Zion Lutheran Church - 100 Year History 1985-2005

Zion Lutheran Church History

First Hundred Years

Picture of Zion Lutheran Church 2003.

Zion Lutheran Church, March 2003.

A Year Book

Stained Glass Windows Become
Part of Zion Lutheran Church


         Silverhill community changes were occurring as it rediscovered its roots. The LCW became involved with Heritage Day, the successor to the Heritage Festival. There were new community needs. Linens and related items were supplied to the Silverhill Group Home for Girls by the LCW. And 1985 was the year that Zion Lutheran Church got its telephone.257

         As noted above, 1984-1985 was the academic year in which Sunday School ceased. In 1985, Zion's first stained glass window, Luther's Seal, which is mounted over the altar, was crafted by Lee Nitteberg, son of Robert and Eleanor Nitteberg. Eleanor, Rita Cornell, and another "red-headed" woman
258 from Gulf Shores drove to California to bring the window back in Ernie Burnett's pick-up which had a camper shell on the back. This is also the year that the church kitchen got its first microwave oven.259

         Here's a more detailed history of the stained glass windows gleaned by Darlene Tasso in a number of interviews with Robert Nitteberg. The stained glass windows were designed by Mr. Lee Nitteberg, the middle son of members Robert and Eleanor Nitteberg. They were donated in 1985. Lee fabricated the windows at his home in San Diego, CA, where he created stained glass art as a hobby. Robert and Eleanor sent the design and measurements for the first window to Lee who completed the “Luther's Seal” located on the north wall above the altar. Eleanor borrowed Ernie Burnett’s pick-up truck and drove to San Diego with her friend Rita Cornell to transport it to Silverhill. Upon their return, the Nittebergs took the window to a glass shop in Robertsdale, where it was fitted with a quarter-inch protective plate glass before Robert and son Charlie would install it. The congregation was so pleased with the first window that it commissioned Lee for the remaining five windows.

West Wall

North Wall, Over Altar

East Wall

         Several people have wondered about the origin of the window designs. We know that at this point Eleanor, Charles Jolliff and others went back to work on the designs which were sent to Lee. He completed the five remaining windows. Eleanor made another trip to San Diego, this time flying out with son Charlie, his daughter Jennifer, a sixth grader at the time, and friend Roger Utter, son of Zion members Ralph and Neysa Utter. They rented a U-Haul for the return trip and drove back to Silverhill with the five new windows. Robert and Eleanor loaded the windows onto his pick-up, took them to the glass shop in Robertsdale, and had protective covering added to the glass.

South Wall, West Side

South Wall, Middle

South Wall, East Side

         With a scaffold borrowed from Roger Utter, Robert and son Charlie would install this first window and the rest of the five new windows, completing the stained glass windows set by 1987. They were all framed in Honduras mahogany by Lee Nitteberg. The windows remain a focal point for the Zion sanctuary of historic Zion Lutheran Church.

         Back to other events of 1985. The notes for the Annual Meeting of 1985 revealed the results of the Synod covenant discussion. Zion Lutheran Church committed to support Lutheran Immigration Services in Atlanta, GA. The church was looking at extra-Synod cooperation. Pastor Jolliff advocated weekly communion and interchange with St. John's Episcopal Church in Robertsdale. Remember the business relating to "associate members"? There was a motion to allow associate members to vote in 1985. The Jolliff and Mateja contracts were extended another year.

         More paint? Maybe not. Vinyl siding was investigated for the church for the first time and ultimately the church would be clad in vinyl for a total of $11,560. But there were many meetings regarding financing and funding of the enterprise. Siding would ultimately be installed by Bay Siding. The church negotiated a loan for $8,000 and took $3,000 from its savings account to fund the project. At the same time the church's conventional windows would be rebuilt by Mr. Kimbrell, a family friend of Charlotte Zander. It was at the April Council meeting that there was a decision made to create space for the round stained glass window over altar. Bishop Troutman sent another questionnaire to the church related to the Synod covenant prior to the visit of a Synod consultant in October.

