It was a joyous day on Sunday for members and friends of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church as they celebrated 100 years of ministry in Nesquehoning. During the special afternoon service, the Rev. Dr. Samuel R. Zeiser, Bishop, ELCA Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod, thanked and congratulated members of Zion for their "faithful and loving ministry in Jesus' name," and added that they have "been good at it for 100 years," while also noting the church's long line of "dedicated pastors."
According to Zion's anniversary booklet, the first efforts to establish a Lutheran presence in Nesquehoning began in 1895. In 1911, Rev. C.K. Fegley, field missionary, was sent to Nesquehoning to "canvass the field" and to conduct regular services. On Feb. 3, 1911, the first congregational meeting was held and the proposal of the Home Mission Board of the Ministerium was accepted, yoking Zion, Nesquehoning with Zion, Packerton. The first Lutheran service was conducted by Fegley on Feb. 12, 1911 in Corby's Hall.
The Rev. D.E. Reichard, pastor of the Packerton Mission, was elected as the first pastor as of May, 1912. The first Congregational Organization was completed by June 27, 1912.
Land was then purchased for a church at the corner of Catawissa and Douglass (now Mermon) Streets in September of 1913 and plans for the building were prepared by Morris G. Prutzman. Ground was broken on Oct. 4, 1914 with the cornerstone being laid by Pastor Reichard and the Rev. W.H.X. Lauer of Summit Hill. The first services were held in the completed building on Dec. 5, 1915.
During his homily, Bishop Zeiser asked those in attendance to "step back and take a breath to see what has brought Zion to its 100 year milestone." He stated that the church began with the "inspired efforts of Nesquehoning Lutherans" who possessed little wealth or time to take on such an endeavor, but who did possess a "faith that would not be stilled."
Zeiser also stated that these individuals were "empowered in the name of Jesus to gather together and create a presence in this community."
"Who among them would have thought that in 100 years there would be a gathering," said Zeiser adding that in some cases, their descendants may even be present.
Zeiser also pondered what it must have felt like for the early founders when the new church building was completed in the community.
"What mattered is that they recognized that their Gospel-based desire to build the church lied beyond themselves," said Zeiser. He also added that the "strength plus endurance to do it came from God."
Bishop Zeiser encouraged the present congregation to "raise up hope, cry for justice and to share the faith we have inherited." Zeiser also said that Zion had a "respected history" and "long-standing experience in fulfilling God's purpose." He also asked the congregation to "lift up ministry motivated by a faith that will not be stilled," and to "be centered on that kind of restless faith."
Other participants in the anniversary service included the Rev. David Rowe, Friedens Evangelical Lutheran Church, Oley; the Rev. Warren S. Harding, retired; the Rev. Durrell Seip, retired; the Rev. Fred T. Crawford III, retired; the Rev. Marjorie Keiter and Vicar Ben Siebert. Organist was Ruth Kistler and special music was performed by Samantha and Emily Cerimele.
Following the service, the attendees enjoyed a dinner at Macaluso's Restaurant.