Zion Church of the City of Baltimore
Listed 12/30/2011 National Registry of Historic Places
Church Website: http://www.zionbaltimore.org/index.htm
Zion in Baltimore
The Bicentennial History of the Earliest German-American Church in Baltimore.
Klaus G. Wust
Zion in Baltimore
Zion History Book Supplement
Some of the first Germans in Baltimore had come straight from the Old Country, others from the German settlements of Pennsylvania, especially from nearby York County. For the most part they were pious people.
As with all the other settlements of Germans in colonial days, devotional life was, at first, centered in the homes. Many had brought their Bibles and hymn-books with them from Germany. Several of these original well-thumbed volumes remain in the library of Zion Church.
Their devotional books were read in the family circles of the first Lutherans, and as had always been the custom in German families, the father would lead the prayers. Soon several families began to gather together for devotions, and their meetings became regular. The humble dwellings of the townsfolk were the first places of worship.
Legally, the position of the Lutherans and Reformed in Baltimore was difficult. Maryland was a colony of the British crown and the Church of England alone was established by law and supported from the public treasury. There was no restriction on founding any other religious body in the Maryland colony, but the tax for the support of the Anglican Church had to be paid regardless. These laws eventually faded into non-enforcement, but created difficulties between groups of early Christians in the area.
The Lutherans in Baltimore thus belonged legally to the Anglican St. Paul's parish. In about 1750, they briefly held their worship in St. Paul's Church together with their Reformed brethren. The arrangement didn't last long.
The Baltimore Germans had almost no access to their Mother Church. Their need for ministry lead to their being abused by "itinerant preachers of bad reputation and conduct" on several occasions. Reportedly, several de-frocked ministers from Europe and vagabonds pretending to be clergy misrepresented themselves to the German Lutherans, taking advantage of their good nature and generosity before abandoning them. The Baltimore Germans needed a minister they could trust.
There were many Lutheran congregations in the country pleading for the services of a pastor. Only a few groups in Pennsylvania had consolidated to carry on a regular existence as Lutheran Churches. Untiring ministers were constantly roaming four or five counties in order to keep the congregations together until ministers should come from the Mother Church in Germany to take over these charges.
The faithful Lutherans of Baltimore could not offer much to their first pastor, the Reverend John George Barger, who for three consecutive years came down from Pennsylvania six times a year, administering the spiritual functions in preaching and sacraments, for five pounds a year.
Up until the time of the first congregation, the Lutherans and Reformers had banded together. In 1755 all those among the Germans whose faith was founded on the "Augsburg Confession" formed the "Evangelical Lutheran Congregation at Baltimore Town".
In 1762 the congregation built their first church. It was situated on Fish Street (now Saratoga) near Gay Street, about a block north of the present day church. The addition was built in 1785.
The little Lutheran church was a primitive structure upon the steep hill near Jones' Falls. It was approached only with difficulty, and the steep, sandy hill was very inconvenient for the older people. Nevertheless, the congregation had found its first permanent home, which was a monument to their honor and credit.
Many years later, Pastor J. Daniel Kurtz reminded the people of Zion of the willingness to sacrifice which distinguished the congregation in 1762: "May our contemporaries remember these and similar sorrowful days of their forefathers, and thank the Lord in humility of the heart, if they in the actual wealth of their congregation can worship their God in well-constructed, beautiful temples." The old manuscript gives testimony of the fact that they were well aware of their limitations, when we read: "Wisely we had to cut our coat according to our cloth, and erected only a wooden building which we would consider a school-house until our revenues would allow us to build the church proper." But they were also looking forward to the future when the chronicler added: "If, however, a church with a steeple should be built upon the hill, it cannot help being seen afar and will make a fine appearance. For the time being it could not at all be compared with the temple of Solomon, except for our ardent zeal which made it possible that within a short time we could gather there for services."
When Pastor Kirchner held his first service in the church it was a day of happy thanksgiving. The flock, scattered and without a home a few years earlier, now gathered for the first time in a church of its own, built by the members with their own hands. The roughly hewn benches, the unadorned walls of weatherboard were far from providing a comfortable setting for divine services. But comfort was alien to these pioneers who gathered there even in the harsh winter days when the cold northwest wind would pierce through the thin walls. Schoolmaster Worschler led the singing, uncouth and simple as it was, unaided by the music of an organ. Then Pastor Kirchner would stand before the simple altar, lead the congregation in a prayer and begin his sermon. He had no great zeal for liturgical worship and, he sometimes spoke of the liturgy as "the exercises preparatory to the sermon."
When Pastor Daniel Kurtz led the people of Zion into the new century, the pioneer days for the Lutheran Church in Baltimore were finally over. Sons had taken the places of the founding fathers. Emigration from Germany suddenly died down to a trickle as a result of the European wars. The city of Baltimore had grown to more than 40,000 inhabitants with an export trade volume of more than $15,000,000 in merchandise per year, thus becoming the third largest port of the young American Republic. Zion had grown with its city.
In 1794, the pastor had recorded 162 communicants; in 1795, there were 283; in 1804, Zion Church had 318 communing members. Within one decade, the membership had doubled. In a single communion service, on Whitsunday of 1807, 195 communicants were counted. The once small flock of Lutherans in Baltimore had developed into a sizable congregation for which the old house of worship was becoming too small in spite of the large addition which had been built in 1785. The ever increasing number of baptisms at Zion seemed to insure the future strength of the Lutheran community. Every year, more than one hundred children were baptized into the church by Pastor Kurtz:
On June 5, 1803, Zion was host to the Synod of Pennsylvania for its annual meeting. The pastor had to ask the other two German denominations in Baltimore to extend their hospitality to the synodal delegates, since his own church was too small to hold the meetings of the clergy and lay delegates of the Lutheran Church from far and near. Although the Reformed and the United Brethren gladly cooperated, Pastor Kurtz would much rather have received the leaders of his church in a new and larger Zion.
Altogether, a proud record of 1,364 baptisms within a period of ten years. Would there be room in Zion for all those whom he baptized? Pastor Kurtz was deeply concerned about those who would form Zion's congregation in less than a generation's time. Under a list of baptisms which he entered in the register of the church, he wrote this prayer: "O Arch-Shepherd Jesus! Receive all these souls into Thy flock, and keep them therein unto eternal salvation, for the sake of Thy death! This is the prayer of their teacher, Daniel Kurtz."
In the following years, he did not rest. His was the dream of a church which would not only be large enough for the congregation of his days, but also for that of generations to come. Knowing well the material limitations of his flock, he was patient in preparing his ambitious building program. True, a few of the members were quite wealthy, but most of them had little money to spare for anything apart from securing a moderate degree of prosperity for their own families. There were some outstanding businessmen of the city who were active members of his church: Philip Myers, a banker; Johann Machenheimer, the architect and builder; Johann Strobel and Henry Saumening, brewers and bottlers; Frederick Graf, a maker of leather goods; Frederick William Brune, J. H. Heidelbach, Daniel Diffenderfer and Peter Sauerwein, who were all engaged in wholesale and retail merchandising, and Peter Frick, a member of Baltimore's first City Council and attorney-at-law.
The pastor, however, knew that the building of a church could not be undertaken with two handfuls of well-to-do men alone, but would require the support and interest of the entire congregation. He preached to his congregation of the beautiful house of Zion and prayed to his Heavenly Father for His blessing.
His prayers were answered, and his preaching fell on fertile ground. On September 15, 1806, the Church Council announced its decision to build a new church and called on the congregation: "As every member of this congregation will easily realize the necessity of a new church edifice, the Council again appeals to the liberality of the members who have proved their willingness to help on previous occasions. Donations from other friends of church institutions will be accepted with thanks and with a prayer that God may bless them abundantly in return. If this building should be begun the subscriptions may be paid in four installments." The subscription list was circulated, and in less than a year's time 273 individuals pledged $12,559.60, practically every communing member having answered the appeal of the Council. In the same year, the lot on which the church was to be erected was bought for $8,600.
A busy time began for the pastor and Council of Zion. The architects, George Rohrbach and Johann Machenheimer, both church members, who were entrusted with the design of the church and the supervision of the numerous craftsmen who were constructing it, had to be consulted, informed and supervised. Early in 1807, the cornerstone was laid.
The short square tower marking the Gay Street end of the sturdy brick structure contained a simple bell which would call the flock of Zion to service on happy and sad occasions. There were two entrances—one on Gay Street, and the other one on the south side of the building. Both had rounded Roman arches, while the windows were pointed in the Gothic style.
On October 9, 1808, the great day had come of which the pastor had dreamed for a long time. The program of the service of dedication has been preserved. To the sound of a symphony played on the old organ, Pastor Kurtz could proudly lead the guest ministers, followed by the Church Council, into the new house of worship. Specially written texts adapted to melodies of Lutheran hymns and an Ode of Praise exuberant with joy upon Zion's contemplation were used for the singing of the congregation and of the choir during the three services on the day of dedication. The Church Council directed an appeal to the members, which, besides expressing overwhelming joy, revealed deep concern about the financial obligations in the future. But it also admonished the people of Zion not only to give silver and gold, but above all, to give their hearts. "The Church Council rejoices with you on this day and exclaims with deeply moved hearts: Behold the handiwork of the Lord! Now German Zion stands before us in its beauty! The Lord made you willing to contribute your share—you have done much, but you will certainly not hold back your generous hands, as the Lord has helped you so far. We are sure that you will reveal your joy in our Zion also in the future by increasing your contributions according to your abilities. It would be an expression of ingratitude to intimate the least doubt about your generosity on this memorable day. We are firmly convinced that you will offer your gift generously today to the glory of Him to Whom we are indebted for all that we possess. We still owe much, but we do not fear. We know your love, your patriotism, and your truly Christian attitude towards this House.
"One more thing dearest friends! You love your forefathers, you love the evangelical teachings; the truth of salvation as you learned it in your mother tongue is especially important to you. Do you want to do less for your children than your parents have done for you when they brought you up in their mother tongue? No! Without doubt you will not let that happen. Do not rest until your school affairs are on a foundation which will assure that this House also remains a House of God for your posterity, where the preaching will be in German and where the name of the Lord will forever be praised in this language."
There Zion stood and for the first time opened its gates to the congregation whose sacrifices had made the building possible.
Heavenly hosts sing Thy praise
May also Zion's voices raise
To Thee in all Thy magnitude
Thy children's prayers—our gratitude.
