a hunger for the word of god
The story of a Christian congregation is really the story of God’s work among us. Zion was founded and grew from pioneering settlers’ hunger for the Word of God in their new home.
The William Riggert family settled south of Mitchell, near Enemy Creek in 1879-1880 and soon after wrote to their former congregation, St. Matthew Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lemont, IL, asking if a minister could be sent to undertake missionary work in the Mitchell area.
In 1881, a minister from Chicago came to stay with the Riggert family, traveling around the countryside, staying in turn with various settlers and slowly a Lutheran community was formed. Pastors and missionaries for the LCMS came to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and services were conducted at various times in German and also in English, reaching out to Lutherans of both German and Norwegian heritage.
Zion Evangelical lutheran church
All that is known today of the founding of our congregation comes from a brief note in the records stating, “Founded November 27, 1892.” In these earliest days, worship services were held in members’ homes. Then, as numbers grew, services were held in a variety of rented buildings. The Word of God continued to be preached and the number of souls joining the family at Zion grew. In 1907, it was reported at the SD LCMS District Convention that the young Zion congregation consisted of 80 souls and 11 voting members.
It was in 1910 that Zion purchased its first actual church building from the Congregational Church for $400. Another $300 was needed to move the church building to Zion’s lot at 822 East 1st Avenue. The very night the church was moved to its new home a violent windstorm struck the area and blew it off its foundation. The next day the mover was able to lift it back into place for another $75. (This building was dismantled in 1980.)
God continued to bless Zion with growth and in 1919 the congregation no longer needed financial support from the SD LCMS District. By 1922, the family at Zion had grown to 274 souls, 175 communicant members, and an average weekly attendance of 125.
a new home – a continuing ministry
Zion’s ministry in Mitchell continued to flourish and in 1946 property on East 3rd Avenue (our current location) was purchased and plans were begun for the building of a new church in that location.
Construction of our current church building was started in 1952. (See videos of the progress here.) Then, on a day of great celebration, July 12, 1953, the congregation closed the doors of the old church for the last time and walked together in procession to officially open the new church at 620 East 3rd Avenue.
Improvements and expansion continued. Property just west of the new church building was purchased in 1961 and the next year our Education Wing was built, emphasizing our commitment to passing the Faith on to the coming generations. Our sanctuary’s beautiful stained glass windows that chronicle the church year were installed in the church a year later, in 1963. (See them here.)
growth – by the Grace of God
The faithful members of Zion have continued to create a better facility for fulfilling our mission. Our north narthex was added in 1991, making bathrooms, member mailboxes, and an elevator accessible on the main level of the church. The parking lot west of the Education Wing was paved with concrete in 2010; then the alley the next year. In 2014, a number of dedicated members lowered the chimney of the main church building to meet new regulations. And in 2016, the congregation was able to purchase 3 lots in the northeast corner of our block, allowing for future possibilities.
Zion ended 2018 with a total membership of 768 souls. For the growth and blessings that we have experienced in our 125+ years of ministry in Mitchell, we thank God.
May we continue to remember that we live by the Grace of God and always give the Glory to God as we live out our mission to know Christ better and to make Him known to all!