HISTORY OF ZION
THE early events, and many later ones, in the life of Zion Congregation are veiled in the pages of history which were destroyed, following the move to our present location, under the assumption that no one could read the German records. These records which gave details of the first meetings of organization are lost forever; however, it is known through information passed down to individuals still living, that in 1898 a group of people met in the c.r. Mayer Building on Washington Ave., later known as the Peterson Dry Cleaning establishment across from Prestly Road. Their purpose was to establish a Lutheran Church in Bridgeville. In 1899 they moved into larger quarters located in Poellet Hall which stood in the center of the business district on Washington Avenue, now known as Sarsnick's Hardware. A few of the names known as charter members, of the then Zion Evangelical Lutheran St. Paul's German Church, were Blankenshen, Bowers, Buckel, Der, Erbrecht, Gastgeb, Gieze, Herman, Hittner, Hollman, Klein, Keil, King, Kirschner, Kreisel, Krieger, Lenk, Myers, Neuman, Oelschlager, Rehman, Schimmel, Schmidt, Stick, and Ziegler.
ALTHOUGH taken a number of years later the following picture contains members of those families named above if not in fact the charter members themselves.
ON Thanksgiving Day 1900 the corner stone was laid for their new edifice on Prestly Road. In February of 1901, the Rev. H.A. Zeil became the second pastor to the newly formed organization. The congregation joined the “Pittsburg Synod” of the Lutheran Church in June of 1901. Also through information handed down, it was under his leadership the church building was completed and finally dedicated on 30 June, 1901. Communion and altar were given by other Lutheran congregations. A service was held in the German language in the morning and a service in English in the afternoon. It is said that when the time for opening the morning service arrived, the congregation assembled in it’s temporary place to worship, formed in procession and marched to the door of the new church. At this time the membership had increased to over 200 communicant members. In an issue of “The Lutheran” dated July 11, 1901, an article appeared, written in German, describing the first service held in the new church on Prestley Road. In 1901 there were no automobiles lining the streets; however, there was a horse stable behind the church and an area for the buggies-actually most members walked to church. With respect to the subject of walking, Frank Oelschlager (deceased) spoke of his mother an older brothers and sisters walking down the railroad to attend the Lutheran Church in Carnegie, prior to the organization of a church in Bridgeville. The congregation worshipped at the Prestly Rd. location for 67 years.
COINCIDENTALLY, Bridgeville had only received it’s charter on 27 July, 1901; however the first passenger train had passed through the village in October 1871, some nine years before one member (Karl Ludwig Ernst Hermann Erbrecht) came to this country from Furstenberg, Germany, and thirty years prior to the village receiving it’s charter.
PASTOR Ziel served the congregation until his death in 1910. Until 1913, when Rev. Emil Schlick became the pastor, Zion was served by several vacancy pastors. But with no regular pastor during these years, the membership decreased considerably. Pastor Schlick accepted another call after only a few years at Zion.
WHEN the U.S. declared war on Germany in 1917 (W.W.I.) the Federal Government issued a decree that the speaking of German was forbidden in public assembly. Church services ceased for a while. Up to that point in time 90% of the Lutheran Churches in America had German speaking schools which also ceased at that time. Those churches which tried to continue with German services were padlocked. We lost many members during W.W.! to other denominations. Many people chose to change their names, as from Schneider to Taylor, the English meaning of the name. The church also became an independent congregation, at this time, with no synodical affiliation. In 1945 the membership joined the “Lutheran Church Missouri Synod”.
FOR many years, even following W.W.!, German was the only language used in the service and in the keeping of records. Later a service in German was held on Sunday morning and speaking members. The changes to English as the accepted standard took place in the late 1930s. Early on, during the service, women sat on one side of the church and men on the other, while the confirmands and other adults sat at the front right.
IN later years a parsonage was built, adjoining the rear of the church. A portion of the church property, facing Prestly Road, was sold to help cover the cost of construction-which they were to regret in later years when parking for automobiles became a problem.
THE Silver Anniversary of the church dedication was held shortly after the Rev. E.W. Deussel became the pastor. Some improvements were made to the church under his leadership. The years of depression; however, delayed others. With the years of depression passion away greater strides were made toward the eventual redecorating of the church edifice. But again worldly events intervened when many of our young men answered the call of their country to serve in W.W.II. Shortly after the war, in July of 1946, the Rev. R.D. Sandmann, became the spiritual shepherd.