Early in 1807, the cornerstone was laid. The annual synodal meeting in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, had to be attended. Besides all regular services, Pastor Kurtz solemnized 64 marriages, officiated at 57 funerals and baptized 150 children during that year. All the work culminated in 1808. A class of 43 confirmands was to be accepted into the communion of the church. The number of communicants increased to 313.
The Synod at Lebanon in Pennsylvania required his presence because he was to be elected secretary of the Synod for the year. He had to travel alone to the convention, since all the money was needed for the building fund. In previous years a member of the Church Council had always accompanied the pastor to represent Zion at the synodal meetings. Pastor Kurtz's regular duties in those days were in themselves of considerable dimensions. Many members lived at distant points. Since there were hardly any means of public conveyance, the pastor had to ride on horseback to visit the sick who lived outside of the city.
The work on the new church was nearing completion when fall arrived. The organ was transferred from the old church, adorned with wood carvings, and installed in the new building. The red brick structure with the white trimmings was ready for use. On October 9, 1808.
Pastor Daniel Kurtz's work as a spiritual leader in the largest city of Maryland did not remain unechoed on the outside. In 1816, the University of Pennsylvania bestowed upon him the degree of Doctor of Divinity for his outstanding work as a clergyman. He was the first Lutheran pastor in Maryland ever to be thus distinguished. His excellent articles on Justification in the Evangelisches Magazin found wide acclaim. Thus acknowledged as a man qualified for leadership, he could begin to reach out successfully for an active part in the reorganization of the Lutheran Church as a whole, and pave the way for an end to the spiritual deterioration which had befallen many congregations in the country. He kept in close contact with the other Lutheran pastors in Maryland and northern Virginia, where the congregations had grown in numbers and the particular interest of the churches required a strong organization to prevent them from losing their denominational consciousness. Special conferences, although they were held occasionally in that region until 1817, could not perform the mission that a regular Synod would fulfill.
Most of the conferences of the Mother Synod of Pennsylvania were held at distant places. The time was ripe for a separate organization for the churches in Maryland and Virginia. Pastor Kurtz, who was instrumental in the preliminary steps to this end, wanted to see the new Synod created in full harmony with the Pennsylvania Synod, of which he had been a faithful member ever since he entered the ministry. The simultaneous creation of a General Synod which would unite all bodies of the Lutheran Church in America seemed the best guarantee that the formation of the Maryland Synod would not be divisive or schismatic.
On Trinity Sunday, June 6, 1819, the Seventy-second Convention of the Pennsylvania Synod met in Zion Church in Baltimore. For the first time, new Zion received the leaders and delegates of the church. The attending pastors and lay representatives assembled in the parsonage and, led by the host pastor, went in procession to the church. The main business on the agenda of this meeting was to act on the proposed formation of a General Synod. The Synods of North Carolina and New York had requested to become members of such a central body. A committee of six was appointed, two of them being from Zion, Pastor Daniel Kurtz and John Schorr, a member of Zion's Church Council. Their draft of a plan for the creation of the General Synod met with the approval of a majority of the delegates. The walls of new Zion resounded with hymns of praise and gratitude. Now Pastor Kurtz and his co-workers could proceed to rally the Lutheran churches in Maryland and Virginia into a separate synod, which would subsequently become a member of the General Synod.
On October 11, 1820, the clergy and lay delegates of the Evangelical Lutheran Congregations of Maryland and Virginia assembled in Grace Church at Winchester to organize their Synod. Pastor Kurtz was elected its first president. He occupied that high office for four consecutive terms and for thirty-two more years continued to be a member and advisor, always being considered "The Patriarch of the Synod."
In the same year, the General Synod became a reality at a conference in Hagerstown. This first national body of the Lutherans in America also chose the Pastor of Zion Church as its first president and twice thereafter re-elected him. Thus his untiring work was crowned. Suddenly Zion, once a little charge which had to plead hard for the occasional services of itinerant ministers in order to hear the Word of God, had a pulpit and a parsonage of national significance. Zion had reached its zenith. It had become the Mother Church of the Maryland Synod, and the quiet, pious Doctor of Divinity in the Baltimore parsonage was the president of the national body which at that time united nearly 45,000 Lutherans on the American continent.
While Pastor J. Daniel Kurtz was leading Zion to the height of its importance, the congregation was shaken by disturbances caused by the German and English language issues. Every church founded by immigrants from non-English-speaking countries sooner or later in its history has been confronted with the problem of introducing the English language without denying the use of the old tongue to the services for those members who have not yet, or will never, acquire a command of the English language.
If the German Lutheran congregation had heeded the far-sighted advice of its elders, Charles Wiesenthal and George Lindenberger, who as early as 1771, had advocated the tolerance of the English language, at least for the coming generations, the language transition would have taken place through a slow process of evolution. The unique location of Zion, however, in one of the nation's largest immigration ports, contributed largely to the fact that German remained the only language of preaching and teaching at Zion for many generations, in fact, until the First World War. This exclusive use of the German language was bought at a high price—a price which seemed so high to many members of Zion Church in the first decades of the 19th century that a conflict ensued which finally ended only after a pitiful period of strife and the loss of many a faithful parishioner.
In order to accommodate those members who could not understand German, Pastor Kurtz asked his nephew, the Rev. Benjamin Kurtz, to become his assistant at Zion. The young clergyman, who was perfectly bilingual, advocated English preaching for the sake of maintaining the ranks of Lutheranism. He left, however, a few months afterwards to accept a call in Hagerstown. His departure meant that again there were no services at Zion in the predominant language of the country.
In May 1816, a renewed request was submitted to the Church Council by the members favoring the English language. As no action ensued, a petition was circulated in the summer of the same year, signed by all those who opposed the continuation of monolingual services. The Church Council remained silent. After several weeks of waiting, an extraordinary meeting was called, which delegated Philip Uhler, Friedrich Leypold, Philip Endler, Daniel Hoffmann and Wilhelm Warner to incorporate the argument in favor of the introduction of English in a printed pamphlet, which was distributed to all members of the congregation.The authors of the pamphlet went on to offer to let those who opposed the English language decide which part of the Sundays should be reserved for the English preaching. They even went so far as to pledge their continued financial support of the German services after they should have found an English Lutheran co-pastor, whom they would pay out of their own pockets, in order to avert a final split of the congregation. Touching and heart-rending was their final word: "If we should not succeed, we shall be forced to leave the congregation against our will, for the sake of the bread and water of life for our children. Your children and children's children will follow us."
In 1822, during a temporary absence of Pastor Kurtz, whose synodical activities required much of his attention, a young and attractive German clergyman preached several sermons. The congregation was very much impressed by the Rev. Johann Uhlhorn, who had arrived from Germany a short while before, where he had been assistant pastor of the Lutheran church in Mannheim. The suggestion to offer him the co-pastorate at Zion found general approval. A memorandum signed by many members and "even those who were not members" was submitted to the Church Council. The Council conferred with Pastor Kurtz, who gladly consented to serve the congregation together with Pastor Johann Uhlhorn. The Council voted on this matter but could muster only a majority in favor of calling Pastor Uhlhorn, and not the two-thirds which the constitution required. Despite this short vote, on December 16, 1822, a formal invitation was extended to the Rev. Uhlhorn, which he accepted subsequently.
This hiring of a second German Pastor was the final signal for the English faction of Zion's congregation. Their vote against engaging the German co-pastor, led by John Reese in the Church Council, had been completely ignored. Despite the continual neglect of their wishes by the majority, they had remained in the communion of Zion, hoping for an eventual change of mind on the part of their brethren. Now, the time had come when even the most faithful among them despaired, and together with John Reese several families of long standing left their old church. In October 1823, John Reese met with seven other former members of Zion to found the first English Lutheran congregation In Baltimore. They approached the Synod of Maryland, built their own church, and in 1827 had their first regular pastor, the Rev. John Gottlieb Morris who wrote about the attitude of Zion: "Some of the influential members opposed us directly, but I had the satisfaction not many years after, of receiving some of these very men and their large families into my church." Pastor Kurtz did not put any obstacles in the way of the new English Lutheran congregation, hoping that it would contribute to a restoration of peace at Zion and at the same time prevent the anglicized Lutherans from losing their old faith.
As Pastor Uhlhorn felt that his presence at Zion had against his will led to the disruption, he wanted to prevent the break-up of the church. He was determined, out of his respect for his elder colleague, to leave Zion rather than to see Pastor Kurtz forced out of his position. He submitted his resignation. On July 29, 1830, the combined Church Council met under the chairman, Philip Muth, and refused this sudden resignation.
Under the guidance of both pastors, the congregation was finally united again. One Council was elected on August 24, 1830, and a new constitution was adopted.
At the same time a new "Plan of Incorporation of Zion Church of the City of Baltimore," was adopted, based on the constitution and in pursuance of the Act of 1802, which had superseded previous regulations under which Zion Church was incorporated for the first time in 1800.
The new constitution defined clearly the confessional character of the church, the language used for the services, the competence of the two pastors and the Church Council.
The first section stated expressly:
"The presently engaged preachers and their duly elected successors shall at regular times on Sundays and holidays, at funerals and other solemnities publicly, implicitly, and edifyingly announce the Word of God according to the apostles and prophets, and the unaltered Augsburg Confession."
The divine services should forever be conducted in the German language, and, as Article 1 provided expressly, "this clause of agreement according to which the preaching in English is prohibited shall never be subject to change." The Church Council should henceforth consist of eight elders, four deacons and the pastor. In the case of the church's having more than one pastor, the elder pastor alone should belong to the Church Council. At the same time, all Council members were designated as the trustees of the church's property.
The constitution was signed by President Dr. J. Daniel Kurtz, by Peter Sauerwein, Carl Bohn, Philip Muth, Christian Capito, Christoph von Hollen, Johann Super, Carsten Torney and Carl W. Karthaus as elders, Gottlieb J. Medinger, George Sauerwein, Friedrich Kummer and Johann J. Medinger as deacons.
For almost three years after the restoration of peace the two pastors worked side by side, alternating the services. But Pastor Kurtz soon felt that the labors and the quarrels had taken his old vigor from him and the years had eaten his strength. Much of his energy, which could have been employed toward a further build-up of his church both locally and in the Synods which he served, had been wasted by the unfortunate dissensions of his flock.
