The Zion Lutheran Church is heading into its 100th year of worship this upcoming Sunday. So, there's no better time to learn about this important part of our community and its spiritual leader, Pastor Rod Klinzing, one of the nicest gentlemen you'll ever meet.
We asked Pastor Rod a few questions about the year-long celebration and where the Church has been and is going. It's an insightful and entertaining interview!
Here it is...
On November 6th you’ll kick-off a year-long celebration of the Church’s 100th year. What will take place on the 6th?
The 100th Anniversary Committee selected this Sunday, November 6th, as the perfect time to kick off a year-long celebration of Zion Lutheran Church’s one hundred years of ministry in Gasport.
Several of our members have been working hard the past few years to put together a Memorial Garden located in the front lawn of the church to honor the “saints” of Zion who have played such an important role in our lives. And so, as we conclude our 10:30am worship service on this All Saints Sunday, we will gather at the monument and the baptismal font in the garden to dedicate this Memorial Garden to the glory of God and to honor the Zion saints who have gone before us.
Memorial coins have been printed and inscribed with the names of all those saints and we hope to see as many family members and friends as possible come to this dedication to deposit those coins into the baptismal font.
Beneath the font, encased in cement, is a vault that will hold those coins forever! Coins of future saints will also be deposited and their memories held in our hearts till we meet again!
What sort of events will take place over the next 12 months?
Over the next twelve months we will live celebrate and live out our theme, “One Hundred Years of Sharing God’s Love.” Each Sunday service will include a hymn that celebrates God’s love for us – a love we share with others. The childrens choir will sing a monthly song focusing on love.
Many of our annual events – the Sunday School Christmas Program, Over Seventy Dinner, Mid-Winter Picnic, etc. – will reflect back on our one hundred years as a congregation.
A very special Confirmation Sunday is being planned in June, a memory book is being published, a CD is being produced – just to name a very few items that will make this coming year special.
Perhaps one of the most significant items to mention is that we want to remember our roots as a farming community and as a church that began as one serving that community. We will do a year-long fund drive for a program of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America called God’s Global Barnyard. We will raise funds to establish a farm in one or more of over sixty countries around the world where people are living in poverty, including our own United States. As an example, chicks are ten for $10; ducks are $20; pigs are $30; cows are $500. The sky is the limit!
Of course, we will conclude our year-long celebration next October with a special worship service at church followed by a dinner at the Gasport Fire Hall.
Can you give us a quick history of the Church?
Zion’s humble beginnings go back to the Mill District School on East Slayton Settlement Road in 1912. A small group of German farmers got tired of hitching up the horses and buggies and making the trek to Wolcottsville every Sunday, so they asked the Rev. John Knuebel of Trinity Lutheran Church in Wolcottsville to come up here to lead them in worship on Sunday afternoons. He did so for the outrageous salary of one dollar a service! And, of course, the service was in German! The names of the founding families were Becker, Coulson, Dettbarn, Schlegel, Wollenberg, and Wruck.
On May 11, 1915 the congregation was officially incorporated as “Evangelical Lutheran Zion’s Church”. Shortly thereafter a church building erected in 1878 on Central Avenue in Gasport was purchased from the German Evangelical Society, whose congregation was merging with one in Lockport, for the sum of $1000. That building is still in use, having gone through several renovations and additions in the years since. For those who might be interested, I believe the purchase price would be slightly higher now!
For much of its history, Zion shared its pastor with other neighboring Lutheran congregations. In addition to Pastor Kneubel we have Theophilus Berner, John Stender, Theodore Kuehner, Herman Ewald, Paul Nemeschy, and Carl Scheidt. On October 27, 1968 the congregation extended a call to its first full-time resident pastor, Raymond Ideus, who served until December 1981. I came on board as pastor on July 1, 1982 and am looking forward to celebrating my 30th year with Zion during their 100th anniversary celebration!
How many parishioners now call the Church home?
Over 530 people call Zion their home. I would be more precise, but that one church mouse and its family keeps scooting back and forth between us and Covenant United Church of Christ. (At least they know how to avoid the neighborhood cats!)
Tell us a little about the Sunday services and some of the other activities offered by the Church...
We offer two services each Sunday morning: 8am for the early risers and 10:30am for everybody who wants breakfast at the Talk of the Town before worshiping! Sunday school for all ages is held between the services.
Currently we have an active Youth Group that meets several times a month for fun and games and service to the church and community.
WELCA is our Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America group that provides the congregation with many social activities.
WHO is our Women Helping Others group that strives to meet the needs of groups and individuals in our immediate eastern Niagara area.
GOHL – Gasport’s Own Healthy Lifestyles – is a small but dedicated group that meets weekly for learning and support.
A Thursday Night Fellowship Group meets to sing, laugh, and pray together for an hour – mostly laughing!
Yoga and Zumba classes are also a part of the life around here.
And our congregational Thrivent Financial for Lutherans group is very active and supportive of community activities.
How many of those 100 years have you been the Pastor at the Church? What sort of memories do you have from your first days as a part of the Zion Lutheran community?
As mentioned before, of the 100 years of Zion’s existence, I have been blessed with being a part of it for nearly 30 years now. My wife, Janice, along with our six children consider this our home. No, I will not give up my allegiance to the Pittsburgh Steelers, but I have enjoyed rooting for the Bills and Sabres. I have also immensely enjoyed – and almost come to tears – with the blessing that few other pastors experience: baptizing the babies of babies I baptized! To be in one place long enough to share in all the joys and all the sorrows of so many families is truly a blessing that is beyond explanation. I feel both privileged and honored to be given the gift of this call by God in one place for so long!
Now that we have established that my confirmation students call me old, what are some of my favorite memories of when I first came to Zion?
It wouldn’t be coming here on a late weekend in March of 1982 to interview with the Call Committee of Zion – only to wake up at the Lockport Motel to about a foot of fresh snow outside, especially since we left Columbus, Ohio behind with its 65 degree temperatures, would it? It wouldn’t be Leola Mietz calling up one morning to ask, “Would you and Janice like some apples for your family, pastor?” and coming home later in the afternoon to find ten bushels of the sweet, juicy things on the front porch, would it? It wouldn’t be balloons being released into the air as we celebrated our 75th anniversary as a congregation and dedicated our new front entrance on the same warm afternoon, would it? Or runs along the canal to raise money to send kids to summer camp at Lake Chautauqua Lutheran Center? Or “Ten Bags of Doom” unleashed on my head to raise more money to send those kids to camp? Or scores of members gathering around families who have lost loved ones to tragic accidents or illness? Or singing Christmas carols in the barn at Becker Farms on Christmas Eve – and then coming to the 11pm service later that night to sing those same songs by candlelight?
By the grace of God those memories will keep on coming! And by the grace of God, Zion will continue to be a beacon of light and love to the world around it!