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Zion's History

Founded in 1872

The People of God, Here

Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church was founded on March 17, 1872, by 61 men and 38 women of German background. They met in the former Congregational Church on Jay Street. On May 4, 1872, the young congregation acquired this building for $3,500. In 1880 Zion called Pastor Ernst Carl Ludwig Schulze, who served with great success and zeal for the Lord's work. Under Pastor Schulze's leadership, Zion founded a Christian day school that continued until 1931.

The congregation soon outgrew its Jay Street quarters, so in 1887 it purchased property at 153 Nott Terrace and began construction of the rear of the present structure. This original part of the church was dedicated in 1888, with the first floor housing the school and worship conducted upstairs in the Parish Hall.

In 1892 the congregation erected the sanctuary to accommodate its growing membership. Zion was prosperous as Schenectady grew as an industrial center.

In 1919 Zion called Pastor Otto C. Busse who served until his resignation in December 1945. During Pastor Busse's tenure Zion's membership increased from about 400 confirmed members in 1919 to 600 members by the beginning of World War II.

In the 1920's Zion began to hold Sunday services in the English language as well as the traditional German. Pastor Busse incorporated the German immigrants of the 1920's into the life of the congregation and maintained the morale and spiritual well-being of its members during the Great Depression.

In 1941 Pastor Busse was granted a leave of absence to serve as chaplain in the U.S. Army. He remained in the military service until his resignation.

In 1943 Zion called Pastor Robert C. Albohm under whose untiring care Zion reched out to the community, embracing all who shared our Lutheran doctrine. Both Schenectady and Zion prospered in the post-war years. In 1957 the educational wing was completed, and in 1964-1966 the church underwent major interior and exterior renovation, and the Friendship Room was added. The staff grew to include a full time Minister of Music and since 1969 an Assistant or Associate Pastor.

Pastor Paul F. G. Wildgrube, a graduate of Concordia Seminary was installed as senior pastor in 1976. Highlights of Pastor Wildgrube's ministry at Zion are the celebration of the Eucharist at all services, every weekend; the initiation of Eucharistic ministry whereby the Blessed Sacrament, consecrated at Zion's altar is brought to the homebound at the pastoral ministry to those in need. He served as founding president of The Samaritan Counseling Center, on the Board of Directors of Hospice and The Lutheran Deaconess Association, as as Vice President of The Atlantic District of The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod.

Pastor Wildgrube's wife, Jean, a Deaconess and graduate from Valparaiso University served as Early Childhood Christian Education Director from 1982 -1985. In 2003 Pastor Wildgrube became Pastor Emeritus at Zion.

Pastor Shawn Dugan graduated from Evangel College in Springfield, MO in 1981 with a degree in music education. From 1982 - 1992, Pastor Dugan taught music education at Hannibal Senior High and Stowell Elementary in Hannibal, MO. Pastor Dugan graduated from Concordia Seminary in Saint Louis and moved to Schenectady to join Zion's staff as assistant pastor with emphasis on youth work in 1995. After serving as the Senior Pastor since 2003, Pastor Dugan retired in August 2019.

On July 10, 2021 we entered a new chapter by installing Pastor Francis Rigobert as our new Pastor at Zion after a lengthy call process which was also during a trying time that included the Covid-19 Pandemic.  We look forward to the coming years to see the fruits of the harvest from this new chapter in our history as we also stand ready to enter into our 150th year in 2022.

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