Upon reaching his seventieth year of age, Dr. Daniel Kurtz submitted his resignation in 1832. The Church Council accepted it at once. The grateful congregation who owed him so much, but who had also filled his last years at Zion with deep sorrow voted him a considerable annuity and the use of the parsonage for the rest of his life.
The Council and congregation called on Pastor Uhlhorn to serve as their pastor. Before effecting any plans of his own, he desired to visit briefly his native Bremen. The Church Council granted him a leave in 1833. On March 22, 1834, he died from a sudden illness, soon after his arrival in his old home. Zion was left a flock without a shepherd.
A down-trodden congregation, split into parties, upset by ugly obsessions, a band of people who called themselves Christian, but who lacked the first prerogatives of Christianity, love and peace" was the impression of a contemporary upon a first contact with the people of Zion, Pastor Wilhelm Domeier, whom the Church Council had engaged during the absence of the Rev. Uhlhorn, did nothing to improve the situation. As a successor to the man who had died so unexpectedly, he was highly unsuitable. For many Sundays the pulpit of Zion remained empty. The Church Council alone bore the responsibilities of continuing the existence of the congregation. It assumed a position of absolute rule, seemingly with little authorization from a large segment of the congregation.
A new pastor was finally found, the Rev. John Peter Haesbert. Now something became evident that so far had never come into the open: the confessional foundation of Zion Church was shaky. Pastor Haesbert, an unusually orthodox minister, began violently to rebuke the Church Council for its lax attitude toward the doctrines of the church. Without regard and understanding for the position which the Church Council of Zion had acquired traditionally, he attempted to swing the church over into orthodoxy. He encountered an opposition which was just as violent as his own actions. For the reasons that his own character was not without reproach and that it was "a disgusting fight which he led against the church council," he was dismissed. Now an unexpected, tragic episode occurred in that about 150 members announced their resignation from membership in Zion Church. After some hesitation, Pastor Haesbert organized a new congregation to gather together all these former members of Zion. On November I, 1835, the "Second German Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession" came into being and bought a vacant brick church building on the corner of Holliday and Saratoga Streets. The words "Augsburg Confession" were inscribed in large, ostentatious letters on the building. Again members of Zion provided the membership for a new Lutheran church in Baltimore. Pastor Haesbert, the leader of this spectacular exodus, otherwise a humble, upright and honest man, became involved in family difficulties which caused his removal to New Orleans. After a short pastorate there, he left for Brazil where he became a prominent Lutheran organizer whose memory is still today held in high esteem.
Pastor Daniel Kurtz, though 81 years old, stood by his former parishioners from Zion and preached to them until March 1845, when he installed the Rev. F. C. Wyneken as the pastor of the Second German Lutheran Church.
But there was still Zion Church. There was an altar without a servant, a pulpit without a preacher. The cantor and the regular schoolteacher had also left. The loss of a large percentage of the membership raised the question whether Zion would continue to exist. The communion records in the church register end in 1833. No hand had made any entries since that year. The school, for which the Church Council once had far-reaching plans, was without a regular teacher.
A member of the consistory of Zion Church, while visiting New York in the summer of 1835, attended a service in St. Matthew's Lutheran Church and heard the sermon of the young assistant to the old pastor, Frederick William Geissenhainer. Upon inquiry, Dr. Geissenhainer informed the visitor from Baltimore that his assistant, Henry Scheib, had just come to New York from Germany in April and as he was without a charge, had been taken in by him until some congregation would call him. Zion Church, or better the skeleton of the old congregation which remained after the cleavage of 1823 and the mass exodus of 1834-35, did not hesitate for long to call the Rev. Scheib to deliver several sermons at Zion.
One month after his coming to Baltimore, on October 18, 1835, the Church Council elected Scheib as the regular pastor of Zion Church. His sermons had met with the approval of a majority, and besides, the church could no longer wait for a permanent minister, lest it dissolve completely. There were still a few members of the old conservative stock who had not left when Pastor Haesbert drew a large segment of Zion's congregation into the whirlpool of a confessional battle.
Most members, however, who had remained were recent immigrants from Europe. They had gone through the many decades of war. They had been exposed to the liberal ideas that had spread over Europe after the French Revolution. For them, orthodoxy as Pastor Haesbert represented it, and pietistic conservativism as Pastor Kurtz had preached it, were utterly alien. They sought a church that would provide something to hold on to in the tribulations of the immigrant's life, until the final adjustment. They expected a church that would open its doors on Sunday morning, that would instruct their children and, apart from edifying its members during the services and requiring the usual contribution, would leave them alone. They were generally better educated than the pioneers of the 18th century, and elaborate, sophisticated sermons such as Pastor Uhlhorn had provided corresponded more to their taste than did the gospel ministry of Father Kurtz.
The congregation which Pastor Scheib began to serve in 1835, although described as "down-trodden, upset by ugly obsessions", received him with much good will. But the cleavage which had been left so wide open and all the mutual distrust that divided the flock remained. With his great energy and his uncompromising faith in the victory of truth over ignorance, of light as he saw It over the darkness, the young pastor made a healthy start toward better relations within the congregation. "To win them for the better seemed hopeless enough at the beginning. But surrounded by theological accusers and blackmailers, under blame and shame, so low and loveless, he sowed the seed of peace, of love, of education and of morality; what he had to tell his congregation, he demonstrated in his own blameless life," his consistory testified for him when he was called to defend his beliefs and his actions.
The sermons he preached from the pulpit of Zion were something new. These people had to be lifted up again to hope and love and neighborliness. He put before them the man Jesus Christ, who loved, and helped and admonished. He gave them the example of the woman Mary, who brought up her child Jesus to believe in the good, the beautiful, and the true. He called on the people to think for themselves while reading the Bible. He baptized and confirmed, married young couples and buried the dead, truly only a few, as his flock was small; but every Sunday new hearers came, some to shake their heads in bewilderment, others to stay and join Zion Church.
Almost four years went by, and on April 14, 1839, Pastor Scheib stood up for re-election by the congregation. There had been some grumbling and some warnings from older members who could not accept what the new pastor preached. It was so different from anything which they had heard before. They respected his personality and the fine work of reuniting the congregation that he had done, but conscience would not let them rest.
Some who read this circular urging the congregation not to re-elect Pastor Scheib were stunned; many filled with anger. How could anyone so openly denounce the young and forceful pastor who had devoted all his days and many of his night hours to bring the church back to life and restore the congregational peace? Why was this upright man suddenly accused by members of his own church who had silently attended his services for four years? The circular went around from hand to hand: "Our beloved Zion Church is known to be a Lutheran Church. Our church was built by Lutherans to be and to remain a Lutheran Church where the sacred truths of the Gospel in accordance with the Lutheran Catechism and the Augsburg Confession shall be preached"—nobody had ever questioned this. All members considered themselves Lutherans, and never had they heard their pastor denounce the Augsburg Confession or the Catechism of Martin Luther. Were not his sermons full of references to the great reformer and leader Martin Luther ? But the pamphlet went on to accuse Pastor Scheib ;
"We claim that the Rev. Scheib, who is the candidate for the pastorate of our Zion Church, is by no means a true Evangelical Lutheran preacher, but in his beliefs approaches heresy and therefore he cannot be re-elected in accordance with our constitution. For our constitution requires that our minister be not a Unitarian or Universalist but a pious, faithful, decided Lutheran, which the Rev. Scheib is not, as we think is quite evident."
Immediately after it was circulated, the vestry and the directorium of Zion School convened, and on the following day the reply, endorsed by 175 members with their signatures, was given to the printer and soon afterwards distributed to all members of the church who could be reached.
Under the date of April 10, 1839, the vestry under its president, Conrad Lindemann, consisting of Johann Berger, D. H. Allers, Otto Torney, Henry Huber, W. Mcusel, and G. H. Wetter, and Carsten Torney, president of Zion School directorium, Dr. A. Wegncr, C. Simon, G. H. Mittnacht, and Gottlieb Medinger, members of the directorium, adopted the resolution which was embodied in the reply to the anonymous charges: "We consider that pamphlet as an attempt of ill-willed people who intend to spread unrest and discord among a peaceful congregation. First of all because the authors of this writ have not the courage to mention their names, and secondly because an honest man who might not have been content with the teachings of Pastor Scheib should have stood up against them a long time ago."
Four days later the congregation assembled to vote on the motion to re-elect Pastor Scheib for the next four years. With 254 against 38 votes, his ministry was approved by the vast majority of Zion's congregation.
From 1839 on Zion Church belonged to that class of religious bodies which Is characterized in ecclesiastical language as "having adopted the 'Independent' or 'Congregational' form of church government without being subject to the jurisdiction or control of any synod composed of delegates from different associated churches." Zion Church had become Scheib's Church.
Rejected by the Lutheran ecclesiastical authorities and desiring to stand alone, Zion's flock and its lone shepherd were not spared further tribulations.
In the spring of 1837 a flash flood had swept over the premises of the church, severely damaging the school house and the parsonage and also impairing the foundations of the church itself. The school, of which we shall speak in a separate chapter, was repaired at once, and subsequently enlarged. Not so the parsonage. It was still occupied by the old pastor, J. Daniel Kurtz, to whom the use of the parsonage had been granted for his lifetime by the congregation when he retired in 1832.
Monday morning, March 30, 1840, the inhabitants in the neighborhood of Gay Street were alarmed by the cry of fire. The flames at the time of the alarm were breaking through the roof and windows of the workshop in the rear of Edwin S. Tarr's cabinet warerooms on North Gay Street, next to the German Lutheran Church. In a short time the roof of the church caught fire from the intense heat, and the venerable edifice soon became a heap of ruins. Owing to a heavy fall of rain, which prevailed during the whole time the fire was raging, the fire did not extend."
While the ruins of the church were still smoldering, Pastor Scheib called upon the people of Zion to rebuild their house of worship without delay. As the outside walls had been spared, he decided upon a plan of reconstruction that would largely preserve the outward appearance of the old building. On November 8, 1840, the church was reopened with a dedication service under the motto "To Strive for Reason's Victory." The tower on the front, however, was not rebuilt. The inside was considerably changed. Pastor Scheib radically applied the Reformed concept of simplicity. Pulpit and altar, both painted white, were separated from the rest of the room by a simple iron railing. The walls and the ceiling were given a light grey coat, while all the woodwork was kept in a yellow shade of oak wood. The interior, in its box-like shape, reminded many a visitor of a Puritan house of worship. For Pastor Scheib and many of his parishioners, this expression of utmost simplicity fully coincided with their private lives outside of the church and was in complete harmony with their endeavor to approach religion with an open and critical mind, devoid of any ornaments and mystery.
