“I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.” Joshua 1:5.
Those words of the Lord to Joshua, echoing the promise Moses gives to Israel in general in Deuteronomy 31:6, have been placed in prominence in each rendition of the history of Zion Lutheran Church. In the 50thand 75th anniversary histories they were the very first words listed and in the 100th they are the very last. Either way, they serve to be the guide, reminding us to see in the past how God has lead Zion through many years—125 now—and how He will continue to guide us through many more.
This history is a compilation. The first 100 years come courtesy of the work of those who have gone before us and prepared similar histories for the 50th, 75th, and 100thanniversaries, with only slight modifications. The history of the last 25 years is done by work of the 125th anniversary committee. All is done to the glory of God’s name, that He has been with us for these last 125 years and that He promises that He will always be with us, even to the end of the ages.
Many of those who became the first members of Zion immigrated from the Oldenburg area of Germany. When they came to Nebraska they settled north and northeast of Columbus, especially around Christ Lutheran Church. From this area they ventured northward toward a new little town named Leigh.
These hardy pioneers brought with them their Lutheran heritage. They took periodic journeys by lumber or spring-wagon to Christ Lutheran Church for worship. History has it that often the children of confirmation age were left at the Christ Lutheran parsonage for weeks at a time so that they might receive confirmation instruction.
In the late 1880s, several Lutheran families in the Leigh area gathered at the Henry Barjenbruch, Sr. home on the third Sunday of each month. Pastor Henry Fischer, then serving Christ Lutheran Church of rural Columbus, conducted divine worship services for them. The Barjenbruchs lived about 4 miles south and 2½ miles west of Leigh. Although they were members of Christ Lutheran Church, they opened their home so both Pastor Fischer and the people from around Leigh would not have to travel so far. Services were also held on a regular basis at the Fred Rabeler, Sr. home located 1½ miles west and 2½ miles north of Leigh. Because of the distance involved, when Pastor Fischer conducted services there, they began at 3:00P.M. Confirmation instruction followed, and Pastor Fischer would spend the night at the Rabeler home.
Later, to bring these services to more people, Pastor Fischer conducted church services in the Congregational church building in Leigh. These services were later moved to the Leigh Public School, where they continued to be held until the first church building was erected.
After Pastor Fischer left Christ Lutheran Church in 1893, Pastor W.F. Bader, of Immanuel Lutheran Church, rural Schuyler, took charge of the little flock of Lutheran Christians at Leigh. He was responsible for bringing in a missionary, Pastor Carl H. Sommer, who became the first pastor of Zion Lutheran Church when it organized. Pastor Sommer stayed at Leigh until July of 1897.
There surely were previous planning meetings, but the organizational meeting at which the constitution was adopted and signed, was held in the Leigh Public School building on September 23, 1894. The name chosen for the new congregation was Zion Evangelical Lutheran Congregation, U.A.C. (Unaltered Augsburg Confession), of Leigh, Colfax County, Nebraska.
The original constitution and the minutes of the voter’s meetings from 1894-1915 are missing. According to our earliest congregational records, the following, and their families, became members on September 23, 1894: Friedrich Rabeler, Carl Staab, Henry Marth, Gerd Asche Sr., C.H. Sommer, Henry Brenning, Johann Theilen, Emil Kaul, Richard Froehlich, Claus Pahl, Gerd Asche Jr., William Schnell, Emma Hansen, Rena Wullschlager, John Schluter, August Friedrich, George Boetel, Hans Wiechen, Henry Beckedorf, Caroline Moeller, John Hassebrook, George Koch, Heinrich Brock, Malta Theel, Johann Martens, Adolph Rieck, Carl Seefus, Heinrich Seefus, Edward Cegavske, John Wullschlager, and Robert Zack.
The new congregation was determined to have its own house of worship as soon as possible. At the meeting at which the constitution was adopted, they already proposed a church building measuring 20'x30'x12'. On October 22, 1894, Zion Lutheran Church purchased the land where our present church and school buildings are located from the Pioneer Town Site Company at a cost of $250.
