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. Consequently they became members of St. Matthew Evangelical Lutheran Church. Then, in 1879-1880 they moved to a farm a few miles south of Mitchell, SD, near Enemy Creek. Shortly after, William wrote to St. Matthew’s Church asking if a minister could be sent to Mitchell to undertake missionary work.
For this reason, sometime in 1881 a minister was sent from Chicago. The minister would travel around the countryside staying with various settlers and slowly a Lutheran Christian community was formed.
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 regarding the establishment of these people into an organized congregation is a brief note in the records of the congregation that states: “Founded November 27, 1892.”
Originally worship services were held in congregation members’ homes. Then, as the congregation grew, buildings were rented to use for worship services. In 1907, at the SD District Convention, Zion was reported to have 80 souls and 11 voting members.
In 1910, Zion purchased a its first church building from the Congregational Church for $400.00. It then cost another $300.00 to move the church to its 822 East First Avenue location. That night a violent windstorm blew it off its foundation. Afterward the mover agreed to lift it back in place for another $75.00. (This original church building was dismantled in 1980.)
From its beginnings as a mission congregation Zion continued to grow. By the 1919 report of the SD District it was shown that the congregation at Mitchell no longer required the financial support of the District. In 1922, the congregation consisted of 274 members, 175 communicant members and an average attendance of 125 members.
The church we know today.
Moreover, the congregation continued to grow. As a consequence, in 1946 property was purchased for a new church 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 then 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. This building was dedicated in May 1962. 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.