Less than one decade after Pastor Scheib's arrival in Baltimore, Zion Church had undergone such a complete change that the new church can justly be considered a successor to the Old Zion rather than its continuation. The old membership, as we have seen, had turned away from Zion, and even the elements had contributed to bring into being a house of worship that very little resembled the Zion of 1808. At first Pastor Scheib and his vestry had attempted to conduct the affairs of the church according to the constitution of 1830, by interpreting its provisions in the light of the new events at Zion. More and more, however, this constitution proved to stand in the way of the many innovations. Several sections had been suspended by unanimous action of the congregation.
After several weeks of deliberations, the vestry met, in January 1844, and adopted a new constitution. The president of the vestry, D. H. Allers, and the secretary, Johann Bruhl, wrote in the preface to the published edition of this constitution that it was merely a renewal of the 1830 constitution with "such alterations as have become necessary since." Upon closer investigation, however, we find that this document is a far cry from any constitution which Zion Church had had during the past. Section 2, Article I defined the purpose of the congregation as follows: "The purpose of the church is the propagation of reasonable religiosity and genuine morality according to the principles of the Gospel."
In the absence of communion records and other evidence of membership, we have to rely on the entries in the church register for a clue to the membership of Zion Church in those years. There are several indications that the average member was young, recently immigrated, with almost no family ties. While Pastor Scheib baptized 120 children from 1835 until 1840 (when the conservative members left), between 1841 and 1848 there were seventy-eight baptisms, and from 1849 until 1855 only eight children were baptized into Zion Church. The comparative youthfulness of the membership in the forties and fifties of the last century, becomes evident from the records of burials: from 1835 to 1840, 85 burials; 1841 to 1848, 34 burials; 1849 to 1855 only 2 burials. Marriages as recorded by Pastor Scheib in the church register also show a great decline. From 1835-1840 the Pastor married ninety-five couples; from 1841 until 1849, thirty couples.
With so little pastoral work at hand it is not at all surprising that the Rev. Scheib turned his energies to a field of endeavor which was ever dear to him: the education of the youth.
The growing reputation of Zion School won Pastor Scheib and his flock the respect of a wide segment of the German and also the Anglo-American element in Baltimore. But there was still an atmosphere of suspicion which surrounded Zion Church. Some members never got rid of the suspicion that two fires (in 1839-1840) had been acts of arson by ill-meaning fellow-citizens. Pastor Scheib publicly discouraged such a belief.
This was the decade when the foreign-born population in many American cities had to run the gantlet of political rowdies who opposed the enjoyment of equal rights by immigrants. Zion, being an exclusively German immigrant church, was naturally in the center of these attacks. Many a Sunday, ruffians of the Know-Nothing Party disturbed the services. Picnics of the congregation in city parks were branded as "drunkards' meetings" because the participants did not frown upon the consumption of beer on Sunday afternoons. Rowdies, using sling-shots, bowie-knives and revolvers to intimidate the peaceful gatherings, almost invariably appeared on the scene
Pastor Scheib and many Zion members had an active part in arousing the Germans and other foreign-born citizens of Baltimore to form protective guards. The leaders of the German-Americans decided to stage a political demonstration with the purpose of directing the attention of the native Americans to the share the German element had had in the historical development of the United States. Zion Church, being the oldest German institution of the city, was best qualified to demonstrate how a church could preserve its German character and still be an integral part of American life.
Pastor Scheib, who along with other members of Zion Church (Albert Schumacher, a prominent layman of Zion, was the leading spirit behind the demonstration) had taken such a conspicuous part in it, became henceforth one of the unchallenged leaders of the German-Americans in their political, cultural and social life, a position also held by his successors, Pastors Hofmann and Evers. From the isolation of a heretic and discredited congregation, Henry Scheib had led Zion into the foreground of German-American activities in the city.
The liberal Germans who settled in Baltimore in great numbers in the early fifties were attracted by the clear and intellectual preaching of the spirit who occupied Zion's pulpit. Pastor Scheib was not a political man. When the Civil War broke out and Maryland was caught between the two warring factions, his sympathies were with the Confederacy, which for him was not the symbol of slavery but the manifestation of an aristocratic, social order in contrast to the rowdyism so often evident on the Northern side. He was liberal enough to rally his congregation, which was largely pro-Union in sentiment, around him, and he guided church and school through the difficult war years without any mentionable loss.
More and more, Zion Church was able to develop peacefully. Occasional attacks from all-too-eager clergymen could be warded off without abandoning the dignity which alone makes controversy and debate on differences of opinion a gain to both parties concerned. There was, however, one group which waged an unrelenting, bitter campaign against Pastor Scheib and his church. The Missouri Synod, a body of Lutherans that held most obstinately to the old dogmatic orthodoxy, untiringly denounced Scheib's preaching and practices throughout the years.
When, in 1879, the Pastoral Conference of Baltimore, Missouri Synod, inquired into Scheib's practice of baptism, it was told curtly, "Please show the authority which gives you the right to demand a confession of faith from me and which permits you to subject me and the Church Council of my congregation to a court of inquisition. Until such proof has been brought in clear and irrefutable manner I have neither the time nor the inclination for another word in a fruitless correspondence."
Whereupon the Pastoral Conference of Baltimore in conjunction with the Theological Faculty of St. Louis condemned Scheib and "his crowd" and warned people against Scheib's baptism. The Conference had 500 copies of its vitriolic declaration printed for distribution.
In 1881, the Church Council of Zion published a pamphlet, most likely written by Scheib himself, entitled Zion Church and the Recent Charges of Heresy by the Baltimore Pastoral Conference and the Faculty of St. Louis, which closed with these words: "We cannot help but express the wish that when the Pastoral Conference and the Faculty publish their next bull against Pastor Scheib and Zion congregation, they have a very large number of copies printed in order that we too may benefit from it without too much trouble. With this request we take leave forever of these two reverend institutions—the Baltimore Pastoral Conference and the Faculty of St. Louis." This pamphlet also contained a forceful and outspoken explanation of the faith as it was being preached and lived at Zion Church.
Pastor Scheib has inspired three generations with his faith. Among the German immigrants who came to Baltimore between 1840 and 1870, there were a large number who did not adhere to the creed of any church for their moral guidance. He gathered them into his fold and prevented them from joining the millions of unchurched and unbelieving men and women in America. To them he appealed, and he drew them to Christ as a moral guide. It is a testimony to his merit that today we still find the names of numerous descendants of those intellectual German immigrants on the roll of Zion Church and of other Lutheran Churches in the country.
The long incumbency of Zion's pulpit by Henry Scheib after 1840 was characterized by the harmony which he preached so consistently. Before his days, Zion had been a congregation of Sunday Christians. By founding the Liederkranz he created the first organization connected with the church which accorded members the opportunity to meet outside of the regular services. His Bildungsverein, a cultural association, likewise served the purpose of interesting his parishioners in activities centered around Zion Church and School. After the Civil War the membership increased steadily for a decade. At a time when women took very little interest in active church work, the pastor's wife, Mrs. Lisette Scheib, in 1868, founded the Frauenverein, which has since become outstanding among the church organizations of Zion and in times of need and of war has extended its benevolent help in a most generous manner.
Due to his theological views, Pastor Scheib remained isolated among his brethren of the cloth. Men of similar persuasion seldom shared the pulpit with him, even for occasional sermons. Seldom during this period and only for brief terms, were assistant pastors working by his side.
The first of these assistants, the Rev. John C. Hoyer, was engaged by Pastor Scheib with the consent of the Church Council in 1841. He was a young and extremely capable minister, who had severed his synodical connections prior to his coming to Baltimore. He stayed with Zion until October 1844, when he received a call to Richmond to take over the newly founded German Lutheran St. John's Church. St. John's, the only German church in that part of Virginia, was likewise an independent congregation. Pastor Hoyer carried on his work much as Scheib did in Baltimore.
Throughout the year 1869 Zion again had an assistant pastor, the Rev. Dr. Rudorf, a missionary who had come to Baltimore after fourteen years of service in Australia and the Orient. He had been rejected by the Lutheran authorities for his liberalism and found himself in full conformity with Pastor Scheib's views. His sermons were much acclaimed, but the congregation was reluctant to support two ministers. With the help of Scheib, Dr. Rudorf attempted to found both a church and a school in nearby Washington, patterned after the institutions of Zion. After a brief stay in the Capital, however, he found out that the German Lutherans there did not respond to his persuasions, and he left for the Midwest.
The anniversaries of the Zion School and of Pastor Scheib's services to Zion became, for the congregation, the occasion for the expression of its deep gratitude to its spiritual guide. The noble enthusiasm and the inspiration with which his words were endowed stirred the throngs which filled the church. But to the observer of the every-day life of Zion Church in the eighties it became evident that there existed a distressing gap between the festive occasions and the ordinary life.
Soon the entire life of the church was again limited to the service on Sunday morning. The Bildungsverein had ceased to exist; the Liederkranz developed into a social singing society. In 1888, Mrs. Scheib died, and much of the work which she had shared with her husband went back on his shoulders. The labors necessary to maintaining the outward life of the church and the personal responsibilities involved in guiding the inner life of a Christian family had become so manifold that it required almost more than the energy of a single individual to give every detail due attention. While other churches in the city provided a wide range of social activities for their members, which especially attracted the younger generation, Zion Church did not keep up with modern concepts of church activities.
Pastor Scheib was growing old. Most of the older members stood faithfully in the ranks, but younger people broke away until there was an almost total absence of young men and women on the church roll. Compared with the hundreds who had once pledged their vows and taken first communion at the altar of Zion, the number of actual members was decreasing constantly. Henry Scheib, saddened by the closing of Zion School, opposed any attempt to introduce a Sunday School. Despite the pastor's warnings that a Sunday School would contribute to undermine what he called the "spirit of Zion," Mr. W. Theodore Schultze of the Church Council and the young assistant pastor, Wagner, founded Zion Sunday School on December 2, 1888. Pastor Scheib never was reconciled to this action. His assistant had to leave after only a few months of service.
