The current Zion Lutheran Church in Imperial at 1305 Broadway, dedicated in 1980, stands along Imperial’s main street, as the congregation celebrates the church’s 100th year. (Courtesy photo)
Zion Lutheran Church recalls its 100-year history
Zion Lutheran Church is the location for the next 100th anniversary event at the church, one of many it has been holding all year.
On Sunday, Dr. Larry Rast, president of the Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind., will be the guest preacher. Divine service will be at 9 a.m. with a potluck following Bible Class.
In a review of church history, there were actually two Lutheran churches in Chase County in 1899, one in the Champion Valley and one in Imperial.
In 1886, Reverend Oesch of McCook explored southwest Nebraska and northwest Kansas and held Lutheran church services in various places. In 1899, services were held at the courthouse in Imperial. The pastor traveled to Imperial on the train. In 1900, Immanuel Lutheran Church was organized in the Champion Valley. Founders were Henry Greim, John Foerster, Fred Koester, Jacob Roller, Almond and Fred Stutheit and F. Timm.
In 1904, Pastor Theo Hoemann was the pastor for a church south of Trenton, Champion and Imperial. His duties were to preach and teach school. He came to the Champion Valley via team and buggy about once a month. Services were held in the School District 14 building.
In 1910, the church was completed. The cost including the bell was $1,00. Dedication was on Aug. 7, 1910. Services were held in the German language in the morning and in the afternoon, English was used.
From 1924-1943, a parochial school was maintained.
On Sept. 25, 1948, the amalgamation of Zion Lutheran of Imperial and Immanuel Lutheran of Champion Valley took place. The Immanuel Church property was sold to a consolidated school district. The 10-acre cemetery plot was sold and all the graves except two were moved to Mount Hope Cemetery in Imperial in 1974.
In 1899, Zion Lutheran Church in Imperial had its first communion service with 12 communing. On Aug. 22, 1917, the congregation was incorporated. The voters also decided to build a new church in Imperial.
In 1918, statistics showed that Zion Lutheran Church numbered 132 souls, 66 communicants and 24 voting members. In 1924, the congregational minutes began to be kept in English. The first resident pastor to be installed was Candidate Fred Elze.
A parsonage was built in 1926 at a cost of $2535. Organized Sunday School was started in 1926.
In 1972, the current parsonage at 211 East 14th Street was built. In 1979, the voters decided to build a new church. During its construction, worship services were held in the new 4-H Building at the Chase County fairgrounds.
Zion paid to have the concrete floor added as well as donated three old church furnaces to the 4-H building to help create a restroom facility in the complex. The church kitchen sink and some of the basement cabinets were also taken to the 4-H building and left there as practical rent on the use of the facility.
On Nov. 2, 1980, the current church building was dedicated. In 2009, Dr. J Gordon Christensen notified the congregation that he was taking a position in Council Bluffs, Iowa, after completing 40-plus years as Director of Music and organist at Zion.
In 2011, Little Longhorns Daycare began using the church facilities.
During the past 100 years, Zion and Immanuel have been blessed with 18 pastors. In 2008, a vicarage program was started and Zion has had 10 vicars since. Pastor David Kahle is the current pastor and James Peterson is the current vicar.