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History

History of Zion Lutheran Church

 

 

 Zion Lutheran Church was organized in the fall of 1886 by Rev. Claus Schroeder, the pastor of St. John's Church in South Litchfield. Services were first held in a hall located on the east side of the public library and later in the church building of the United Lutheran congregation. The names of the members who organized the congregation were not preserved in the early records. Soon after organizing, the congregation purchased the old Methodist Church including the organ and other equipment.

A school was started in 1888 and the first pastor, Rev. Fred Bergen, was also the first teacher. He served for 16 years and at his death in 1904 the congregation numbered about 25 families. Faced with the need of a new church, as well as a school building, the congregation erected a two story building on the site of the old church. This structure, at Union and Madison, was dedicated in 1906 and was used for 36 years. The upper floor was used for services and the ground floor as the school. This building now houses the Stieren State Farm Insurance business.

As a part of the centennial celebration in 1986, the inscribed gable stone was removed from the 1906 building and is now a part of the church wall by the portrait of Zion's pastors of 1886 - 1986. The church doubled in communicant membership during the years 1920 - 1940 under the leadership of Rev. J. L. Strelow. This created the need for a larger building and in the spring of 1940, property was purchased at 1300 N. State. Groundbreaking ceremonies were held in August 1941 and the new church was dedicated in May 1942.

In December 1976, a committee began to study the need for a new organ. The Wicks Organ Company of Highland was chosen to build a 17 rank organ at a cost of $45,000. A special dedication recital was held on March 11, 1979.

In the spring of 1993 a major refurbishing of the church facility began. For a number of weeks services were held in the school gymnasium while new padded pews and carpeting were installed. Countless hours were spent cleaning and freshening the sanctuary.

 

HISTORY OF IMPORTANT DATES FOR ZION LUTHERAN CHURCH

 Litchfield, Illinois

 

1886 - Zion Lutheran Church was organized Dec. 12 by Rev. Claus Schroeder, Pastor of St. John's in South Litchfield. Mr. W. Steinmeyer was the church's first Secretary and Superintendent of Sunday School.

1888 - Rev. Fred Bergen became the first resident Pastor. Services were held in the Old Methodist church at Madison and Union Avenue. Rev. Bergen served the congregation as both Pastor and Teacher of the Christian Day school for sixteen years.

1906 - A new structure was erected with the ground floor used for a school and the upper floor for the church proper. Pastor Gustav Stiegemeyer served as pastor after the death of Pastor Bergen for six years.

1911 -Rev. Theodore Iben of Enid, Oklahoma accepted a call to Zion to replace Rev. Stiegemeyer. He was installed on November 14.

 

1924 -  After a long vacancy, Rev. J.L. Strelow accepted a call to Zion and faithfully served as pastor for twenty eight years. Under his guidance the church doubled in growth and found the need for a new and larger house of worship. Dedication of the new building at 1301 N. State Street was held on May 17,1942. In June 1940 Mr. Harold J. Repp became principal of Zion's school, and in 1948 a new, two room school was erected west of the church, with a third room added the following year.

 

1952 - Rev. C.L. Klewer filled the vacancy following Rev. Strelow and served the church until his death in 1961 . Rev. Edwin W. Blumenkamp was Zion's sixth pastor and served until 1963 at which time he accepted a call to California.

1963 - Rev. Laurence Heuchert was called to fill the vacancy and was installed July 14, 1963. During his pastorate a new school facility was completed. Dedication of the new structure, which adjoins the church, was held on April 30, 1972. Principal Harold Repp died before the completion of the new school. Mr. Philip Wenzel became Zion's new principal. The school served grades 1 through 8 with three full time teachers besides Mr. Wenzel.

1973 - Rev. Myron G. Maltz began the new year as Zion's new pastor after the departure of Rev. Heuchert. Rev. Maltz served the fast growing congregation for six years. During his leadership there was a need to replace the church organ. The new organ, built by Wicks Organ Co, of Highland, IL was dedicated on January 16, 1979.

1980 - Pastor Everett G. Grese, from the Missouri Synod Headquarters in St. Louis, filled the church's vacancy and was installed as Pastor on January 20,

1980. He retired in 1982. In 1980 Mr. Thomas Weiss was called to be Principal of Zion Lutheran School, following the principalships of Mr. Dennis Lahti and Mr. William Lubben.