In the fall of 1889 the candidate Julius Hofmann was called from Germany to assist Scheib. He arrived in December of the same year and for seven years labored under great difficulties at the side of the venerable old man, who, at the last, was growing bitter and stern after his many tribulations. Once again the conflict between young and old broke out, tempered only by the respect for the lone giant who had devoted his lifetime to Zion Church.
For decades Pastor Scheib had borne the whole burden on his own shoulders. Among his colleagues of the ministerial profession in Baltimore he was shunned. This loneliness became especially evident when Pastor Scheib had to perform the funeral rites for his own immediate family, his wife and several of his children, who preceded him in death. Now it was hard for him to share his office with a young man whose views differed to some extent from his own.
Upon completion of his 88th year of age, Pastor Scheib resigned, on November I8, 1896, after 61 years in the pulpit of Zion Church. He died on the same date of the following year. "When the news of his death spread through the city, thousands of people were deeply moved. How much had come to a standstill with the death of this man How many memories were connected with his life? Gratitude and veneration were the sentiment of the large assembly in the church that had come to mourn his death.
On the first anniversary of his death, the congregation and a multitude of friends from all over the city assembled once more, this time to dedicate a monument which they had erected on the burial lot of the Scheib family in Lorraine Cemetery. It bears the inscription: "Truth, Justice, and Love." Among the manuscripts which Henry Scheib left behind, this prayer—completed by the octogenarian after being revised several times over a period of fifty years—was found:
"Upon the foundation of unity and of peace rests the structure of our well-being.
Unity, harmony of our powers is strength;
Harmony of forms is beauty;
Harmony of thinking is truth;
Harmony of conscience and will is virtue;
Harmony of conscience and feeling is love.
And love of God and man is religion.
That, Father, we seek. For that we pray. Grant it to us thy children."
With the death of Pastor Scheib, Zion Church entered upon the long road back into the communion of the entire Lutheran Church. The tempests of the 18th century, which shook Zion and caused the radical changes from the conservatism of Kurtz through the extreme orthodoxy of Haesbert to the rationalism of Scheib, were outlived. But with the death of the man with whose name the church had come to be identified in the outside world, little remained that promised to be the foundation for a new start. The essence of Pastor Scheib's life and work had been a humanistic open-mindedness, an idealistic readiness to serve and live by faith. This attitude enabled the three pastors who have since held the pulpit of Zion Church to close the ring of the historical progression on which the life of every congregation travels around its center, Jesus Christ.
The difficulties confronting Zion were not only of a spiritual nature. The question of reorganization had been delayed from year to year. The clearance of the lot on Lexington Street had imposed a heavy debt on the treasury of the church. The original deeds, containing clauses regarding the property of the church which prohibited the sale of ground and allowed its use only for purposes of worship, again presented a problem. A congregational meeting on the question of disposing of property brought no results.
Although the young assistant pastor had the support of John Boring, the president of the Church Council, no action could be taken. All who were concerned with the reorganization faced the difficulties of this transitional period, when the old ideas were still deep-rooted and the new had not yet been sufficiently formed.
With the election of Wilhelm T. Schultze as president of the Church Council, a movement for a new constitution got under way. Both Pastor Hofmann and Mr. Schultze prepared the text of the constitution, which was accepted by the congregation in May 1892. Without any radical changes, for which the time was not yet ripe, it introduced the following new provisions:
For the first time in Zion's history the women of the congregation were allowed to participate in the election of the preacher. The amount of the regular contributions was left to the discretion of the members, a minimum of five dollars a year enabling them to vote. The Church Council, which so far had consisted of elders and vestrymen, was reorganized. Only one type of councilman was created. The office of the trustees was abolished and their duties transferred to the Church Council.
The enactment of the new constitution during the lifetime of old Pastor Scheib made it the more valuable an instrument for Pastor Hofmann when he became the sole leader of the church. Also during the decade between 1890 and 1900, the question of the deeds was solved through the untiring efforts of Adolf Sirnon. The minutes of the Church Council of these years bespeak the labor of this man in disentangling the church's disadvantageous legal position. The president of the Church Council, Wilhelm Schultze, finally succeeded in having the restricting clauses of the original deeds annulled by the Maryland Legislature.
Now Pastor Hofmann could concentrate on the spiritual life of the congregation. Beginning in March 1891, he had edited the Kirchenblatt, in which he explained his stand. Ever since, the Kirchenblatt (later Gemindeblatt, now Monatsblatt), has proved a valuable instrument by means of which the pastor, the Church Council, and the various church organizations have remained in close contact with all the members of the church.
Young Hofmann found it difficult in the beginning to convince the congregation that the singing during the service was not aimed at achieving top musical quality, but should be an expression of common praise and prayer. For many decades congregational singing had been neglected altogether. Many of the well-known Protestant hymns were unfamiliar to the congregation. The old hymn book contained over 650 hymns, many of them antiquated, was entirely inadequate. In March 1893, Pastor Hofmann began the compilation of a new hymnal. Shortly after the death of Schcib the work was ready to go to the printer. The hymn book committee, under George Bunnecke, John Hinrichs and Robert M. Rother, advised the pastor during the six years' work of preparation, and Zion's own hymnal was introduced on the occasion of the Christmas service in 1899. It was largely based on the Gesangbuch for Alsace and Lorraine and contained about 200 hymns. In 1902, a second edition was published, which to the present day has remained in use in the German services.
The Sunday School, widened its influence upon the youth of Zion Church, and now the first adult class was founded. Many families who had left Zion Church or simply lost interest in their membership were approached by the pastor and a group of members in an evangelization program. By 1908, Zion Church had 650 members on its roll, many of them young people who took part in the manifold activities which the renewed congregation provided. With the creation of the Geme'mde abend, a monthly fellowship meeting of the families, the pastor successfully countered the tendency of a great number of people to limit their social life to one of the many German societies in the city, instead of participating in church endeavors.
The holidays of the church year were observed by beautiful special services. Communion was no longer offered to the men and women separately, as had been the tradition for so long, but the family now went together to the altar of the Lord. Reformation Day was observed annually. To honor the memory of Pastor Scheib, the annual Kirchtag was celebrated on October 18. From 1904 on, outdoor services were held once a year, the well-known Zion Waldandacht, an observance which was extremely popular in Germany at that time.
Zion Church Library was founded and developed into a remarkable collection of valuable works on the history of the church, on the German element in the United States, and on German and English literature.
Under Pastor Scheib, Zion Church had been viewed by the other German Protestant Churches of Baltimore with indifference, suspicion, even hostility. A gradual change of the church's position was brought about with much patience and in the spirit of neighborliness. Pastor Hofmann sought the fellowship of his colleagues and soon won their respect. When Zion Church celebrated its 150th anniversary in October 1905, for the first time in several generations the ministers of its sister churches took part in the memorial service.
Amidst this revival of Zion Church, one question became more acute from year to year: most of the families had moved away from the old part of the city into the outlying districts. New churches were founded in those sections, a circumstance which made it tempting for many German families to join them instead of going downtown every Sunday morning for the services at Zion. Time and again the floor was open for debate on the question of whether the church should be located in some other part of the city. Even Pastor Hofmann, for a while, was in favor of choosing a new, permanent location for Zion.
The Great Fire of February 7, 1904, threatened to spread to the church. The roof of the school house caught fire during the Sunday morning service, and the congregation had to be dismissed. In the evening the roof of the church itself caught fire and burned in two spots, but the precautions which had been taken prevented any considerable damage. The Church of the Messiah on Fayette and Gay Streets was completely destroyed, as were many other edifices in the neighborhood. When the Messiah congregation began to rebuild their church on the same location, Pastor Hofmann wrote in the Gemeindeblatt in March 1905 : "Not a few of our members are now wavering in their conviction that we should move, since Messiah Church is being rebuilt on the same spot where it was destroyed by the fire of February 1904. Well, but the fact that they are building there does not mean they are not committing a mistake. If they make a mistake it is not necessary for us to make one."
The congregation was divided on the issue. Although many favored the removal of the church into another section, most of them feared that the financial burden would be too great. The sentimental attachment to the venerable old building, whose walls had endured almost a century, also played a role in the discussions. "Then the downtown church is doomed" was a common slogan, and more than once Pastor Hofmann was told: "Just wait, it won't be long and there will he a sign on the door of Zion Church: For Sale." But those who wanted to keep Zion on the old location finally prevailed. Pastor Hofmann himself was won for the idea.
In February 1903, he had submitted suggestions for fundamental changes in the interior of the church, but when the question of a possible removal came up, he withdrew them, hoping for an entirely new building. Five years later his original plans were taken up again and realized within a few months.
The redecoration of the interior was carried out according to the pastor's plans. It is a testimony to his artistic taste and conception. Every section of the walls, every touch of color had its meaning.
Three designs from his own hand were the only decorations: the rose of Christmas as the symbol of joy, vines and ears of grain representing the Last Supper, and olive and oak branches, symbolizing "Evangelic" and "German." In the center above the altar he placed the man who brought evangelic faith back to men: Martin Luther. The painting of the reformer is a copy of the Luther portrait by Lukas Cranach. It was painted by William C. Rost, a member of Zion Church.
All this work was completed in time for the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the erection of Zion Church. permanent location
ZION CHURCH AND WORLD WAR I
Waves of immigrants from Germany poured into Baltimore. The founding of the German Empire in Europe had increased the racial consciousness of the Germans in America. At the turn of the century there were more than thirty congregations in Baltimore which had Sunday services in German. When the German immigration subsided somewhat during the first decade of this century, many German churches readily introduced English services, which gradually supplanted the German altogether.
German-Americanism, as we call this phenomenon of two generations ago, puzzled many observers. Most of these Germans in Baltimore were law-abiding citizens, and nobody actually questioned their loyalty. At the same time, however, they seemed to take such an alert interest in their old homeland that unknowingly they created the impression of being Germans first and Americans only second.
Zion Church had been German since its inception. Nowhere in Baltimore was an organization to be found where the spirit and the outer life were more genuinely patterned in the Teutonic style than in the old church on City Hall Plaza. Pastor Hofmann's name appeared on the roll of most of the German societies. He was a much-sought-after speaker at rallies of the German-Americans. Members of the church were to be found everywhere in the activities of Baltimore's Germandom. John Tjarks, the prosperous hotel owner and faithful son of Zion, for ten years headed the Independent Citizens' Union, a group of German societies that constituted a potent political power in Baltimore.