IN preparation for the Fiftieth Anniversary celebration to be held in June of 1951 the members began to redecorate and remodel the church and parsonage. The work was began to redecorate and remodel the church and parsonage. The work was begun in the Fall of 1948. Most of the work was done by members of the congregation. The work included the relocation of the entrance to the church, building of a chancel, adding to the pipe organ already in place by Carl Schmidt, redecorating the parsonage, landscaping of the church property, and many others. In looking to the future and the possible growth in membership the congregation, at this time, purchased property on the corner of Dewey Ave. and Bank Street.
THE first baptisms of record were performed on 28 Oct. 1900:-Lizzie Oelschlager born 12 June 1900 to Karl Oelschlager and Rosina born Fleischer, also Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig Buckle born 12 Dec. 1898 to Minnie Buckle and her husband.
THE first confirmation class was confirmed on 14 July 1901:-class consisted of John Buckle, Pauline Erbrecht, John Gastgeb, Susanna Gastgeb, Joseph Hollman, Anne Mary Klein, Karl Krieger, Catherine Ziegler, Edward Ziegler, Anne Stick, Else Ziel, (the pastors daughter). In the beginning, the class met for catechetical instruction at the Erbrecht residence on Hickory Grade Rd., -no longer standing. They later met for study in the c.P. Mayer Building on Washington Ave., Bridgeville, and were confirmed under Pastor Ziel who came to Zion from Hickory, Pa.
THE first wedding of record was performed on 12 Feb. 1901: between Fred Buckle and Annie born Rehman “
THE first burial of record was conducted on 19 Nov. 1900: for Rosanna Der, Born 21 Feb. 1900 and died 17 Nov. 1900, the daughter of Mr. & Mrs. John Der.
IN the summer of 1901 the first congregational picnic was held at the Barland Farm on Cooks School Road, then occupied by the Ziegler family and is now owned and operated by Robert Bedner - grandson of Carl Charles Oelschlager.
IN the Fall of 1901 the first congregational supper was held on Thanksgiving Day.
FOLLOWING are pictures of the early church exterior;-the first indicating the all wood exterior, the entrance below the bell tower and the unpaved street, and the second indicating the change to rigid asbestos shingles over the original wood siding, relocation of the main entrance and the paved street.
THOSE who have served this congregation over the years are;
First Pastor – Rev. Noll; 1898-1901
Second Pastor – Rev. H.A. Ziel; 1901-1910; under his pastorate we joined the “Pittsburg Synod,” the church on Prestley road was completed and dedicated 30 June, 1901. Pastor Ziel served until his death.
Vacancy Pastors Rev. C. Glatzert & others 1910-1913
Third Pastor – Rev. Emil Schlick; 1914-1917
Vacancy Pastor Rev. G.A. Mueller 1917-1922; a period during W.W.! and beyond.
Fourth Pastor – Rev. E.A. Henzel 1922-1925; who married Amelia E. Oelschlager in a double wedding with Louis F. Erbrecht and Ella Mary Oelschlager. Amelia and Ella were first cousins.
Fifth Pastor – Rev. E.W. Duessel 1926-1937; served our congregation through the depression years.
Sixth Pastor – Rev. M.E. Franke 1937-1946; served our congregation during the years of W. W.II.
Seventh Pastor – Rev. R.D. Sandmann 1946-1957 under his pastorate we accomplished some extensive redecorating and remodeling, celebrated our Fiftieth Anniversary and had our first thoughts of a new church, not knowing where or what we would build. Property was purchased in the early 1950’s, at the corner of Bank St. and Dewey Avenue, Bridgeville. A building committee was formed in 1956 and an effort was put forth to raise funds.
Eighth Pastor – Rev. H.K. Dietrich, Jr. 1957-1974; under his pastorate a parsonage was purchased on Harding St. in Bridgeville and the space formerly used as a parsonage was then used for church office and Sunday school rooms. Studies for a new church office and Sunday school rooms. Studies for a new church were begun; however, in 1958 the elementary school on Washington Avenue was destroyed by fire and, in 1959, before we could get our act together the school requested that we and adjoining property owners place our land for sale, to allow erection of a new school. Sale price was $28,000. On 25 July 1960 a resolution was passed that we purchase a new site, namely the Scheib Farm,” concluded in October 1960, at a cost of $27,900.00. Following purchase of the site, an architect was engaged to proceed with preliminary studies and a model of the proposed church were presented to the congregation for approval. The design fulfilled the desire of the Building Committee to build a church which would express the bold forthright, expression that is the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, a building which would attract the attention of outsiders making them inquisitive enough to explore the inside and what we were all about. Funds were not as forthcoming as we had anticipated and it was not until 1965 that the architect was instructed to complete final drawings and take bids. It was also obvious, by that time, that our budget of $130,000 would be exceeded.
