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Zion Lutheran Church Completes Epic Volume of 100 Years of Church History

Bender, Tony. "Zion Lutheran Church Completes Epic Volume of 100 Years of Church History." Ashley Tribune, 19 February 2003, 1 & 3.


It wasn't a miracle, but sometimes it may have seemed like thats what it would take to complete the task.

But nearly four years after the project began to wheeze to life, the Ashley Zion Lutheran Church specifically the Zion Centennial Committee has produced a magnificent hardcover bound church history book, Celebration of Gods Grace.

Its breath-taking, said Janice Schnabel, the Centennial Committee secretary. The 300-page volume is wrapped in royal purple binding, embossed in gold.

Our first impression was that it was really good, said Carrold Spitzer, who co-chairs the Centennial Committee with his wife, Marlene.

Jesus had 12 disciples and even though one of them was a dud, Christ still had more manpower than the Centennial Committee.

Nine volunteers sneezed through musty records and walked 18 area cemeteries in search of church history in a marathon of fact finding that finally came to fruition late last week when two pallets of (1,000) books arrived from a Minneapolis bindery.

Binding was the only part of the process done outside North Dakota. The project was headed up by Redhead Publishing with members of The Ashley Tribune and The Wishek Star working on the project. Carolyn Olson of The Wishek Star, was the graphic designer on the project.

The real heavy lifting was done by the Centennial Committee: The Spitzers, Schnabel, Terry Ulrich, Leona Neu, Pastor Jeff Giles, Oscar Rau, Marvin Schneider and Donna Heupel.

"They've been incredible!" Marlene Spitzer said. "They've given up a lot of time. We've had an outstanding committee."

While committee members researched and proofed and re-proofed Marlene and Janice became regular fixtures at The Ashley Tribune, slowly directing and molding the book to the committees wishes.

"I had no idea it was going to involve that much time!" Marlene said.

"It's a big undertaking for a small church," said Carrold.

"There were lots of late hours as the committee members pored over the miles of documentation," Carrold said. He chuckled at the times Marlene and Janice said "We only have a week or so left. Of course, even with the finish line in sight, there were months to go."

The result? "It is a great book and a great accomplishment," said Schnabel.

The centennial officially begins April 27 with a service honoring Bethany Lutheran Church which closed in 1945. Seventeen services honoring the small Lutheran Churches that consolidated with Zion over the past 100 years will follow. The Zion Lutheran Service will be held Aug. 16-17 with an old time German service by Rev. Oliver Dewald on Aug. 16.

German services were a staple at Zion through 1983. In fact, as the Centennial Committee gathered facts for the books births, deaths, weddings, baptisms, and confirmations much of it was in German.

"We had to get translators," said Donna Heupel.

There have been other changes over the years. Carrold remembers that men and women used to sit on opposite sides of the church. When Les and Maralyn Laudon moved to Ashley in the late 40s, Les breached tradition and sat with his wife. "I can still remember people talking about that!" Carrold said.

Of course, that groundbreaking event took place in the old Zion Lutheran Church, constructed in 1922 and demolished in 1966 to make way for the present structure.

The old church, which is remembered fondly by many Zion members, is memorialized with photographs in the book, including two excellent photographs inside the back cover one showing the outside, the other showing in glorious detail the workmanship of the old church.

"That's history!" Marlene says, clutching the book. Church history.

The book contains the history of 17 rural Lutheran churches, many with photos, as well as photos and biographies of former pastors and former Zion members who went into the ministry. Some of these sons and daughters of Zion as well as a few former pastors will join Pastor Giles for special services in the coming months.

A special treat for the congregation will be new stained glass windows which will be installed between the church proper and the fellowship hall. Six of 18 new windows will be installed and lit before the centennial services begin on April 27. Carrold, who sought sponsors for the original six windows (pictured in full color in the book) was gratified to find a dozen more families willing to put hard-earned money on the line.

The church has 900 members. Since 1903, approximately 2,800 Lutheran baptisms have been documented. The book includes 83 photographs of confirmation classes.

The book will be on display and available for sale at the Zion Lutheran Church musical program and fundraiser on Sunday, Feb. 23, 3:30 p.m. at the church.

There will be a free-will offering to help the Centennial Committee defray expenses of their celebration. A spaghetti dinner will follow. Its $5 per plate, with matching funds to be provided by Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.

Reprinted with permission of the Ashley Tribune.

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