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Zion Church - Crossroads Landmark has Centennial

By dhowell - Posted on 03 January 2008

A church in the Manchester area is celebrating its centennial this year. A century has rolled by since the first bricks were laid for the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Freedom Township at Rogers Corners, 10 miles northeast of Manchester at the intersection of Fletcher and Waters Roads.

On November 20, 1865, members of St. Thomas Evangelical Lutheran Church considered it wise and in the best interest of everyone that they organize into a separate congregation. But it was not until 1867, in May, that John K. Schenk started to erect the building which cost $3,213. So from November 1865 to May 1867, the Rev. Mr. Hildner of Bethel Church in Freedom served the congregation.

The first church building committee included John Roller, Jacob Eschebach, John Schenk and Michael Hinderer.

In the early days, Zion Church was served jointly with other churches but in August 1873, the Rev. John Baumann took over as a full time minister. The congregation purchased the Emminger property and provided a parsonage for its pastor and a school for the religious instruction of its children.

The same church bell in the steeple that was installed 90 years ago still rings to call the members to worship. The cost was $598. A new parsonage was built in 1889 and the following year a number of members left the congregation and organized the neighboring St. John's Evangelical Church.

The Ladies Aid, organized in 1895, still serves the church today.

Members sometimes encounter problems as they look at the records of the church because of a language barrier. All services and business until 1926 was conducted in German. At that time some special services were in English. Beginning in 1930, regular English services were instituted and by 1951 only one service a month was conducted in German. Today, German is no longer used.

Not all churches have a band, but the Rev. H. Hemster organized one in 1893. In 1909, a major building program provided for an addition to make room for the altar, sacristy and organ. Art glass windows were added.

The church planned its golden jubilee festival for July 1, 1917, and everyone was working diligently when a cyclone on June 6, 1917, ripped through the area and ruined a part of the church and parsonage and several homes belonging to members Christian Grau, Michael Schiller, Martin Wenk, John Wenk and Edward Koch.

But the German pioneers were not to be discouraged. With increased effort they kept working for the jubilee celebration which took place September 16, 1917 with a rededication of the reconstructed church.

The by-laws of the church were translated from German to English in 1942 when the church celebrated its 75th anniversary.

The parish hall plans had to be delayed because of World War II, but it was constructed across the road in 1948 at a cost of $38,818 and dedicated a year later.

Longest in the service of Zion Evangelical was the Rev. M. W. Bruckner—from 1926 to 1955 when he retired. He is now 90 years and is taking part in the centennial celebration services.

In 1962 the church was extensively redecorated and the choir loft enlarged. This year the Rev. C. J. Renner retired after 8 years because of ill health. On June 11, 1967, the Rev. John R. Morris was installed as the new pastor.

People of the community are invited to a community service Sunday, Sept. 17, when Rev. Ronald J. Diener of St. John's Lutheran Church, Bridgewater, will lead the 7 p.m. service.

A jubilee centennial service will bring to a close the series of summer centennial celebrations with the 10:15 a.m. service Sunday, September 24, at which the Rev. B. Piper of Zion Lutheran Church in Ann Arbor will be the speaker. He is vice president of the Michigan District of the American Lutheran Church. The church centennial committee are Martha Eiseman, Evelyn Haab, Wanda Heydlauff, George Prinzing and Norman Wenk.

If the Germans who founded this country church a century ago could stop in at the centennial celebration they would be confused, for no German is spoken there today.

Improvements for the celebration include sidewalks and curbing at the church and parish hall and a new roof on the hall. But the industrious Germans of a century ago, without a doubt, would be delighted with the well-kept buildings and attractive lawns at the Zion Lutheran Cnurch at the crossroads.