Bids were taken and the low bid proved to be $225,000. The architect was instructed to find ways of cutting costs without compromising design and;function, for which we had worked so hard to achieve. Changes were accomplished and contracts were negotiated with the low bidders for the sum of $180,000.
In January 1966, the parsonage was sold to Mr. & Mrs. Ray Colin, for the sum of 19,000, and funds were directed toward construction. Ground was broken for our new edifice in November 1966 and completed in 1967, an effort such as had not yet been forthcoming from the congregation.
With a late start, construction was hampered by snow and cold weather, and then spring rains almost brought construction to a complete stand still for three months. A later delay occurred when the precast concrete beams were delivered and one overturned on the berm
as they exited I 79, requiring beam to be tested. The corner stone was placed on the 3rd of December 1967 and a service of dedication was held on the 28th of January 1968. Old Prestley Road property was sold for $35,000, applied to cost of new edifice. Owners costs for interior finishes came to $30,830, of which $14,830 was paid with memorial donations. Total cost include interior finishes, architectural and engineering fees, was $233, 603.
THE frame structure which stood on our present site, was what remained of a hotel store, and the districts first Post Office and where horses were changed for the stage coaches in the early 1800’s. This little cluster and any other in the immediate area at the time were known as Herriottsville and Washington Pike was then known as the Blackhawk Trail.
AS an additional tidbit, the area to be known as Bridgeville was granted its first Post Office in 1863 following the Civil War, and Hugh Morgan was appointed Post Master by President Theodore Roosevelt. The office was first called Moorehead, but due to a Moorehead in Erie County, the name was changed to Bridgeville.
Vacancy Pastor – Rev. M.G. Beck 1974-1975
Ninth Pastor – Rev. Dr. Wayne P. Hoffman 1975-1985; under his pastorate we sold a portion of land along our northern property line in 1976 for the sum of $55,000; built our present parsonage and paved the parking lot in 1976 at a cost of $74,000; celebrated our Eightieth Anniversary in 1978; began our school in 1980; constructed the exterior cross in 1980 at a cost of $25,500, and built the first school addition in 1984 at a cost of $125,000.
Vacancy Pastor – Rev. Robert Bentz; 1985-1986
Tenth Pastor Rev. David Baker; 1986 -?; under his pastorate we have replaced the organ in 1986 at a cost of $50,000; built our second classroom addition in 1992 at a cost of $486,000; installed new carpet in the sanctuary in 1994 using a memorial gift of $10,000; replaced the parsonage roof in 1995 at a cost of $2,500; replaced the church roofs, made repairs to and refurbished the exterior wood and concrete surfaces of the church, as well as cleaning and sealing the large exterior cross in 1997 at a cost of $43,000.
THE FOLLOWING SECTION IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION ...
Eleventh Pastor – Rev. Dr. Donald G. Matzat
Zion’s 11th pastor, Rev. Dr. Donald G. Matzat, was the right man at the right time. An experienced pastor, author of numerous books including Christ Esteem and The Lord Told Me I Think, the former host of KFUO’s Issues Etc. (1993-1998), arrived in Pittsburgh to helm the 3-hour afternoon radio talk show on 101.5 WORD FM. During that time, he and his wife Dianne joined Zion as members. When a painful episode left Zion suddenly in vacancy in 2000, the congregation called Pastor Matzat to fill the office. His exceptional gifts of communication and experience helped steer Zion’s family through this period of healing by a clear proclamation of the Theology of the Cross and Justification by faith alone. In 2003, Zion began a new outreach through Let’s Talk About Jesus, a live two-hour call-in radio show with Pastor Matzat Sunday evenings on WORD FM, which ran for several years. Pastor Matzat retired from full-time ministry in 2010, after which he returned to St. Louis to be close to his grandchildren. As of this writing (Oct. 2018), he serves as part-time teaching pastor at Messiah Lutheran Church in St. Louis. With its feet firmly grounded on the Gospel, Zion was well poised to move forward into its next phase of ministry.
