The history of a Christian congregation is really the story of God at work among us. The beginning of our Zion congregation mirrors the early pioneers’ hunger for the Word of God.
The William Riggert family emigrated from Germany to Lemont, Illinois, in the early 1870’s. They became members of St. Matthew Evangelical Lutheran Church. Then, in 1879-1880 they moved to a farm near Enemy Creek, a few miles south of Mitchell, SD. Shortly after, William wrote to St. Matthew’s Church requesting that a minister be sent to Mitchell to undertake missionary work.
In response to this, a minister came from Chicago sometime in 1881. The minister traveled around the countryside staying with various settlers. A Lutheran Christian community formed slowly.
According to records of the (then) Minnesota-Dakota District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, as early as 1881 pastors and missionaries affiliated with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod began coming to Mitchell to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. German speaking people were then served in their language and services were also conducted in English for the Norwegian Lutherans.
The only information we have regarding the establishment of an organized congregation is this brief note stating: “Founded November 27, 1892.”
At first, the congregation held services in members’ homes. They rented buildings to use for worship services as the congregation grew. In 1907, Zion reported to the SD District Convention that the congregation had 80 souls and 11 voting members.
In 1910, Zion purchased a its first church building from the Congregational Church for $400.00. It took another $300.00 to move the church to its 822 East First Avenue location. That night a violent windstorm blew it off its foundation and the mover agreed to lift it back in place for another $75.00. (This original church building was dismantled in 1980.)
Zion continued to grow from its beginnings as a mission congregation. Zion reported to the SD District in 1919 that it no longer required the financial support of the District. In 1922, Zion had 274 members, 175 communicant members and an average attendance of 125 members.
The church we know today.
Moreover, the congregation continued to grow. In 1946 Zion purchased property on East 3rd Avenue and construction of the new church building began in 1952.
Then, on July 12, 1953, the congregation closed the doors of the old church. Led by Pastor Lutze, the congregation walked to the new building and officially moved in. Finally, our beautiful stained glass window were installed in 1963.
In 1961, the congregation purchased property adjacent to the church to build an education building. In May 1962, Zion dedicated the current building. Then again, in 1991, the church expanded by adding on the north narthex. This addition allowed more space to gather before and after services.
Zion currently has a baptized membership of nearly 800. For the growth that we have experienced as a congregation, we thank God. It is our prayer that we will always continue to remember that we live by the Grace of God and to the Glory of God.