         In 1985 the church discovered that its Mission Statement from July of 1974 could not be found and that the Council needed to do another, addressing issues of support and nourishment of the fellowship of the family of God, the place of worship and fellowship for the broader community, and the use of Sunday School to attract younger members, serve the community, and welcome new comers to the community. There was concern that the community needed to become aware of Zion Lutheran Church and that it reach out to other denominations for relationships. A joint Council meeting with St. John's Episcopal Church in Robertsdale was sought to inquire how the two churches might combine Sunday School, deal with followup with prospective members, and recruit new-comers to community. The congregation would take an evangelism survey in December.


         By the Annual Meeting of 1986 the new church siding was completed and the windows were done. Refurbishment included the addition of kitchen cabinets. The first stained glass window, completed and donated by Robert Lee Nitteberg and family, was dedicated February 1, 1986. Older members Elvira Armstrong and Hilda Olsen passed away in 1985. The Synod was now receiving 20% of Zion's budget. Services were moved to 10:00. The congregation liked the stained glass and voted on symbols for more new stained glass windows. Pastor Jolliff still lobbied for communion each Sunday, but his proposal was again defeated. The Church Council for the year consisted of Mr. Lawrence Moseley-- President, Mr. Victor Kubina--Treasurer, Mrs. Henri Etta Burnett--Secretary, Mr. Ernest Burnett-- Council Member, Ms. Latricia Hauge--Council Member, and Mrs. Shirley Mateja--Council Member. Latricia Hauge and Eleanor Nitteberg served as delegates to the SE Synod.266

         The need for outreach was a latent concern through much of Zion's history. 1986 was no exception, the Annual Meeting revealing a need for more personal contacts of prospective members and visitors and development of Sunday School and maybe a choir. Insurance needs and organ service were noted at the Annual Meeting. The insurance update brought insured values of the building to $70,000, the church property to $10,000, employee malfeasance to $5000, and liability to $300,000. Mrs. Eleanor Nitteberg was asked to head up an Evangelism Committee connected with the Mission Campaign funding program in April. A formal Stained Glass Window Fund was inaugurated. The Peacocks advised the congregation in June that they would be leaving for internship. Shirley Mateja was typing the bulletin in mid-year, and Pastor Jolliff was taking the bulletin to Christ's Episcopal to be run off.

         At the July Council meeting several new members were accepted, Mr. and Mrs. Williams and son Kerry, Mrs. Fryell, and Harold and Clarene Wells. Council member Ernest Burnett urged evangelism efforts to grow the church at that same meeting. A sanctuary light in honor of Phillip Meyer (Martha Jolliff's brother) was placed by the Jolliff and Meyer families. By mid-September, donations of $210 had been received for new stained glass windows. The dollars were sent to Lee Nitteberg for purchase of materials.

         A couple trivia events occurred in 1986: Beth Ryker and Thomas Pigg were married at Zion on September 20 by Beth's father. A Fish Fry was scheduled for Silverhill Heritage Day with Wolf Bay Lodge loaning tables for the event. The church received authorization to run gas and electricity lines to the garage which would simplify Fish Fry events in the future. Ernest Burnett would again advocate setting up a men's group. Average church attendance for 1986 was at about 30 people. Two deaths were noted: Fred Hallberg and Martha Jolliff. Attendance at Sunday School was 17. In 1987, the church would investigate needs for more Sunday School space.

         Memories and years fade as to specifics. The artist and travel crew for bringing the stained glass windows is well known, but what was started in 1985 may not have arrived safely in Silverhill till 1986.
270 We do know that there was a focus on updating the church, for the LCW lobbied for a new kitchen door which was obtained. That microwave found its home in that kitchen. The LCW sewing ministry continued with linens and related items being supplied to Phoebe Hospital. The LCW repaired a sewing machine that year. Concern for sanctuary beautification resulted in the establishment of the Altar Flower Fund. The congregation initiated work on signage on highway 104.271

         As has been noted, the Jolliff family donated a number of items over the years to Zion Lutheran Church. When Martha Jolliff passed away in the mid-1980s, the Crusader Cross used in processionals was donated in her memory in 1986.