A concern of the pioneer founders of Zion was the spiritual welfare of their children. They decided that their new church building should also house a parochial school. The pastor served as the schoolteacher in those early days.
In 1896, the first parsonage was erected. Up to this time the congregation had been renting quarters for the pastor and his family. Because the pastor and his wife often boarded confirmation students who lived a distance from the school, the south part of that house was added in 1900.
Pastor Martin Winter, the second pastor of Zion, was ordained and installed on August 29, 1897. He remained at Zion until the fall of 1905.
On April 8, 1898, the congregation purchased an acre of land adjoining the Leigh Public Cemetery for a congregational burial ground from the Western Trust and Security Company of Fremont, Nebraska, for $200. Additional land was purchased in later years.
By 1906 the little congregation felt the need for a new and larger house of worship and during that year the present church building was begun. On April 20, 1907, it was joyfully dedicated to the service of the Triune God. Pastor August Lutz, who had been installed in late 1905, was serving the congregation at that time. Many of the furnishings of the new church building were donated. The altar and statue of Christ, the pulpit, baptismal font, reed organ, hymn number board, carbon lights, carpet, and the stained-glass windows were presented as gifts or memorials by various members and the Ladies Aid. There was no lectern until 1937 when it was given to the congregation by one of the members.
It was through the efforts of Rev. Erck, who began serving Zion in 1911, that a full-time teacher was secured. A call extended to Teacher Block in 1912 was accepted, but due to illness, he resigned without serving. He was replaced by Chris Raedker. The first resident teacher was Mr. Arthur Rewinkel, who taught at Zion from 1913-1925.
The original church building continued to be used as a school until 1915. It was in 1915, while Mr. Rewinkel was principal, that the modern brick school was built. John A. Asche was the contractor with a bid of $6200. The school had running water, restrooms with flushing toilets, and was considered the best one-room school building in Colfax County. It was dedicated on the first Sunday in September 1915.
The congregation, upon nearing the 25th anniversary of its founding, planned to observe the event with proper festivities on September 21, 1919. Pastor Henry Erck was serving the congregation at that time. The interior of the church was redecorated, electric light fixtures were installed, and a splendid two manual WagerinWeichart pipe organ was purchased at a cost of $3000 and dedicated to the glory of God.
The English language was slow in coming to Zion. Zion was founded in the German language with a constitution written in German. Her members worshiped God in services using the German language and German hymnal. Even the minutes of the Voters Assembly were written in the German language. There was an English service on the day the new church building was dedicated in 1907, but that service was held in the evening, and stood as an exception to the rule for that special occasion.
Prior to 1911, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) did not permit any congregation to hold English services; German was the only language to be used. However, in 1911, the LCMS officially allowed congregations to use English for the first time. According to records, Pastor Henry Erck (1911-1924) was the first to conduct both an English and a German service. Under various arrangements, English supplemented the regular German services twice a month. The confirmation records of 1914 and 1916 list students attending either the "Deutsche Klasse" or the "Englische Klasse." They were confirmed on the same day in the same service and both classes appear together in the confirmation photos for those years. In 1919, all the children were confirmed using the English language for the first time.
The German language was still dear to the hearts of many families. However, the younger generation desired a more rapid change to English. This created tensions that continued to make the language question a topic of discussion for almost the next three decades.
On April 9, 1924, the vacancy pastor at Zion, the Rev. Alfred Bergt of Immanuel, rural Schuyler, wrote a letter to accompany the call document sent to the Rev. John C. Kaiser. In it Pastor Bergt stated, “There are several language factions there (at Zion) that have rather emphasized in part their preferable language more than the welfare of the Kingdom of God, and the result for the present is that a fine, large congregation now lies in a tattered and torn condition.” Nevertheless, despite the less-than-glowing report on Zion, Pastor Kaiser accepted the call and came to Zion. He was installed on May 18, 1924. During his 18-year tenure here, he would conduct two complete services every Sunday—one in German and another in English. A step was taken toward using more English in January 1932, when the Voters Assembly resolved, from that time on, to record their minutes in English and to translate the constitution into the English language.
