, who also through God's grace led His people. Undoubtedly, there were
sacrifices on the part of people and pastors alike. But the Church of today stands as a
living monument to the early picneers and settlers, who were motivated by the love of
Christ. The Church Record Books show under Ministerial Acts: Baptisms - 651;
Confirmations - 524; Marriages - 156; and Funerals - 149. As we recall the fact that the
Word was preached and taught; that the sacraments were administered, and that 651
souls were received by the Sacrament of Baptism, and that 524 youth and others pledged
new allegiance to Christ through the rite of Confirmation, we realize that the influence of
Christian training of pastors, parents, and teachers has gone out into the world, and God
alone knows what blessings have radiated from "ZION'S HILL!"
In May, 1905, -a group of
people of German descent, who had emigrated to this country from Russia, and who had
settled in Trego County, organized as a Lutheran Congregation. For several years,
services were held in the Excelsior School House. The charter members of the Zion
Evangelical Lutheran Church were as follows, listing the names of the heads of families;
Christ Rohn, Friedrich Margheim, John Henry Deines, Jon J. Deines, John F. Deines,
John J. Berschauer, Henry Schneider, Fred Dietz, George Deines George A. Mai, Peter
Mai, David Deines, Jacob Deines, J. J. Bauer, Adam Mai. and Henry Fabrizius. The first
Councilmen were: John Henry Deines, John J. Berschauer, and Friedrich Margheim. The
first pastor who served the congregation was the Rev. Gerhardt Bunge, who was also
pastor at the Bethlehem Lutheran Church in WaKeeney.
The first church building was completed in 1908 at a cost of $1400-$1500. It was dedicated on May 3, 1908. The
pastor, the Rev. A. H. Buddenhagen, was the officiating minister at the time of dedication,
and he served as pastor from 1908 until 1911. Pastors Fritz Theil and John Hagen then
served the church for a number of years, and plans were made for building of a parsonage
during their pastorates, so that the minister might live in the midst of the congregation and
render a greater service to the people. Previously a portion of land for a cemetery had
been purchased from Mr. Charles F. and Mrs. Grace Folkers, and was located one half
mile south of the present church. This transaction was made October 23, 1905. Two years
later, on October 29, 1907, a portion of land was deeded to the congregation by the same
persons, as a site for the church building. When the time came for the building of the
parsonage, two acres of land were then purchased from Mr. and Mrs. Charles F. Folkers
on August 5, 1916. The parsonage was dedicated soon after the arrival of Pastor A.
Finkbeiner. It was a two story building.
From time to time, repairs and improvements
were made at the parsonage, and in 1948, it was further modernized. The congregation
experienced a steady growth and after a number of years, a larger church building was
needed. Plans were discussed, and work was begun on a new church in 1919. This
building, which cost approximately $18,000 was dedicated on June 13, 1920, and serves
the congregation to the present time. Improvements and repairs were made on the
property from time to time. The Rev. Fred Loeffler became pastor of the congregation
after Pastor Finkbeiner. The congregation was a member of the former Iowa Synod until
1922. Then application was made to the former German Nebraska Synod for
membership. In 1923, the congregation was received into the German Nebraska Synod,
later the Midwest Synod. Pastors from that synod who served the congregation were:
Leonard Hopp, Otto Bergfelder, Paul Waldschmidt, William Zahlis, and Rudolph
Moehring. In 1954, the former synods of Nebraska, Kansas, and the Midwest were
merged into the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of the Central States, and Zion Church then
became a member of this new synod.
At first the language used in the worship services
was exclusively German. In the fall of 1947, some English worship services were
introduced, and in 1949, it was resolved to have the services in the German and English
languages on alternate Sundays. An active women's socitey was organized in 1935. This
society has helped in the work of the local church, and also in the missionary program of
the church at ome and abroad. They have contributed to the benevolent work of the church
at Mission Festivals; sent CARE packages to the needy in foreign lands; packed clothing
for Lutheran World Relief. They have helped in the support of Tabitha Home; Central
Seminary, various welfare funds, and given to the hospital in WaKeeney, and to the
synodical Women's Missionary Society. For the local church they provided such needs as
a Pulpit Bible, two stained glass windows, candle lighter, offering plates, paraments
chairs for choir, paint and tile for church basement, and the electrically lighted bulletin
board, which burns each night to proclaim that Jesus is The Light of the World.
In August, 1955, they voted to affiliate with the women's organization of the synod and the United
Lutheran Church in America. To help with the instruction of the children a fine Sunday
School is carried on. Some classes in the English language were begun in 1943, and in
1945 all Sunday School classes were conducted in English. .Each year also, a Daily
Vacation Bible School is conducted for a two week's period with sessions lasting
throughout the day. The Sunday School has also helped with improvements in the
property, and with gifts for the local church and benevolent gifts. Other active organizations
are the Luther League and Choir. The Luther League has served the youth locally, and
taken part in synodical work. A Hammond Electric Organ was purchased in April, 1949, at
a cost of $2435.00, and has added much to the worship and praise of the Lord.
In October, 1954, following the resignation of the Rev. Rudolph Moehring, the congregation
took a decisive step forward, when they decided to tear down the old two-story parsonage
which had been erected in 1916, and was in need of extensive repairs. Without resident
pastoral leadership, they constructed a beautiful new ranch style parsonage, which is
conservatively valued at $25,000. The actual cost was much less because most of the
labor was donated by members, including many hours of work by the ladies.
parsonage has a large living room with two picture winctows and two smaller windows for
which beautiful draw drapes were made by the ladies. The study also has draw drapes
made by their willing hands. There is also a dining room, large kitchen, bath room and two
bedrooms, and spacious closets and cupboards. In the basement is another bedroom,
shower bath room, utility, and storage room. The woodwork is all blonde, with walls
finished in colored plaster, and the floors are of polished oak in all rooms with the
exception of the bath and kitchen which have rubber tile and inlaid linoleum floors
respectively. This parsonage was dedicated on Sunday, June 19th, 1955, when the Rev.
Max H. Geissler was installed as the 12th pastor of the congregation. The Rev. T. H.
Althof, president of the Southwest Conference of Evangelical Lutheran Synod of the
Central States, was the officiating pastor at the installation. Following this service, the
congregation proceeded in a body to the parsonage, where Pastor Geissler performed
the act of dedication.
The congregation has adopted a new constitution which will go into
effect in January, 1956. Although most of those who gave freely of their energy, time, and
substance to the work of this congregation in the past fifty years can not be named, it does
not mean their work was not important and unappreciated. -We would remember with
gratitude the contributions made in the work of the Kingdom by many Sunday School
workers, church councilmen, faithful officers of organizations, and the loyal service of
members. As we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of this ZION EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN
CHURCH, we not only look back over past history, but we look forward with faith and hope
in the promises of God; and with Christian love in our hearts, we seek to cooperate with
the eternal purposes of God.