         Kitchen cabinets were installed. Seminarian Bill Peacock from Mobile, supported in part by Zion for the past several years, was formally recognized and ordained at Zion Lutheran Church. Zion had paid his rent during seminary. Bill was married with several children, his wife Gretchen being Pastor Carl Almer's daughter. Their original church home had been St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Mobile which was now defunct in 1987.273 Pastor Almer had been pastor at St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Mobile just prior to Pastor Clarence Daniels. It was Pastor Daniels who had served Zion as a pulpit supply pastor and who had first introduced Charles Jolliff as his organist to the Zion Lutheran Church congregation. When that St. Peter's closed its doors in the late 1980s, the sanctuary candle now hanging in the chancel of Zion Lutheran Church, was donated in memory of Pastor Almer because of the Peacock connection with the Silverhill church. It is estimated that sanctuary candle has been in continuous use since the early 1950s.274

         In 1987 the Annual Meeting minutes reveal that Zion had written a petition letter to Bishop Troutman to ordain Pastor Jolliff under special provision. Historically, this was the year just before the merger of the Lutheran Church in America into the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Church Council members included Mr. Harold Wells, Mr. Oscar Hauge, Mrs. Henri Etta Burnett, Mr. Ernest Burnett, Ms. Latricia Hauge, and Mrs. Eleanor Nitteberg. Victor Kubina functioned as Treasurer. Meeting minutes revealed that Zion received that sanctuary candle in March. That sanctuary candle from St. Peter’s and connected with the Almer ministry was formally given to Zion by Amanda Almer in specific memory of her husband Pastor Carl Almer who had provided pastoral services to Zion in the past.

         Cross-cultural evangelism seminars were being held in Atlanta, Savannah, and Nashville with each congregation having its pastor and four lay people invited to each event. Two delegates were invited to the constituting convention of the SE Synod of the ELCA in June in Atlanta. Delegates and alternates for the constituting convention of SE Synod were Henri and Ernie Burnett; Charlotte Zander; Eleanor Nitteberg, and Harold Wells. Another letter was directed to Bishop Gerald S. Troutman requesting ordination of Pastor Jolliff under special provision. The Bishop advised that his aid, William Waddell, Chair of the Examining Committee, would take up the ordination question.

         Not everything was focused on national ELCA events. Fill dirt was needed for the church yard. Garage repair and renovation was again being discussed. A new exit was installed in the church, but it was slippery when wet. The congregation became concerned with signage for the emerging Gulf Shores ministry. By May there is agreement that signs will be constructed by Robert Nitteberg. The new vinyl siding does have up-keep needs and the church arranges to wash the siding. A plaque to honor long-time church Treasurer Victor Kubina was discussed in May. A congregational meeting decided to modify the garage by redoing the roof, adding slab space, and doing an extension. Roger Utter would pour the slab for the garage later in the year. Roger Utter, Ralph Utter, Edward Norman, and Oscar Hauge would all play a part in that garage renovation. And a pig roast was part of the festivities for ordination service of Pastor Bill Peacock on May 26.

         Members of Zion have been accustomed to seeing a concrete table in the church yard. It was 1987 when that concrete table and benches were purchased to cover the church's septic tank to keep cars off the tank. It has since been moved north adjacent to the new Fellowship Hall added in the early 2000s. It was paid for with Sunday School offerings. In mid-1987 the church used Fish Fry proceeds to assist Becky Utter Childress with her kidney transplant costs. Marilyn Williams received church permission to allow a support group for the mentally ill to meet at Zion. Pastor Danielle D'Aunay served this year as guest pastor in Pastor Jolliff's absence.