When the World War broke out in Europe in August 1914, there was no question where the sympathies of the German-Americans stood. The awareness that the motherland was engaged in a life-or-death struggle at once prompted them to prove by acts of charity their attachment to the Old Country, where fathers and brothers were fighting for the Fatherland. Pastor Julius Hofmann, who was active in the National German-American Alliance, placed the Zion Parish House at the disposal of the German-Austrian Red Cross Aid Society. Prior to 1917, almost a million dollars was collected for German and Austrian war widows and orphans, the congregation of Zion having contributed a considerable share of this amount. In the Adlersaal of the Parish House a German eagle was "nailed," each nail bringing a contribution for the war victims in the Old Country.
These activities were observed by the non-German public with much distaste. Gradually public opinion tended openly toward the Allied cause. The entry of the United States into the war against Germany became more and more probable. The enthusiastic feeling of the German-Americans, who considered themselves the hyphen between Germany and America, "the living demonstration of the fact that a large population may be transplanted from one to another country and may be devoted to the new fatherland for life and death, and yet preserve a reverent love for the old," as Carl Schurz once expressed it, greatly disturbed those who foresaw the war between the two countries.
In the midst of this situation, when the feeling ran high, Pastor Hofmann remained calm and sober. He never wavered in his profound faith in the values of his German heritage and culture, but, untiringly, he reminded his congregation of their oath of allegiance to the new country. In 1916, when he was serving as the Chaplain of the House of Delegates, he introduced English vesper services, which henceforth, for many years, were held regularly in the Parish House. This gesture of preaching in the language of the country attracted many Anglo-American hearers and convinced them that Zion was not a secret bulwark of the Kaiser.
On Good Friday of 1917, when a state of war between the United States and Germany was declared, there was no longer any doubt as to the loyalty of the people of Zion. Again it was the Parish House where hundreds of helping hands assembled—the Patriotic Helpers of Zion Church, and the Liberty Loan Drives, Zion Branch. Despite personal tragedy and torn hearts, surrounded by suspicion and often by hatred, Zion's people fulfilled their duties. For the soldiers who spent days or weeks in Baltimore before being shipped overseas, Zion opened its hospitable doors.
After the end of the war, Charles H. Miegel thus characterized his pastor's attitude during these years of storm and stress: "Pastor Hofmann was a great inspiration during the trying years. No opponent of his, however prejudiced or ignorant, can but admire this —that the man and his congregation performed sternly and loyally their duty as American citizens without prostituting the ideals of their Lutheran Christianity, and without surrendering one iota of that proud inheritance of our Germanic traditions as expressed in language, in literature, in learning, in music, and especially in our religious tenets. It was a heroic achievement, indeed—great because it was accomplished through glorious and mighty effort."
Many sons of Zion were in the Armed Forces. Four of them did not return. A cross of wrought iron, standing between the graves of the old pastors in the church garden, was erected in their memory.
The life of the church went on. The attendance at the services often was small. The stress on the members was too great. Racial hatred did not stop at the doors of the churches and schools. But when the pastor sent out an appeal to all members to return to the church for the Christmas service of 1918, he preached on Christmas Day to a church which could not have been fuller in the easy years before the war. What was most important, the youth remained faithful to Zion.
Expressed in numbers, Zion had lost some of its strength. Spiritually the church emerged stronger from the ordeal. The congregation had grown together in the face of hostility. It had also survived as a German church, soon remaining the only church in Baltimore where German was preached every Sunday. P
Pastor Hofmann on language: We are and we remain an American church of the German tradition. The German Gospel as interpreted by Martin Luther is and remains ours. We live on the impulses which it conveys."
The first steps forward, when peace was again established, was the building of a new parsonage to conform with the old world style of the Parish House. Immediately after the armistice, ZionChurch began to raise funds for the relief of thousands of destitute Germans—strangers as well as friends and relatives. Through the Lutheran church relief, Zion was drawn closer to the entire church. The Lutheran Inner Mission accepted the hospitality of the congregation and for many years held its annual lenten services in the Parish House, services in which many renowned Lutheran pastors preached.
The founding of the Church Club in 1920-21 was another proof of the reviving life in the congregation. Increased attendance, the liquidation of all debts through the willingness to help of all members from the richest to the poorer ones, and manifold activities around the church forged Zion's people together. Amidst all these efforts stood Pastor Hofmann, his hair grey now, but his spirit seemingly unaffected by the trials through which he led his people.
To mention the whole scope of his work in the church, in the city, but also in the state and well beyond its borders, would require more space than this history can devote to him. The generation whom he baptized, confirmed and led on to life is present today in every endeavor of Zion Church. In their faith and in their actions his ministry is still evident. The buildings, the garden, the books, which his great mind devised and placed at the heart of Zion, bespeak the achievements of the man who served Zion for almost forty years. There is hardly one nook or corner at Zion where the touches of his hand cannot be sensed even today.
He continued the proud independence of Zion Church, of the Freikirche, but gently led his congregation toward a closer fellowship with the Lutheran Church at large. He banished rationalism from the pulpit and substituted for it an almost romantic, childlike faith which filled the hearts of his people with charity and kindness. When he rose to preach, his figure had something of the stature of the Reformer Martin Luther, whose picture above the altar gave Zion a rare distinction among the Lutheran Churches. Pastor Hofmann's liturgy—his own creation, like so many other things— instilled a longing for the mystery of Christ which remained ever alive among the congregation.
For many new immigrants after the First World War, Zion provided a spiritual home and a harmonious introduction to the new American homeland. Bund Neuland, for many young Germans who came to Baltimore, was the first anchor they set in the unknown sea of America.
In spring 1927, the pastor went to Germany to recover from a serious illness. At the University of Giessen, which had conferred upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Theology, he lectured and was enthusiastically received by the students. After his return from his old homeland he resumed his duties, which had been taken care of by the Candidate of Theology Helnrich Falk during his illness and absence. A few weeks later he collapsed at the altar of the church while instructing his confirmation class. On the next morning, May 19, 1928, he closed his eyes forever.
The congregation buried him under the linden tree amidst the works which he created. His grave is marked by the beautiful and simple monument from the hands of his friend Hans Schuler.
After a brief interregnum which was filled by Pastor August Bauer of Thuringia, Germany, the congregation called the pastor of Zion Church in Philadelphia, Fritz Otto Evers, to Baltimore. On January 27, 1929, he was installed as the regular pastor of Zion.
With the experience of a long pastorate at a church so similar to Zion in Baltimore, Pastor Evers was well equipped to continue the great heritage of Pastor Hofmann. The illness and absence of his great predecessor had left many scars, which had to be healed by untiring efforts. Within a short time the congregation had again reached its old height. Pastor Evers was granted permission to maintain membership in his Synod, and the clause of the constitution which expressly forbade synodal membership to the pastor as well as to the church was amended to that effect. Thus from the outset of his twenty-four-year pastorate, Pastor Evers remained in close contact with his Lutheran brethren in the pulpits of other churches. For Zion this fact proved beneficial and did much to help remove the old prejudice against the "chains of the synod" which dated from the days of Pastor Scheib.
Pastor and Mrs. Evers filled the parsonage with the exemplary life of a German Pastorenfamilie. Fifteen years ago when a newspaper correspondent visited Pastor Evers, he drew a sketch of the man whose work has meant so much to Zion: "The pastor is a gentle, kindly man with a sweep of long gray hair that distinguishes him in the midst of any company. Alone in his Sakristei, in a velvet housecoat, a long cigar in his fingers, he is definitely a part of Zion Church."
Not only were the institutions which he found when he arrived in Baltimore continued, expanded and enlarged, but he ventured to create anew much that had been lost—and this during a time when many voices predicted the final doom of the German church in America. In 1929 the German Language School opened with a broadened scope, restoring the scholastic tradition of ZionChurch, which dates back to the first schoolmaster, Moritz Worschler. The school met with an unexpectedly large response. In the thirties it reached an enrollment of over 220 pupils. Miss Elsa Conradi, who was the principal of the school for many years, aiso wrote a delightful textbook, which was introduced in German schools in many countries. Never in the years of its existence has the school lacked teachers; among these was the pastor's wife. The German Language School continues today after eighty one years.
The Julius Hofmann Memorial Foundation, a memorial to his predecessor, was created to further the interest in German Instruction in the public schools. Each year the foundation awards books and medals to outstanding students of the German language in Baltimore.
In 1930, Zion celebrated the 175th anniversary of its founding. The church was completely redecorated, without, however, impairing the character which Pastor Hofmann had given it twenty years before. Between the high holidays of the church year and the special festive occasions, Zion's life went on in manifold ways. The outdoor services were repeated every summer. Even a service in Low-German was once held for those who had come from Northern Germany.
A dream long cherished by Zion's people came to be realized in 1934. Through the generosity of Ferdinand Meyer, who left a bequest of $50,000 to his church, it was possible to create an endowment fund to assure the permanency of Zion Church in the future.
The peaceful development of the church was once again interrupted when the Second World War drew near.
ZION CHURCH IN WORLD WAR II
The peaceful development of the church was once again interrupted when the Second World War drew near. Again Germany was the enemy, and many younger immigrants had to go through the same hardships and pain which a generation before had had to endure. One hundred and fifteen men and four women of Zion answered the call to the colors. A special committee ministered to these servicemen and women in a spiritual as well as material way throughout their service. Five of the heroes did not return from the battlefield and the seas.
Paul H. Frese, Jr.
Herbert B.W. Lorenz
George Henry Schottler
At the home front, the congregation concentrated on the war effort. Unforgotten is the day in May 1942, when Pastor Fritz O. Evers on behalf of Zion Church committed the ambulance "The Pioneer" to the hands of the American Red Cross as "the gift of Zion Church for the work of mercy and in honor of Dr. Charles Frederick Wiesenthal." The gift was accompanied by a considerable check for the purchase of blankets. As during the First World War, the Parish House was again opened to servicemen on furlough, on all weekends, for lodging and a breakfast on Sunday morning. More than 15,000 men were accommodated from 1942 until 1945.
Every Wednesday the "Zion Church Group working for the American Red Cross," composed of many women, met to sew and knit for the soldiers. The regular work of the congregation was not impaired by these additional activities. All these challenges resulted only in a firmer union and closer understanding among the members.
The parish house was once again open to servicemen. More than 15,000 men were accommodated from 1942 to 1945. Zion joined without delay in the relief work of Lutheran World Action.
