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A Brief History of Zion Lutheran Church

The history of any Christian congregation has its roots in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the first Pentecost. The mission of the first witnesses of Easter was to carry Good News to the entire world. Because of such a faithful commitment to the world, in July of 1868, five men sat around a kitchen table in Kalamazoo and made plans for beginning a Lutheran congregation. The original church structure was located on Pine Street in 1869, and was attached to a one-room schoolhouse. For many of its early years, Zion struggled with financial and leadership difficulties.


With the arrival in 1898 of Pastor Mayer, ministry stabilized. Zion became affiliated with the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod in 1917, and was known locally as the "German Lutheran Church." With many other German-speaking churches, the war years caused English to become the language of the congregation. We continue to "change with the times" in terms of our methods, but the Gospel we proclaim is the same as on Pentecost. In 1923 a new brick sanctuary was built. In 1948 Pastor Mayer retired and Pastor Grother was called. In 1955, with no room to expand, Zion sold its property to Bronson Hospital and built our present sanctuary on Bronson Blvd. Pastor Grother began campus work at WMU, served as chaplain for the Fire Department, and provided worship at the State Hospital. An educational wing was added in 1962, and our recent renovations and building addition were completed in 2009.


Zion has a long history of an ecumenical, multi-faceted and energetic approach to ministry. We have always been a strong emphasis on worship, outreach, and Christian education for all ages. 60 years of outreach through Lutheran World Relief, WKZO radio, and worship for residents of the State Hospital are evidence of our members' passion for outreach and human care. Campus Ministry at WMU is further evidence of our commitment to continue the outreach of Pentecost. Our endowment fund was created 40 years ago, and has contributed well over $1 million to various mission and ministry efforts.


We have intentionally brought together a ministry team who are gifted, committed to Christ, self-starters, innovative, energetic, and enthusiastic in daily ministry. We expect all of our members to be involved in at least one ministry, and our development of ministry teams has made that goal much more of a reality. We are in an established neighborhood, bordered by the edges of downtown Kalamazoo and the campus of Western Michigan University, and see most of our growth coming from young families. We remain faithful to our Lutheran heritage, but continue to allow God's Holy Spirit to lead us through the gifts He shares, people He gathers, and opportunities He presents.


At this time we continue to maintain very successful ministries for all age groups and in many areas of spiritual growth, fellowship, and outreach. The continuing influx of people with incredible energy, faith, and abilities has kept these ministries vibrant. Our staff and congregation have a healthy relationship of mutual respect. We have a diverse congregation, represented equally by all age groups that genuinely appreciate and like each other. New members consistently comment on Zion's "warmth."


There is not enough space to share all of what is happening now, but this should give enough of a glimpse for Zion. We have four worship services each weekend, progressing from a relaxed piano based service on Saturday, a Sunday service that is very liturgical and traditional, another liturgical service based on a variety of musical styles, and a "house church" on campus that is geared toward the students. Communion is part of every worship service, and a weekly radio ministry shares music and one of our pastors' messages throughout southwest Michigan.


Zion's history will always be related to its vision, which is not about buildings but building the body of Christ. Our property, people, and resources are gifts that we believe God is entrusting to us today, so that others in the future will be touched by Zion's ministry. We trust God will bring us into His future, and bless our efforts for His sake! It's all about trusting the Easter vision. Our history is always joyfully lived in the present but pointed toward an intentional future. We are blessed to be a blessing and see our mission as finding daily ways to reach out with Jesus' love.

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