         Pastor Jolliff noted in his interview concerning pastoral pulpit supply that "Zion Lutheran Church was LCA and then ELCA in terms of affiliation. It had no relationship with Missouri Synod churches because the two church groups never had agreement on anything." That is, pastoral supply came from within the ranks of the LCA and then the ELCA.

         Eleanor Nitteberg was busy in June checking on plane fare to California to pick up the rest of the stained glass windows. She wanted to rent a U-Haul truck to bring them back. Would you believe finance problems? Zion Church was spending more than it was taking in. A hold on spending takes place, the garage renovation being placed on hold. And now Pastor D'Aunay requested Zion to loan funds to buy a car. Problems! In July Zion agreed to pay half of Pastor D'Aunay's car repair bill and the LCW the other half of $100.

         More problems! Shirley Mateja resigned as organist about this time and the church could not find an organist replacement. A Zion men's group was functional at this time and was studying the liturgy to help with services when Pastor Jolliff would be gone. More positive, Zion would have a float in Heritage Day events in Silverhill. The Fish Fry this year involved Ralph Utter cleaning fish, Marie taking care of the outside Coke machine, and Henri Burnett doing blood pressure checks.

         Zion honored outgoing Bishop Troutman and two assistants, Dr. Thompson and Pastor Sillik with a $100 gift. The Cub Scouts were given use of the renovated garage on Monday afternoons. Nanette Henderson requested that her Girl Scout troop be allowed to meet at church and access was given for this activity. Charlotte Zander and Mildred Havel served as delegates to the Alabama Conference. Victor Kubina was honored at the November 8 service with a congregational dinner after.

         On November 20 Eleanor Nitteberg left for California to pick up the stained glass--airfare was picked up by the LCW and the church ($750 each). Bishop Troutman would come on December 9 to dedicate those stained glass windows and the Sunday School would provide a roast pig for the event.

         Synod benevolence was at a 21% level. Ms. Clara Weiss and Bill and Alice Seymour were added to the membership in December. In 1987 Pastor Jolliff began attending the South Central Baldwin Ministerial Association. By mid-December the church would donate $50 per month and LCW $25 per month to the South Central Baldwin Ministerial Association fund and would make donations to the Covenant Church food shelf. One Sunday a month was set aside as Food Shelf Sunday. Paula Rockwell became organist.

         Pastor Jolliff remembered in 2004 that, Zion had a relationship with Second Harvest or a similar program using a gleaning concept program in the late 1980s. Basically Zion did food packets for eight months or so. "Eventually the Methodists took over the project. The project was very labor intensive and taxing on those involved for those eight months."


         The Pastor D'Aunay' from the Board of American Missions met with Zion in 1988. This is the year that Zion Lutheran Church received its grand piano donated by the Pastor Clarence Daniels Family.286

         Zion Lutheran Church was well known for its fish fries during Heritage Day in Silverhill. It was Eleanor Nitteberg who spearheaded those annual events with both a Fish Fry and a bake sale during Heritage Day. The first year for these Heritage Day festivities was 1988, but they would continue annually until 1998. Eleanor would come the day before to set up and begin to cook the baked beans. Son Charles Nitteberg and husband Robert Nitteberg would set up tents and picnic tables outside.

         Zion Lutheran Church formally affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), successor to the Lutheran Church in America (LCA), its home since the early 1960s.
288 The LCW, still sewing, repaired another sewing machine.289

         The Annual Meeting of 1988 recorded the passing of Pastor Clarence Daniels in 1987 and noted that the processional cross used in the Peacock ordination was given in honor of Martha Jolliff by the Peacock children. The concrete slab for the garage-Sunday School was completed by the January meeting. Pastor Jolliff reported that he would not pursue ordination because of personal family business. Mrs. Clarence Daniels had donated the Daniels' baby grand piano in 1987 and it was formally acquired in 1988. The church set up a Constitution Committee to study a new ELCA congregational constitution. Pastor Jolliff's contract was to continue another year.