Pastor Evers, in spite of a severe illness prepared for the Goethe Celebration in 1949.
English services were introduced at intervals and finally became a regular institution, with one service in English and one in German.
In 1949 a serious and painful illness impaired the working capacity of Pastor Evers. In 1951, the Church Council called the Rev. Leopold W. Bernhard of Brooklyn to Baltimore as co-pastor of Zion. The new co-pastor was installed on October 21, 1951. For one year both pastors shared the work at Zion. On September 21, 1952, Pastor Evers informed the congregation during the Sunday service of his desire to retire. He had served for almost twenty years and the congregation on October 19, 1952 presented him with a scroll expressing their gratitude and affection.
Pastor Leopold Wilhelm Bernhard began his service to Zion in October 1952 (leaving the church in 1954). He was born in Berlin on June 15, 1915. He began his theological studies at the University of Berlin in 1933. He arrived in American in 1938. He did graduate work at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia and the Biblical Seminary in New York to familiarize himself with American church life. While in Philadelphia he helped copy and translate the diaries of Muhlenberg. In 1941, he wrote with Kressman Taylor the account of the situation of the church in Germany, ‘Until that Day’. Prior to coming to Zion, he served as pastor of: Honterus in Gary Indiana; Zion in Cohocton, New York; Calvary in Jersey City, New Jersey; and Zion in Brooklyn New York.
Zion was ready to return publicly to the confessional premises of the Lutheran church and renewed membership in the Synod. He left no doubt that he would serve Zion only if they became a member of the Maryland Synod of the United Lutheran Church.
The Council called a congregational meeting on March 23, 1953 in the Adlersaal. The voting and discussion reflected the solemnity of the occasion. The recommendation of the Council was read first by the then president, Carl F.C. Schleunes, which recommended that the church return to the Synod. This and the revisions to the constitution were voted upon with 651 votes in favor; 8 votes opposing and 121 votes not voting, which were therefore counted as opposing. The motions carried with an 83% majority. On May 26, 1953, Zion was received into the Synod. The new constitution bases church membership upon baptism and acceptance of the Lutheran faith as outlined in the constitution.
As in the past, German immigrants are the chief factor in keeping Zion a German church. But the stream of immigration is small and weak. Zion’s youth, the children and grandchildren of immigrants speak English. By being a truly bi-lingual church, Zion will be able to answer this challenge: to remain the haven for the German Lutheran immigrant and at the same time to provide a spiritual home for his children and children’s children.
In June 1954, Pastor Bernhard informed the Council that he wished to resign from his pastorate at Zion to accept an offer by St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Manhatten, NY.
Pastor Bernhard, however, short was his tenure, was instrumental in the revitalization of Zion. He was instrumental in the re-integration of Zion into the Synod of Maryland.
The pulpit committee in 1954 recommended the Rev. Dr. Hans-Ludwig Wagner. He preached at both services on October 17, 1954 as a candidate, which was followed by a congregational meeting in the Adlersaal. The voting was overwhelmingly in favor for Dr. Wagner who was declared elected pastor of Zion.
Pastor Wagner was born in Hamburg, Germany on February 25, 1913. He received his theological training at the Universities of Hamburg, Marburg and Rostock and at the Theological School of Bielefeld-Bethel. He earned the degree of Doctor of Theology at the University of Rostock. He left Germany in 1838 and emigrated to Canada. He became assistant professor of Hebrew and the Old Testament at the Saskatoon Seminary and at the same time worked toward his degree of Bachelor of Divinity. He served in four parishes before coming to Baltimore. He assumed his duties at Zion on December 5, 1954.
Rather than approaching strangers as other congregations did, Zion chose to use the Evangelism Mission as an opportunity to re-invite those who already had some previous connection with the church either through baptism, confirmation or marriage. The German and English choirs of Zion merged into one. Plans to enlarge the Narthex were initiated and the remodeling of the Sunday School was complete. By the end of 1956, Zion was in debt for close to $20,000.
1957: The bells were in poor repair and the pastor’s apartment required renovation. The garden was publicly recognized when it received an ‘honorable mention’ in the Women’s Civic League Evening Sun Garden Contest. Pastor Wagner was the spiritual leader and extended the Wednesday noon day services to a year-round basis.
1958: The church mortgage rose to $20,500. Plans to re-carpet were put on hold. There were concerns as to how the new organ would be paid for. Problems remained between the pastor and the congregation. Problems were over the order of worship in the German service, the pastor wanted innovations, the congregation not. Complaints of the pastor not completing the English service, which as then at 10:00 a.m. The congregation rejected the idea of acquiring and using the Lutheran Church in America’s new English Common Service Book.
A precise policy for outsiders using Zion’s facilities was established. This was done because of concerns over the damage and mess left by some groups. The library suffered significant damage when the water supply line in the parsonage ruptured. 168 books were damaged to the point that they had to be destroyed. The church collected no insurance on the loss. The good news is that the narthex and choir loft were remodeled.
The second phase of the building program was completed in 1959 with the installation of the new Moeller organ. The standard order of services was changed (at that time, Sunday School was at 9am; English at 10am; and German at 11am), The council recommended that the German Service and the Sunday School be held at 10 followed by the English Service at 11.
Pastor Wagner resigned and in 1961, resignation was pending due to Synod rules that a pastor had to receive a new call before they could resign from an old one. At a special congregational meeting on September 21, 1961, Pastor Wagner officially resigned as of November 1. The vote resulted in 105 voted to refuse the resignation and 102 voted to accept it. They were reminded that once a pastor had resigned he could insist that it be accepted. The church lost some members that night. Pastor Wagner was gone by November with the council agreeing to pay his salary until February 1962. In the interim, Pastor Evers volunteered his services. 1961 was the last summer of the Vacation Bible School and the first year that the garden was transformed into a sculpture garden. The works of Grace Turnbull were featured. The congregation began their search for a pastor. Robert Booher, a former seminarian at Zion, was called as Music and Art director. He was the first non-German minister to serve at Zion on a full time basis. Pastor Evers was successful in finding Zion a new pastor.
On February 18, 1962, Friedemann Heinrich Penner, a young German pastor from Canada was the guest preacher. The congregation was impressed. He was born April 29, 1929 in Tilsit, Germany and immigrated to Canada in 1951. He was ordained in 1953 from the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. He served several parishes in Canada and in 1959 became pastor of Trinity Church in Edmonton, Alberta, the third largest bilingual Lutheran congregation in the province. He was Chairman of the Social Missions and the Evangelishm Committee for the Western Canada Synod. On December 14, 1962, Pastor Penner formally accepted the call and prepared to move to Zion’s newly renovated parsonage.
In February 1963, Pastor Penner and family (wife and two children) moved to Baltimore. He was installed as the 10th pastor of Zion on March 31. One of the first things he did, without resistance, was order a new liturgy and hymnal for the German service. The time for the English service on Sunday was changed to 11:15 to avoid the hectic pace. Bulletins were introduced in both the German and English services. Traditions such as the sunrise service on Easter, followed by a breakfast, remained. Also at Easter, children were given daffodils to place on Pastor Hoffman’s grave after the service.
The garden was maintained and was a beacon of light in the urban setting. Following the 3rd Annual month-long October sculpture exhibit, Grace Turnbull formally presented the church with the cast of her sculpture of St. Stephen, the Martyr. In explanation, she said the downtown church was like a martyr to the 20th century.
News came in early September that Pastor Evers had died.
1964/65: Funds were down. No new building projects were started, the congregation did not meet budget and the 1966 budget was reduced. A decision to do without an associate pastor was made. Miss Ruthanne Haefka became the new organist. During this year, Pastor Penner and Zion became founding members of the Central Churches of Baltimore, consisting of 12 downtown churches dedicated to the betterment of the Christian Church in the downtown area. In November 19, 1965, the congregation ratified a new constitution to be in accord with the constitution of the newly formed Lutheran Church in America (LCA).
1966/67: Lyndon B. Johnson was president and the war in Vietnam was escalating. Martin Luther King and the NAACP were aggressively challenging segregation in the north and south. The Maryland General Assembly worked on equal opportunity housing and Baltimore struggled with urban renewal as the social cost of tearing down old row houses in favor of high rise public assistance housing projects. The last old street cars had been phased out. The neighborhood around Zion was beginning to fall to the wrecking ball.
The congregation was determined to stay in the city and paid off the remaining $45,000 debt in early 1966. The Sunday School picnic was held at Camp Jolly Acres, organized by the Zion Men’s Club. The council voted on the first major building project since the installation of the new organ in 1959. They were to renovate the bare old boardroom, dingy library and other antiquated features of the church’s interior space. Church council meetings which used to be held in the Board room and confirmation classes were now held in the library or moved downstairs with the big board room table to the dining hall which was yet to be renovated. In memory of Pastor Evers, the ‘Tower Hall’ was renamed the ‘Evers Hall’. In 1967, both men and ladies room were redone.
The year 1968 was a year of turmoil. Synod changes, Dr. Franklin Clark Fry, founder of the L.C.A. died and Dr. Frank Fife, President of the Maryland synod retired. He was replaced by Paul Orso. Zion found itself surrounded by riots. The church seemed transformed into an armed camp with National Guard and US Reserve troops stationed in the church yard. Attendance was satisfactory. Zion contributed $1500 to a newly formed inner city Lutheran Church, St. Augustine. In October a new English Hymnal and liturgy were introduced.
During the first half of 1969, Zion had four seminarians doing their field study at Zion. Pastor Penner became actively involved at Gettysburg Seminary with the training and examining ministerial candidates. The first Youth Group was established. A librarian was hired to catalogue the 9000 volumes in the Julius Hoffman Library. Vicar Bandel continued his internship at Zion through the summer of 70 due to Pastor Penner’s heart attack in May of 70. The basement renovation continued and was completed in time for the Sour Beef Supper in October. The curtain in the Adlersaal collapsed, but thanks to some strong congregation members was put back in place.
Councilman Howard Vordemberge, who spearheaded the parking lot project died suddenly. The stand for the guest book in the Narthex was dedicated to his memory.
Zion continued to give to inner city missions such as the ‘Fellowship of Lights’ for runaways and St. Augustine’s Parish on Broadway. The Council of Inner City Churches made Pastor Penner its president. There was increased youth activity in the church and the constitution was amended to allow all confirmed members to vote at congregational meetings. The organ needed repair, and in 1972, the sanctuary got a new loudspeaker system. The Sunday School picnic was held in the church yard instead of Jolly Acres.