Pastor Kaiser would also be the one to guide the congregation through a most critical period of depression and crop failures. The depression years of the late 1920's through the mid-30's were very much felt in rural Nebraska. Drought, crop failures, and low prices compounded the problem. This affected everyone, including the church itself.
The Voters Assembly minutes reveal many discussions regarding finances, of which the coal bill seemed the most worrisome. The congregation had to heat the church, school, parsonage, and teacherage and this took a lot of coal in the days of little or no insulation or weather stripping. To help lessen the coal bill, the men cut many loads of firewood. We are told that Pastor Kaiser got his morning exercise by splitting the large logs with a sledgehammer and wedge. Farmers also brought in extra cobs for burning in the furnaces at the parsonage and teacherage. On October 4, 1936, during the height of the depression, the voters agreed that the pastor and teacher should buy their own coal.
At the same October 4, 1936 meeting, it was moved to "try our best to keep both our church and school open" and elect a committee to canvass the membership to collect for the year. However, at the next quarterly meeting, January 24, 1937, it was moved to "close our school tomorrow and not open until the congregation sees fit." The motion was tabled until a special meeting was called two weeks later with Rev. Bornemann, the Circuit Visitor, in attendance. At that meeting the school closing motion was tabled indefinitely by a vote of 22 to 10.
On July 11, 1937 it was moved and seconded to give “The Order of Morning Service”, as found in the Evangelical Lutheran Hymn Book, a “fair trial” in the Sunday morning services. A few years later, all members were encouraged to purchase the new "Lutheran Hymnal” at a special introductory price of 81¢.
While Pastor Kaiser served the congregation, he wrote a monthly publication entitled "Parish Briefs". In it, announcements were made, reports of organizations given, births and deaths announced, and other items of interest to the members were printed. An occasional admonishment was also given, such as to be quieter when raising and lowering the theater-type seats used in the church until 1950. Volume I of Parish Briefs appeared in mimeographed form in 1927, but subsequent issues were professionally printed with some of the cost being offset by advertisements from area businesses. These Briefs provide a look back at Zion during the years from 1927-1942.
On July 3, 1942, Pastor Kaiser was granted a release to serve as chaplain in the United States Army. A pastoral call was extended to Pastor Werner and it again raised the language question. The voters requested two German services each month. In a letter to the congregation, Pastor Werner stated, “I feel as though I could not accept the call with such a heavy load under your present arrangement. It is the German that causes me to hesitate. This language is difficult for me. I believe that I would not be able to do full justice to my charge on account of the German language. Would the congregation be willing to reduce the number of German services a month?” The voters met and unanimously agreed to one German service a month. The Rev. E.C. Werner then accepted the call to Zion and was ordained and installed on August 16, 1942.
At the annual meeting held on January 11, 1942, the voters decided to expand the use of English in two more areas. They agreed that the church officers would henceforth be installed using the English language. At the same meeting a resolution was passed regarding the communion services. Up until this time Zion celebrated communion 12 times a year (or once a month) with six services being in German and six in English. Due to the increased number attending the English communion services and fewer participating in the German services, it was resolved to have eight English and four German communion services a year. On April 4, 1943, the voters agreed to have the morning worship service on Mission Festival in English instead of German, but the afternoon would have both German and English services.
In preparation for its golden anniversary in 1944, the congregation made several improvements to the properties. On October 12, 1942, the voters authorized Carl Mullenhoff, Sr. to clean the church ceiling, free of charge. The interiors of both the school and church buildings were redecorated. Prior to this, there was a large picture of "Jesus, the Good Shepherd" painted on the front wall. The minutes of January 30, 1944 tell us that it was agreed to save the picture and decorative borders, if possible, but, if too expensive, to paint over them. The painting and borders vanished forever under a new coat of paint. New paraments were purchased, the organ was repaired and tuned, and a new organ bench curtain was made.
The 50th anniversary service was held on September 24, 1944. Rev. E.C. Werner, pastor of Zion, preached the morning English service. In the afternoon German service, Rev. W.E. Homann, President of the Northern Nebraska District, was the guest speaker. On that day the congregation prayerfully remembered the twenty-six men who could not be present because of their services in the armed services. These included Chaplain John C. Kaiser and Chaplain John F. Daniels. Tribute was also given to a former teacher of Zion, Keith Bartholomew, who was killed in the service of his country.