         In his Annual Report Pastor Jolliff noted that William Peacock's ordination was the first in the Gulf Coast area in the LCA. The LCA would soon be history at the time of ordination, essentially making it the only ordination in the area that Zion is aware of. Pastor Jolliff felt that Sunday School attempts were moderately successful, and that the men's group with attendance at three to five was meeting regularly. He noted that the new windows were completed by Lee Nitteberg and installed by Charles and Robert Nitteberg. Procurement had come through donations and gifts of members and friends of the congregation. Communion vessels, a memorial to Philip Meyer, and a processional cross made by members of Haven Lutheran Church of Salisburg, NC, and given by the Peacock children in memory of Martha Jolliff, were all received in 1987 and acknowledged in early 1988.

         The Council meeting for January 17, 1988, revealed that Mr. Harold Wells was serving as congregational President, Mrs. Henri Burnett was Secretary, and Mr. Ernie Burnett was Treasurer. Mr. Fred Langenbach, Mrs. Marilyn Williams, and Mrs. Eleanor Nitteberg served as Council Members. Pastor D'Aunay' continued to fill in for Pastor Jolliff. By the end of February the Daniels' baby grand piano was in place, but not yet tuned. Wes Ellis' wife began typing bulletins. Insurance Agent Phil Owen was seeking data on stained glass windows value for insurance purposes and settled on a value of $10,000. Zion was supporting the Synod at a 21% level. A candle lighter was received from Ethel Jolliff in memory of Pastor Jolliff's wife, Martha Jolliff.

         The tradition of placing three crosses by the church at Easter was in place in 1988, because the Easter crosses were removed by Fred Langenbach's son in April. Lillian Moseley and Charlotte Zander served as SE Synod Convention delegates this year. Pastor Carl Warren, Assistant to the Bishop, was designated as the contact to Zion. At a Special Congregational Meeting in April the church decided to remove the gate and kneeling portion of the altar railing to allow easier access to the altar chancel dais area. Another old church organ sold! Bishop and Mrs. Skillrud were welcomed to Zion June 3. The Church Council noted that there was no acknowledgment from Synod about its contributions in 1988. With Bishop Skillrud's visit came a request to increase benevolence to the Synod. There was a move to provide a Lutheran Magazine for every member; ultimately there were four ordered from the church and four for LCW.

         On an ominous note, Ernie Burnett for the first time requested the constitution be read to determine settlement of church property if Zion were to disband. In 1988 the Silverhill Covenant Church invited Zion to join in Vacation Bible School. Buddy Wigstrom serviced the air conditioners. Fred Langenbach was authorized to buy air conditioning for the Fellowship Hall--$229 was contributed by the LCW. Pastor Jolliff was to begin putting a summary of Council meetings in the bulletin. The church at a Special Congregational Meeting authorized disbursement of $500 to any church in the district needing financial aid. And there was more Synod fund raising.

         In late 1988 the South Central Baldwin Ministerial Association chose to no longer fund the United Fund, moving its support to Catholic Social Service because of bookkeeping issues. Silverhill Covenant Church and Zion moved to cooperate more closely in the coming year. There was more work on that garage project: Fred's son was to furnish drywall and insulation; Sunday School kids were to furnish the interior; and Eleanor was to decorate the church yard for Christmas with the help of children. Robert Nitteberg has continued that tradition with some of those decorations annually since that time.

Zion Lutheran Church
Begins Formal Outreach
Program to Northern Snowbirds


         As the church got more deeply involved with Heritage Day festivities, there was need for outdoor facilities. The former parsonage garage was updated to a combination Sunday School and outdoor cooking facility. Midweek pancake suppers were held in conjunction with Lenten services, initiated by Eleanor Nitteberg who was also the cook. Success often brings problems. The Baldwin County Health Department informed the church that it needed a bucket close by for washing hands when cooking outside. This is the year that the LCW finally purchased a new sewing machine. Catholic Social Service located in Robertsdale presented its program to the church women, and formal involvement with food baskets began. Midweek pancake suppers in conjunction with Lenten services were held.296