1982 - Rev. John W. Oberdeck was called to Zion and installed October 3, 1982. A request of the congregation for a Vicar was granted, and Vicar Mark Nordman was assigned in 1985 to serve for one year. Vicar John Luther served the following year and Vicar Wally Becker was assigned for one year in 1987. The following year he became Zion's first Assistant Pastor.

1989 - Pastor Oberdeck accepted a call to Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, and Pastor Becker accepted the call to be Zion's Administrative Pastor. Graduate Michael Hart was assigned to be our Assistant Pastor and served Zion for two years.

1989 - Pastor Oberdeck accepted a call to Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, and Pastor Becker accepted the call to be Zion's Administrative Pastor. Graduate Michael Hart was assigned to be our Assistant Pastor and served Zion for two years.

1992 - Rev. Daniel Krause became our Assistant Pastor and Zion celebrated the 50th anniversary of the church facilities and the 20th anniversary of the school building. The first performance of “The Promise” a musical drama on the life of Christ was performed in May. This was preceded by performances of “The Witness” in 1989 & 1990 and “The Victor” in 1991.

1993 - An extensive refurbishing of the church was completed in 1993. The old stage area in the Parish Hall was removed and new heating and cooling units were installed. The wooden pews were replaced with padded pews and carpeting was installed.

1996 - Pastor Daniel Krause accepted a call to St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, Saginaw, MI in January and in August of 1996 Pastor Becker accepted a call to Redeemer Lutheran at Springfield, MO leaving the pastoral offices vacant. Rev. Daniel Barbey, from Immanuel, Mt. Olive, IL was the vacancy pastor till December, 1996 when Rev. Donald Langhoff accepted the call to be Zion’s Administrative Pastor.

1999 - In July 1999 Graduate Jonathan Bontke was assigned and installed as Zion’s Assistant Pastor and Principal Thomas Weiss accepted a call to St. John’s Lutheran School, Rochester, MI. Mr. John Schaff filled in as interim principal for one year before accepting the call to be Zion’s principal.

2006 - In June, 2006, Mrs. Sharon Cordani became Zion’s day school principal after Mr. John Schaff decided to return to a teaching only position.

2007 - In June, 2007 the Administrative Pastor position became vacant when Pastor Donald Langhoff retired from the ministry after serving the Lord faithfully for 36 years.

2008 - Rev. Jonathan C. Bontke accepted the call as Zion’s Administrative Pastor and was installed on May 4, 2008.

2009 - A request of the congregation for a Vicar was granted, and Vicar Jared Nies was assigned to serve for one year.

2010 - A request of the congregation for a Vicar was granted and Vicar Jordan Andreasen was assigned to serve for one year.  Former Vicar Jared Nies after graduating from the Seminary was assisgned to St. John Lutheran Church, Gregory, South Dakota.

2011 -  A request of the congregation for a Vicar was granted and Vicar Jonathan Crawford was assigned to serve for one year.Former Vicar Jordan Andreasen after graduating from the Seminary was assigned the dual parish of St. John and Trinity Lutheran Churces, Wagner and Fairfax, South Dakota.

2012 - A request of the congregation for a Vicar was granted and Vicar Andrew Schlund was assigned to serve for one year.  

2013 - A reguest of the congregation was granted and Vicar Matthew Resner was assigned to serve for one year..  Former Vicar Jonathan Crawford, after graduating from the Seminary in St. Louis, was assigned to St. Paul Lutheran Church, Dubuque, IA.

2014 - Rev. Jonathan Bontke resigned his position as Administrative Pastor on June 30, 2014 to relocate to Austin, Texas, due to his wifes transfer there with the Veterans Administration.  Rev. William Engfehr was assigned as Interim Pastor on July 15, 2014. .Principal & teacher, Sharon Cordani, retired in July 31, 2014 to spend more time with her grandchildren. Mr. Wesley Jones, Collinsville, IL, accepted the position of principal and was installed on August 3, 2014.

 

2015 - On March 22, 2015 the last performance of "The Promise" was done ending a 25 year run.  

 

 

 

Rev. Fred Kraemer accepted our call to be our shepherd and was installed as Pastor on Sunday, January 18, 2015.

 

 



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