An era came to an end in October 1947, when it was moved to drop the use of the German language entirely. Ballot vote was 26 yes, 6 no, and 4 blank ballots. On April 6, 1953, it was decided to change Zion's name on the cemetery gate from German to English. Thus, closed the chapter on the language problem at Zion.
In 1945, because the teacherage was in such poor condition, the parsonage (the house between the church and school buildings) was made into the teacher's house. Pastor Werner, who was single, moved his study into the school and boarded at the Carl Mullenhoff, Sr. home. Later that same year, when Pastor Werner married, the old teacherage down the hill was remodeled somewhat for them and a fund was begun for a new parsonage.
The congregation remodeled the teacherage in 1948, putting in a new basement, a new furnace, and other repairs at a cost of about $3500. Later that same year, the Frank Eller house, across the street from the school, came up for sale. This house was purchased to be used as a parsonage at a cost of $10,000 plus paving and sewer assessments. The old teacherage, which was serving as a temporary home for Pastor and Mrs. Werner, was sold to Edward Hake.
Membership was increasing at Zion and more seating space was needed at worship services. After much discussion and canvassing of the congregation, it was decided, in 1950, to proceed with plans to remodel and enlarge our church building. Additions were made to the north and south sides of the front of the church. To gain seating space, the organ was moved to the balcony, the baby room was put in the north wing, the spiral staircase was removed and replaced by steps in the south wing, and pews were installed to replace the old theater-style seats. Other improvements included new interior paint, the organ was rebuilt and equipped with chimes, and a new furnace was installed. Henry Beck, a member of Zion, was the contractor for the project.
During the remodeling it became necessary to move the original cornerstone box. Unfortunately, the contents of the box were found to be ruined. New books, papers, and statistics were again placed in the cornerstone box. A new stone, da ted 1950, was added and dedicated at a cornerstone laying service on Sunday, July 23, 1950. The dedication service for the newly remodeled church and furnishings took place on February 11, 1951.
With membership at Zion nearing 400 souls, the enrollment at school was also increasing. Therefore, in 1954, a second classroom was added and was followed by a third in the fall of 1959. Two years later, in 1961, Zion School returned to two classrooms.
A large new addition was made to the school building in 1956 at a cost of approximately $16,000. This project provided additional classroom space, additional restrooms, which also included a large fellowship room for congregational use. All the extra expenses of property improvement put the congregation in financial difficulty. Zion borrowed $17,000, in denominations of $500, from members of the congregation and $2200 from Zion Lutheran Cemetery Fund at 4% interest. However, to do this, it became necessary to amend the Articles of Incorporation of Zion on file with the State of Nebraska to increase the amount of indebtedness allowed from $4000 to $25,000. The voters agreed unanimously to this change.
At the annual voters meeting on January 15, 1961, Edward Korte, a member of Zion and the Voters Assembly, offered to lease his 320-acre farm to the congregation with the proceeds to apply to the debts of the congregation. The voters agreed to this unique method of reducing the debt. Vernon Hake and Victor Malasek were appointed to oversee the operation the first year. The next year four teams of two men were chosen to oversee the different phases of the farming project. Farmers brought their farm equipment to plant, cultivate, and harvest, while others provided labor to stack bales and chop cockleburs. Still others donated seed. It took a lot of extra work during the four years that Zion rented the land, but it helped to eliminate the debt.
The 75th anniversary of Zion was observed on September 21, 1969. Rev. George Schubarth was vacancy pastor at that time. Rev. E.C. Werner, a former pastor, delivered the sermon in the morning service and Rev. Larry Rynearson, a childhood member of Zion, spoke in the afternoon service.
The first Sunday School at Zion began April 21, 1895, only seven months after the congregation's organization al meeting. It was led by Pastor Sommer, but when he accepted a call to another congregation in 1897, the Sunday School was discontinued. It was activated a second time in 1926 and continued for a period of six years when it again closed. On April 5, 1942, it was reopened and continues to function to this present time.
The Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO) was organized in 1949, later becoming affiliated with the ParentTeacher League (PTL). The PTL sponsored the hot lunch program at school that began in 1950 PTL Meeting with Mrs. Luetta Werner as cook. Mothers of the school children canned and froze bushels and bushels of fruits and vegetables each year to offset the cost of the program. Unknown numbers of old hens were donated to the lunch pro gram for they only brought a few cents per pound if sold in town. The mothers cleaned and froze them also. Florence Olson served as cook for 12 years and she recalls making gallons and gallons of chicken noodle soup and creamed chicken served over homemade biscuits. The children also loved her "hot from the oven" bread and cookies.
By 1980 the enrollment at Zion School had declined so drastically that the voters decided to keep the school open only one more year. Although numbers in most of the grades were very small, the eighth grade had five students at that time and that would give them the opportunity to graduate from Zion Lutheran School. In 1981 the school closed, ending a part of Zion's heritage. However, the voters, still concerned about the spiritual welfare of our children, set up a mid-week school. This is under the supervision of the pastor, the Board of Education, and the Board of Elders. Originally, all children were to attend four years of mid-week school. This was increased to six years (3rd through 8th grade) in 1992, which it continues doing to this day.
Our Vacation Bible School had its beginning in 1979 when Pastor Kenneth Buuck organized a weekly evening session for four weeks. The children attended their classes while Bible class was held for adults. In 1983 this moved to a five-day Vacation Bible School under the direction of Pastor Harold King and Glenda King. About 30 children from age three years through 8th grade attended. Since that time, we've held annual VBS classes using various time formats, although recently settling upon three-day program in the morning. The schedule has been set up so that separate age groups are gathered for devotions, Bible stories, music, and crafts. Many types of visual aids, including puppets, have been used to introduce the lessons. A program is presented on the last day with the children singing the songs they've learned and displaying their projects that illustrate the Bible truths and stories they've studied.
Zion entered a new phase of education in 1987. In 1986 several mothers approached the church board as to the feasibility of a preschool being held in the Zion school building. After a series of meetings, a decision was made to proceed. Zion Community Preschool opened its doors in January of 1987 with thirteen children present. Laura Escue was the first director with Judy Blessen as teacher and Velda Olson assisting. AAL Branch 1149 received a $500 grant to help buy equipment. A grant was also received from the Leigh Centennial Committee to purchase needed supplies. A nominal fee is charged and three, four, and five years olds are welcomed from throughout the community and neighboring towns. This was expanded upon in the early years of the new millennia. Seeing a need for a daycare in the Leigh community, the church decided to expand its mission of educating the youngest of the community by opening a daycare along with the already operating preschool.
Throughout the history of Zion Lutheran Church, many organizations have come and gone. Here is the history of a few of them.
When Zion congregation was in its first decade, the need for a ladies society was felt. Pastor Winter met with 16 ladies of Zion on April 10, 1902, to organize a Ladies Aid. Mrs. Hellbusch, president of a similar group at St. John's, Columbus, traveled quite a distance by buggy to offer some practical help to the new society.
The first officers chosen were: Mrs. Fred Rabeler, Sr., president; Miss Elsie Harder, secretary; and Mrs. Henry Bruhn, treasurer. The very first motion passed by the Ladies Aid was to hire a lady to clean the church-school building. At the second meeting they resolved that one-third of the money received should be used for the church at large, one-third for the building fund, and one-third for general purposes. One of the first projects was that of paying a nurse's salary in India.
By the time the new church was built in 1907, the Ladies Aid building fund had grown to $300. This was used to purchase a carpet, number board, pulpit, fabric for altar coverings, and a carbon lamp. When the brick school was built in 1915, a cash donation of $100 was given to the building fund. The Aid also sponsored the project of installing electric lights in the parsonage.
All meetings were conducted in the German language until April 1944, when a motion was passed to use English at the meetings and translate the constitution.
The Ladies Aid had many, many projects over the years including the purchase of a communion set and the making of twelve confirmation gowns. They contributed numerous times to make purchases to enhance church property and were faithful in donations to synodical colleges and institutions.