         1989 is a pivotal year for Zion Lutheran Church for a number of reasons. This is the year that Pastor Jolliff encouraged the outreach program into Gulf Shores that would result in Grace Lutheran Church in Gulf Shores (ELCA), Peace Lutheran Church in Foley (Augsburg Lutheran Church Synod, ALC) and Trinity Lutheran Church in Daphne (ELCA) by 2004. Pastor Jolliff enlisted Zion members to carry its hymnals down to Gulf Shores to get this snowbird ministry started. It is perhaps noteworthy that this ministry which was begun with Zion Lutheran Church support, was taken over by the ELCA when Jolliff resigned when Zion was in the process of leaving that national church body n 1995. Trinity Lutheran in Daphne apparently grew out of LCA thinking stemming back to church planting ideas of the 1970s and 1980s. The LCA had purchased land at one point for the potential congregation. A congregation was ultimately developed there with Pastor Jolliff's assistance after early attempts to set up a worship site in Loxley for snowbirds, but under ELCA auspices.

         Pastor Jolliff explained the outreach this way. The Gulf Shores outreach came about because of a desire to advertise the church. He recognized the need to promote the church and attempted to get the church to advertise for perhaps 12 years. When the Midgardens got involved at Zion, Peter agreed to get some signs up. As a result, some families started to come up from the Gulf. These snowbirds asked Zion to help get an ELCA church in Gulf Shores. Zion experimented with services set up for 5:00 p. m. on Saturday at an Episcopalian church with the stipulation that Zion would always have someone to accompany Pastor Jolliff and do appropriate greeting. The program began in the summer with not much success, but when the snowbirds came in the fall, the outreach ministry in Gulf Shores blossomed.

         The minutes of the Annual Meeting of 1989 recognized Robert, William, and Charles Nitteberg for putting the roof on the Sunday School building and Roger Utter and Oscar Hauge for doing the cement slab work in 1988. The congregation joined in suppers prior to Lenten services. The renovated garage was designated the Annex Building. A Constitution Committee was appointed to report to the Annual Meeting which was to be moved to November.

         It was noted that Zion Lutheran Church excelled in its support of the work of the ELCA on a per member basis. This was in addition to its giving $50 per month to the South Central Baldwin Ministerium. The budget for the year was set at $17,729. The Church Council now consisted of Mr. Harold Wells-- President, Mr. Ernest Burnett--Treasurer, Mrs. Henri Etta Burnett--Secretary, Mr. Peter Midgarden--Secretary, Mrs. Marilyn Williams and Mrs. Eleanor Nitteberg--Council Members. (Confusion as to Presidency results from the Chairperson sometimes being designated the "Vice- President" in minutes in these later years. We have arbitrarily designated the Chair of the Council as the "President.") Business during the year included a new constitution and an ELCA model discussion, new signage being prepared, a VCR video program the third Wednesday evening of each month, a special offering for Catholic Social Services, and the establishment of a "preaching point" in Gulf Shores for winter tourists at the request of Pastor Jolliff.

         With the advent of the ELCA, synodical delegates now were limited to a man and a woman from each congregation. It was noted that the Bishop was exploring the needs of small parishes in the Synod, parishes like Zion's. Mr. Farlow was painting signs--he was a retired preacher. There was a tornado with no apparent damage to the church. The mini-blinds for the east side of church were installed after removing candle holders. The church was actively recruiting retired pastors for pulpit supply but could identify none interested in preaching at Zion.

         Many may remember the savings and loan association fiasco of the late 80s. Well, would you believe that the church funds needed to be moved before its savings and loan closed? The old speaker system in church was evaluated that summer. It did not work. St. Paul's gave the church a duplicator. By August the Church Council (Harold Wells, Ernest Burnett, Fred Langenbach, Peter Midgarden, Eleanor Nitteberg, Marilyn Williams, and Pastor Jolliff) determined that there were enough funds now in the church to complete the "Sunday School Building-Garage-Annex."

