Saturday, January 26, 2019

The End of an Era

Zion's final Holy Communion is tomorrow, January 27th. It begins at 2 pm, and all are invited to join with us. (We chose that time of day so pastors and members of other congregations could celebrate with us.) The weatherman's not been very co-operative, but we've cleared the snow and ice, and it will be warm inside.

I'll be singing Matins at 10 am, because I want one more time to ring the bells to call the neighborhood to prayer at our regular Sunday morning hour. The doors will be open for whomever wishes to join me.

Here's what I wrote for the Sunday Bulletin:


This afternoon’s service concludes the life of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church of Peoria as a worshiping community. Our story began in 1882 when St. Paul Lutheran Church, Peoria, established a parochial and Sunday school for German-speaking residents of the South Side. They rented this northwest corner of Easton and Hayes, and built a schoolhouse that was dedicated that fall. Soon afterwards an Assistant Pastor at St. Paul’s, who taught at the school, began preaching here Sundays. The conditions of the neighborhood, and thus the school, were difficult for several years, but in 1890 St. Paul’s and the Iowa Synod re-committed to both by purchasing a lot one block over on Faraday Street and moving the schoolhouse there.

In 1893, Seminarian Wilhelm Schmitt, interning at St. Paul’s and also the school teacher, was ordained and called to establish a congregation on the South Side. The Easton and Hayes lot was purchased and the mission congregation began to build a church. Die Deutsche Evangelisch Lutherische Zions Gemeinde organized on Reformation Day 1894. The Kirchenbuch (Parish Register) lists 87 souls at Zion’s beginning. The church building was dedicated January 26, 1895.

English language worship was introduced for Sunday evenings in 1897 by Zion’s third pastor, Emil H. Rausch, and in 1900 Sunday School began being conducted in English. While Zion was still on mission support herself, her fourth pastor, C. August Decker, established the mission in Bartonville that in 1909 would organize as Bethel Lutheran Church. Under Zion’s fifth pastor, Sebastian J. Altpeter, the Zion-Bethel parish became self-supporting in 1912. Confirmation classes switched to English in 1915, and twice-a-month English services began on Sunday mornings. By 1920 Zion’s main Sunday services were in English; German services continued to be offered twice-a-month until Good Friday 1935. Also in 1920 Bethel independently called her own pastor. “Reverend Altpeter” remained at Zion and would serve her for thirty-one years, 1911-1942.

Plans for a new church had begun, and in 1922 the basement portion of the current church was constructed and dedicated for worship. Construction re-commenced in 1926, and the “New Zion” was dedicated April 24, 1927. The Parish Hall and new Parsonage were dedicated in 1956, and the parking lot was made in 1968.

In addition to Bethel, Zion joined in the organization of Faith Lutheran Church, Washington, in 1947, and Peace Lutheran Church (now Grace and Peace), Peoria, in 1982. Zion was among the founding congregations of the Lutheran Home of Greater Peoria in 1963, and has continued to support it in its expansion to Lutheran Hillside Village. Thirteen pastors have been called to serve Zion, along with an Associate in Ministry, Karen Wong, who was Missionary to Prisons 2008-11. At least seven sons and daughters of the parish have been ordained as Lutheran pastors. The 3-volume Parish Register records 1957 baptisms, 1591 confirmations, 1141 marriages, and 1775 burials. The stories of Zion are countless, and her legacy continues through Zionites across Central Illinois to the ends of the earth. Soli Deo Gloria!! (To God alone be the glory!!)

5 comments:

Nicole A.M. Collins: Faith-Illuminations said...

I'm terribly sorry to hear about this Pr. Steven. Prayers for you and your flock.

Paul Bellan-Boyer said...
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Paul Bellan-Boyer said...

May God hallow the day and all that flows from it. God's faithfulness rules over time and space. May all the saints be blessed.

Pr. Tibbetts, thanks to you for your service to God's people, and may God's grace renew you, lead you, and be with you always.

Organfan said...
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Mary Ragna Yetter said...

I pray for God's grace and peace to move all of you forward. As children of God, we know his blessings are with you. Just takes a while for the plan to unfold!