The Ladies Aid disbanded at the end of 1979 due to a decline in membership.
Zion Lutheran Sewing Circle was organized at the home of Mrs. R. H. Olson on January 10, 1922, for the purpose of accomplishing work for our church and charities. Twelve charter members signed the constitution. They were Mrs. John Brock, Mrs. Fred Claussen, Mrs. J.H. Moeller, Mrs. Will Naber, Miss Carrie Olson, Mrs. O.E. Olson, Mrs. G.A. Olson, Mrs. R. H. Olson, Mrs. Fred Rabeler, Jr., Mrs. A.J. Rewinkel, Miss Lizzie Schlueter, and Miss Ella Schlueter.
The constitution of the Sewing Circle stated that meetings were to be conducted in English (The Ladies Aid used German), a membership fee of $1.00 was to be paid with monthly dues of 25¢, and the chairman appointed committees for purchasing, cutting, and the placing of value on finished sewn articles. As the name of the organization indicates, their main activity, at first, was sewing.
The proceeds from the sewing were used for worthy causes, of which the Lutheran Orphanage in Fremont, Nebraska, was a favorite. The orphanage received the first donation at Christmas time in 1922. Later donations included food of all types, a bed, sheets, $100 for toilets, comforters, clothing, and even a cow.
In June of 1923 the ladies took a big step when they decided to erect a building at the fairgrounds for serving meals at the Colfax County Fair. That was a big undertaking and they were assisted in the food preparation and serving by other members of the congregation.
The Sewing Circle helped families of the congregation who had an unusual hardship. When the John Schafer home burned the Circle made four comforters and each member was asked to donate something useful. Later, they gave $10 of goods and made two quilts and two blankets for the Will Wurdeman family, who also suffered a house fire.
Improvements to church property has been another phase of Circle activity. In 1939 they weather-stripped and puttied the school windows to conserve heat. They tackled a much larger project in 1941 when they decided to fix up the school basement so it could be used as a meeting place. This included plastering walls, installing a sink, fixing the heating system, painting and varnishing, and making curtains.
During World War II they purchased defense bonds with the proceeds from paper drives and folded bandages for the Red Cross. They also set aside the usual meeting lunch of two items and a drink and served only one item for the duration of the war.
The Sewing Circle joined the International Lutheran Women's Missionary League in 1944. The Circle noted the 25th anniversary of their organization with a banquet held in January 1947. In June 1987, the Sewing Circle held an old-fashioned meeting at the home of Verna Barjenbruch in observance of the 65th anniversary of the Circle and the centennial of the village of Leigh.
Since the Sewing Circle was no longer doing sewing, the ladies decided to change the name of the organization to Zion Lutheran Ladies Circle on May 15, 1991. In recent years, the activity of this group has waned, however the members of it still serve in many ways throughout the congregation and the community at large.
Zion Lutheran Laymen's League was organized as a mixed group on September 26, 1947.
The main project of the synod wide LLL is the support of the Lutheran Hour. In 19
50 a roll call drive in the entire congregation was begun with the proceeds being sent to International LLL. The local league has received an award for contributing nearly $5000 in donations. The League also sends a yearly donation for the Rose Parade float, sponsors a Lutheran Hour broadcast over WJAG in Norfolk, and contributed annually to Camp Luther.
In 1951 a lunch stand was begun at the Colfax County Fair. This was operated by the LLL for a period of 41 years until it was turned over to the entire congregation in 1993. The LLL also decorated many floats over the years for entry in the Colfax County Fair.
From 1952-1961 a smorgasbord was held at the Legion Hall (now Leigh Elementary School), serving as many as 500 people. This was discontinued when it became too large for the League to manage.
In 1983 Zion Lutheran Laymen's League sponsored the state LLL bowling tournament at the Leigh Bowl. With the tournament profits they purchased Zion's first copy machine. 1985 saw the purchase by the League of 15,000 church bulletins and two hand railings for the school and rental property. The parsonage was carpeted in 1986. In 1988 they erected two large signs along Highway 91 which show the time of Zion's services and advertise the Lutheran Hour. They also maintain the state lease for the placing of the signs. A wheelchair ramp for the church was purchased and installed in 1991 at a cost of $2901. All the proceeds from the 1992 LLL fair stand, $2400, was given to the Zion Centennial fund. The League also sponsored youth going to LSV school and provided financial help for children of the congregation who attend Camp Luther.
