100 Years Of God’s Grace
In the 1870’s and 1880’s a number of German Lutheran families came to settle in Hidewood Township in Deuel County, South Dakota. There was no established Lutheran Church in the township. The families first called a Norwegian Lutheran minister in the area to serve them in emergencies. A short time later what was then known as the Minnesota District of the Joint Synod of Wisconsin and Other States sent a missionary (Boettcher) to Deuel County. Worship services were conducted in private homes and district schoolhouses.
Thus began the history of God’s grace at Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hidewood Township. In those first years a number of missionaries served Zion (Johl, Luebbert, Hupfer, Schoemperlen, Albrecht). In 1898 under the guidance of a Pastor named Mlotkowski the small group obtained a charter and organized themselves into a congregation. In March 1899 a two-acre site was obtained for a church and a cemetery. The first church was completed and dedicated to the LORD on July 2.
Until 1935 various pastors (John, Adascheck, Ehlert, Kollander, Vollmers, Lehmann) served the congregation. There was a steady growth in membership despite difficulties connected with the Great Depression. In 1936 Pastor Egbert Schaller–a son of Professor John Schaller and the great great uncle of current Pastor Andrew Schaller–accepted Zion’s call. Between 1940 and 1957 another five pastors (Kettenacker, Lange, Steffenhagen, Reede, Gieschen) served the Lord and Zion.
A pivotal time in the congregation’s history was soon to occur. Early in 1959 Pastor Albert Sippert and a number of families separated themselves from the Wisconsin Synod for doctrinal reasons. Shortly after the split Zion was led to join in fellowship with the newly formed Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church of Watertown.
Since 1960 Zion and Trinity have shared a pastor. The first pastor under this arrangement was Pastor Chris Albrecht. When the Church of the Lutheran Confession (CLC) was officially formed in 1960, both Zion and Trinity became charter members of the new synod.
Besides Pastor Albrecht, CLC pastors who have served Zion include Daniel Fleischer, Vernon Greve, Paul Gurgel, Michael Thom, Elton Hartmann, and currently–since 1997–Andrew Schaller.
In an afternoon service on October 17, 1999, Zion celebrated its 100th year. Former pastors Daniel Fleischer and Paul Gurgel preached the Word.
In the words of Pastor Andrew Schaller: “This brief history is interesting, but more importantly it shows how the Lord Jesus Christ has surely provided this congregation with faithful pastors for 100 years. . . . May God grant us His grace that we remain faithful to the truth in the next 100 years.”
(Drawn together from historical material submitted to the Spokesman–Ed.)