Rev. Duncan McLellan
June 2010 - September 2016
Pastor McLellan's time here at Zion left a lasting impression which was marked by new ideas and new programs including:
• Mission Trips
• Men’s Retreats
• Women’s Retreats
• Elder's Retreats
• Lock-ins, “Clubble,” and bi-weekly activities for the Youth
• Wednesday Services
• Men’s Bible Study
• Vicar, Director of Youth Ministry, and Music Director positions were added
• Bible in a Year and Back to Basics
• Free Coffee Friday
• Sanctuary remodel and the long-awaited addition of air conditioning
• Stephen Ministry
• Debt Elimination Campaign
• “Kingdom Fund”
• Supporting different missionaries
• Trips to Camp Pioneer
• Harvest Festival
• Softball—“Zion Lions.”
• Major overhaul of the website
Vicar David Schultz
July 2013-July 2014
In July 2013, David Schultz, was installed as Zion’s first Vicar. While serving at Zion, Vicar David, served under the leadership of Rev. Duncan McLellan. Vicar David, served in a variety of roles at Zion; including, preaching, teaching, visiting the sick, attending meetings, etc. A few areas of ministry that Vicar David helped implement in his time at Zion are Wednesday night services of prayer and preaching, starting a youth group, starting a men’s retreat to Camp Pioneer. In July 2014, Zion said farewell to Vicar David as he returned back to Concordia Seminary to finish his last year of Seminary. Today, Rev. David Schultz serves as pastor at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne, IN.
Vicar Joshua Ulm
July 24, 2016 - July 16, 2017
Rev. Eric Carlson
October 2016 -April 2017
During this time, Rev. Carlson was also Associate Pastor at Peace Lutheran Church, McMurray, PA
Twelfth Pastor (Zion's Current Pastor)
Rev. Dr. Edward O. Grimenstein
Installed as Zion Lutheran Church’s Pastor on Sunday April 9, 2017 Rev. Dr. Edward O. Grimenstein previously served as the associate executive director at LCMS International Mission in St. Louis, where he directed missionary and pastoral work for 35 countries. He served as an active duty U.S. Army Chaplain for 7 years, and prior to this served in 2 parishes. He is 44 years old and a graduate of Concordia Seminary in Fort Wayne in 1999. He has two Master’s degrees and a doctorate in preaching. He has published a book entitled, A Lutheran Primer for Preaching. He is currently married and has 7 children (with another expected shortly) ages 3 – 19 who are currently homeschooled. He is originally from Pittsburgh, PA.
Our House of Worship
THE design of our present house of worship, fulfilled the desire of the building committee to build an edifice which would express the bold forthright expression that is the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. A building which would attract the attention of outsiders, making them inquisitive enough to explore the inside and what we are all about.
AS you see the design achieved is a “Bold Form Church” which thrusts solidly from the surrounding sculptured earth. The boldness gains meaning through the presence of human scale. This is achieved through the direct method of framing the structure. Earth excavated away from the structure is shaped to permit the church to spring up from it.
THE experience begins as you ascend the monumental steps and begin to observe through the glass doors to the Narthex, the flowing yet definition of space within, as is also achieved when looking, from the road, through the supports of the cross. Each step being a reminder that you are entering God’s House, creating an atmosphere which places the worshiper in the proper attitude of mind and heart before entering God’s House. As you enter the Narthex, the spaces beyond are visible through the glass doors to the Nave and the glass over the dividing partition, thus revealing the high and low ceilings resting on various levels of the sculptured shaped beams. The beams are supported by four giant concrete columns which rise up to receive them (pillars of faith so to speak, likened unto the apostles Mathew, Mark, Luke and John) which in turn allow light to stream through their openings.
CIRCULATION is directed under beams and the main high ceiling space of the Nave is scaled for normal Sunday worship. Expansion of seating is directed to the lower ceiling ancillary spaces as needed.
CONNECTION of column and beam to floor reveals itself as the eye and mind measure the strong feeling of the structure. Each view leads toward the alter focal point as beam and column frame the Chancel which ultimately opens to the sky. The space initiates its effect on man and man’s effect on it, with all parishioners having a view of the Altar.
THE purpose and goals of Zion have been:
to spread the Gospel of Christ to the community; to promote peace, love, friendship and harmony among all people of all races and nationalities; and to continue to serve the members of Christ’s Kingdom in this area under the traditional customs of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.
MAY GOD BLESS this congregation with an additional 100 years.