Zion Walther League was organized in 1921 and affiliated with the International Walther League that same year. Some of the earliest members were Florence Asche, Pauline and Adolph Barjenbruch, Lillian Brock, Lydia Franzen, Herbert Franzen, Rudy and Ed Korte, George Kumpf, Pauline Miller, Carl Mullenhoff, Oliver Olson, Paul Schluter, and Herman Schwanke.
The League began meeting once a month, but this was soon increased to twice monthly. One meeting was for business and Bible study and the other monthly meeting was fun through social activities. They often met at homes for the social meeting and played games outside when the weather permitted. The roll call lists 39 members in 1932.
The Walther League was a service organization that helped the church in many ways. They furnished ushers for services, started the church furnace in cold weather, collected clothing and quilts for the needy, sold Wheatridge seals to benefit the Wheatridge Sanatorium, decorated the church for Christmas, purchased and set up a nativity scene annually, helped buy dishes and an oil stove for the kitchen, and carried out numerous other beneficial activities. For many years they put on a play for the public in the Leigh Opera House.
They also had strong ties to the other leagues in the zone. They shared rallies, baseball and softball games, an annual banquet, a zone paper called the "ECHO", skating parties, and many other functions. For many years a float was decorated and driven in the parades in the area.
The International Walther League declined in the 1970's, officially closing in 1977 and in 1979 the Lutheran Youth Fellowship (LYF) was established as the organization for the youth of the LCMS. In recent years, the Youth have not had official meetings, however they continue to remain active in the congregation, serving in many of the same ways they did in the past.
In 1994, Zion Lutheran Church celebrated its 100thanniversary with yearlong celebrations. At the Christmas Heritage Festival Service held on December 12, 1993, Pastor Terry Timm, who grew up in this congregation until middle school, was the guest preacher. He would later be called to serve as Pastor of Zion. Then, on July 3, 1974, the Centennial Reunion Sunday service was held. Rev. Douglas K. Escue, former pastor of Zion, preached the sermon. On September 25, 1994, the congregation had another service for the 100th, with Pastor Graminske preaching the sermon.
In 1995, the congregation built a new fair stand. This continues to be a major fundraiser and mission opportunity for the congregation. They are famously known their cheeseburgers. Every year, they use approximately 1300 lbs. of hamburger, 240 lbs. of cheese, 70 lbs. of onions, and 25 gallons of pickles in addition to everything else. They serve roughly 7500 burger patties each year, in addition to everything else that they offer.
In 2002, the house that stood between the church and school was demolished. It was around this time also that the parsonage was sold. Further in 2002, Leigh began offering Saturday services. These continued, with occasional interruptions, until 2016 when the congregation entered vacancy again.
In May 2000, Pastor Graminske accepted a call to another congregation. Pastor Terry Timm began serving the vacancy in July 2000 and would be called as pastor here in 2001. He would serve the position until his death on June 3, 2011. Pastor Adam Onken was called out of seminary and installed June 24, 2012, a position he would serve until August 1, 2016. Another phase of ministry began in 2016 when Zion—Leigh and Trinity—Howells entered into a dual parish agreement to better continue serving the needs of both communities. (Zion and Trinity had previously been in a dual-parish agreement which ended in 1982). Following a three-year vacancy, Pastor Doubrava was ordained and installed as Pastor of both congregations on July 28, 2019.
But as we take a moment to look back on how God has guided us through these 125 years and giving thanks to Him for His guidance over all these years, we must also allow the accomplishments of the past to be remain there, recognized but not glorified. Instead, we turn our eyes to the future, uncertain of what it may hold, but certain of one thing: that the words spoken to Joshua, “I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you”, continue to hold true for us. And thus we go forth in God’s promise, with praise and thanksgiving, looking forward to what He will accomplish through us here in Leigh in the next 25, 50, 75, 100 years.