Zion’s assistance to St. Augustine’s continued in 1973 and included helping that congregation purchase a piece of real estate necessary for its mission. Zion began a program that made meal tickets redeemable at a nearby restaurant available to transients in need. The church also printed an evangelism folder that was given to visitors at the Sunday Services. The children’s choir was created. The council was divided into two separate boards, seven members Board of Deacons would tend to the spiritual growth of the congregation and an eight member Board of Trustees would take care of the physical and administrative side of the church. Plans were made to renovate the front of the sanctuary. Pastor Penner suffered a second heart attack. The council prior to the heart attack had approved the painting of his portrait, which was completed during his recuperation.
1974: The Deacons implemented a ‘Stewardship Program’ by mailing out a weekly parish newsletter in bulletin format. It was called the ‘Mid-Week Call To Worship’. They also mailed quarterly giving statements with pledge cards. Zion’s Hunger Appeal raised $1100 for world famine relief. The disturbing trend of burying more members than admitting new ones continued. Attendance was good (despite the gas shortage and rise in fuel prices). Estimates were collected for a plan to restore the pews, the altar and the huge Luther painting. Virginia Schiflett became the church’s first only English speaking Secretary. John Heitzer replaced Ruthanne Haefka as Zion’s organist and choirmaster.
In 1975, the congregation approved extensive repairs to the organ. Pastor Anton Dubbaneh, a German-English clergyman from Lebanon was hired to assist Pastor Penner. The church women sponsored the first Confirmation Homecoming. The church prepared for the 1976 Bicentennial celebration.
January 25, 1976, Zion memorialized the life of Ernst Koehler during the German service by dedicated the newly installed glass door under the arches at the entrance to Evers Hall. The door is inscribed ‘Enter to Worship-Leave to Serve’.
Curt Jeschke donated a set of historic American Flags, which trace the development of the Star Spangled Banner back to the congregation’s earliest days. They are hung in the sanctuary during the summer to celebrate the 4th of July and Defender’s Day on September 12.
Zion was formally added to the list of Baltimore’s Historic Landmarks. The garden won first prize in a beautiful garden’s contest sponsored by the Mayor’s office.
1977: The parking lot was repaved and stripes added. Herbert Stegmaier, the vicar from Germany arrived in March and he assisted Pastor Penner and the German congregation by sponsoring a German Bible Study.
1978: The new Lutheran Book of Worship (Green book as opposed to the then used Red book) was presented to the congregation and after vote was soundly defeated. The council worked on what pieces of our past should be saved and what could give way to something new.
1979: The installation of the new alter in front of the sanctuary was completed. The old altar was moved away from the pulpit and over to the side under the apostle window. The Ladies Aid purchased the new, natural wood, freestanding altar that was placed on the middle of the dais. The sewing circle paid for the new curtain that covers the Luther portrait. In older times, the portrait of Luther was uncovered during the Trinity season now known as Pentecost. Since October 1979, the curtain covered the portrait year round.
Zion’s Anniversary Month: October. The anniversary date is October 9, 1808, the day the sanctuary was officially dedicated by Pastor Kurtz. Kirchtag was celebrated on October 18, 1904 (celebrated the memory of Pastor Scheib). The 150th Anniversary in 1905. In October 1955, the 200th Anniversary. October 1980, the 225th Anniversary. In special commemoration of the 225th anniversary the communion kneeling cushions for around the altar were designed by Curt Jeschke and hand-needle pointed by various church members whose initials appear on the cushions.
Zion's 225th Anniversary Program (November 2, 1980)
The Church Council returned to a a single council in November 1983.
Ladies Aid Society: Sponsored and organized the Gartenfest, the Sour Beef Suppers and their annual Kirchgang. Renate Ramsburg, the Frauenverein’s President regularly presented checks to the church from 5-8,000 depending on their profit that year. In 1983 the congregation held a celebration in honor of Pastor Penner’s 20th year at Zion. Pastor Penner’s health was fragile and the council and congregation were hopeful that another bi-lingual assistant pastor could be procured. That was the main discussion issue at the November 1984 Congregational meeting. The next day, on Monday November 19, 1984, Pastor Penner had a fatal heart attack. His funeral service was held the day after Thanksgiving and attended by then Mayor Schaefer. The service was preached by the newly elected Bishop, Morris Zumbrun. Pastor Penner is buried at Lorraine Cemetery. Pastor Anton Dubbaneh, the Lebanese Pastor from Rockville volunteered to take over the worship services when needed until a permanent pastor was called. Also helping were Bryce Shoemaker from St. Mark’s and Jack McGuigan (a former minister who was considering becoming a member of Zion, and Philip Krey (now Dean of the Philadelphia Seminary) who served his internship at Zion and had German language skills.
1985-1992: The Penner Memorial Fund to help seminarians was established. On July 28, 1985, the congregation decided by a vote of 140 in favor to 4 opposed to call the Reverend H.J. Siegfried Otto to be the next pastor. Pastor Otto was born in Liegnitz, Germany (now Poland). His father was killed in 1945 in a land mine explosion in a French prisoner of war camp. His family fled to Bavaria as refugees. He attended school in Germany and graduated from the Theologische Augustana Hochschule in 1958. A year later he graduated from the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Saskatoon Saskatchewan. He married his wife Bärbel in 1960. From 64-67 he conducted the Metropolitan Toronto Study for the Board of American Missions and then from 67-68 he was the chaplain to the Lutheran Seamen’s Centre in Toronto and Halifax. He was the Pastor at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Montreal from 79-85. The Ottos had four children. His ministry at Zion began in 1986. One of his first tasks/directions was that Zion should begin a twenty-year program of restoration for the 250th Anniversary. The Zion Restoration Campaign or ZRC for short was an ambitious building drive. By the end of 1987 over $32,000 in pledges had been received. The annual report of 1989 identified that the ZRC had raised nearly $283,000; 1990-$344,000 and by the end of 1992 was over $500,000.
The big ticket accomplishments were the restoration and protection of all stained glass windows; retiling the Adlersaal roof and restoring the interior of the Adlersaal. By 1992 the work was finished. The Adlersaal stage got a new curtain, the prep kitchen was created, the Hofmann stenciling on the walls was redone and the entire floor was sanded and refinished.
A literacy program was started and staffed by Zion volunteers in 1989. In 1990 it received a $3000 grant from the State Department of Education. Another grant was received to repair and equip the Gay Street store front of the Sexton’s House as a ‘Literacy House’.
In 1993 Zion adopted its new constitution as required by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The literacy program moved into the Sexton’s house. A wheel chair ramp was installed at the back entrance. It was dedicated to Paul Ludtke (member of Zion, announcer of the Edelwiess Radio Hour and leading member of the German community in Baltimore). Zion held its first annual ecumenical celebration of the Feast of Saint Michael’s and All Angels together with the German Society of Maryland. The ZRC reached a pinnacle of $525,000.
1996 brought more property troubles, the Adlersaal roof was leaking and water damage was apparent over the choir loft indicating that the sanctuary roof was also leading. A central air conditioning unit was installed and all the windows in the Sexton house were fixed.
CoRe was began (a multi year project of Congregational Renewal). The Zion Forum for German Culture was formed. Sunday worship services were restructured with the German service at 9:15 followed by an hour for Sunday School and socializing and the English service would begin at 11:15. The new schedule was adopted. After many meetings, it was agreed that Pastor Otto would resign on his 65th birthday in September 1999. In 1998 the Zion Forum of German Culture held its’ first full series of events, which included the Lutherfest, the Karneval Ball and the Christkindlemarkt. The Literacy Program ended on December 31, 1998 due to lack of enough volunteers to keep it going. Margareta Breden was ordained at Zion on February 27, 1999.
In 2000 Rev. Dr. Holger Roggelin was called to be its 13th pastor. He was born in 1962 in the Hanseatic City of Lübeck. He received his Abitur at the Katarineum Grammar School. He studied theology at the Universities of Keil and Tübingen and was awarded a scholarship from the German National Merit Foundation with which he was able to study at Oxford University for a year. He received his Doctor of Theology from Keil University in 1995 and ordained in December of 1993 and served the St. Nicolai congregation in Mölln and the Wichernkirche in Hamburg-Hamm. Shortly after his arrival at Zion he bagan a study of how best to renovate the sanctuary and church property. The firm of Murphy and Dittenhafer was charged to study the building, its history and various present uses to come up with a plan of restoration. In September 2002 the congregation was presented with the plan but concerned about the estimated price of 3 million there was a special funding committee established.
In 2003 the church received a $25,000 gift to help cover the cost of repairing water damage to the Hofmann Memorial Library. The renovation included the installation of climate control technology to preserve the old volumes.
The use of a bilingual German and English worship service format on special occasions increased during Pastor Roggelin’s ministry. The congregation approved a central air conditioning system and that project was completed in 2004. The congregation also approved and pledges undertaken for the installation of an elevator from the main dining floor to the Adlersaal. The elevator project was completed.
In 2010, Zion held a ‘kick off’ campaign to raise funds to restore the Moeller organ. The estimated costs of repairs between $550,000 and $615,000. The organ was restored by Patrick Murphy organbuilders and dedicated in 2014.
Zion continues to use the 1958 Service book, which is considered the traditional Lutheran service.
In December 2011, Zion was included in the National Registry of Historic Places (#11000960)
Pastors of Zion
Johan Bager 1755 – 1758
Johann Kaspar Kirchner 1758 – 1772
Johann Siegfried Gerock 1773 – 1787
Johann Daniel Kurtz 1785 – 1833
Johannes Uhlhorn 1824 - 1833
Heinrich Scheib 1835 - 1897
Julius K. Hofmann 1889 - 1928
Fritz Otto Evers 1929 - 1952
Leopold Wilhelm Bernhard 1951 – 1954
Hans-Ludwig Wagner 1954 – 1961
Friedemann Heinrich Bernard Penner 1963 – 1984
H.J. Siegfried Otto 1985 – 1999
Dr. Rev. Holger Roggelin 2000 - 2015
Pastors Eric & Anke Deibler
400 East Lexington Street
Baltimore, MD 21202-3502
Telephone: (410) 727 3939
Fax: (410) 468-0174