Picture of wedding of Laura Burnett and Steven Cushing.
Pastors Jolliff (r) and Rutrough of Ocean Springs’ Christus Victor Lutheran, familiar to Zion from his work in the 1970s and early 1980s, officiated at the June 25, 1989, wedding of Laura Burnett and Steven Cushing. Bridesmaid Amie Burnett (l) and best man complete the picture.

         As noted, Dorthy Daniels, wife of Pastor Clarence Daniels, of Florida had donated the family grand piano after his death. A plaque was obtained in 1989 for the Daniels' piano donation received in 1988. The piano had been picked up in Harold Wells' truck by Harold Wells, Ernie Burnett, Victor Kubina, and Pastor Charles Jolliff at a retirement home between Tallahassee and Jacksonville, Florida.
303 Ernie Burnett again proposed beginning another men's group. Charles and Martha Canning and Laura Buchinger were welcomed as new members. The old brass offering plates were replaced because they would no longer take a polish. The new constitution was not ready for the Annual Meeting now scheduled for November. The December Council meeting for 1989 reported that Pastor Jolliff was asking the Synod for training for new member recruitment. And yes, Synod giving was increased, now at 22.5% where it would remain for several years.304


         Zion Lutheran Church became involved in the Robertsdale Fair in the 1990s and took a number of ribbons for its church booth. This was the year that the LCW booth took second place at the Robertsdale Fairgrounds.305

         The minutes to the Annual Meeting of 1990 was depressing on one hand, Sunday School attendance averaging two children and six adults, and positive on the other, Aleda Midgarden coordinating Sunday afternoon services in Gulf Shores. Harold Wells and Mildred Havel were elected to the Church Council for three year terms. Reports appended to the meeting minutes showed that the women were involved with pancakes prior to midweek Lenten services in 1989.

         Baby clothes had been sent to India. A stove hood vent was installed in the kitchen for Heritage Day. Zion provided five families with turkeys on Christmas.

         Organization of the Church Council after the Annual Meeting, showed Harold Wells--Vice President, Ernest Burnett--Treasurer, Fred Langenbach, Mildred Havel, Marilyn Williams--Council Members, Pastor Jolliff--President, and Peter Midgarden--Secretary. Pastor Jolliff, Ernest Burnett, Mildred Havel, and Marilyn Williams would attend a Synodical event for outreach called, "Evangelism for Small and Rural Congregations." Those brass offering plates were now replaced by refinished wooden ones, courtesy of Fred Langenbach. New shingles were being investigated and plans for a wheel chair ramp were put on hold.

         As noted before, the balance of delegates to Synod were now gender-balanced. Early Council work in 1990 set goals for the year for finishing the Sunday School building and establishing a preaching point in Gulf Shores. Pastor Robert Warren from Synod was to do training and assist in outreach in March. By March Pastor Jolliff had contacted the Episcopal priest in Gulf Shores about using its building for Lutheran snow-bird outreach.

         The church ordered the six new spring-loaded candles we currently (2005) use on the altar when there is no communion. The Church Council designated $500 for seed money to set up the preaching point in Gulf Shores to begin the end of April at Holy Spirit Episcopal Church at 5 p. m. Saturday evenings. The Council minutes are careful to state that the effort was for congregational outreach, that all attendees were to be invited to Zion, and that the effort was not to start new church. Zion determined that the work in Gulf Shores needed to be under the direction of a Lutheran pastor and sought to enlist Pastor D'Aunay' if she were available. As a fallback position, Zion proposed to enlist Pastor Winter from Silverhill Covenant Church. By the end of May, Pastor Donnell committed to conducting services. In June the Council decided to spend $270 for a quarter page add to be taken in the Gulf Coast newspapers in July as part of this outreach.

         Even as this effort was being developed, the Church Council minutes of July reveal a concern about long-term members drifting away. Judy Borden subbed while the regular organist was gone. Signage on AL 59 and AL 104 was found to be in violation of state law in August and was taken down temporarily. Pastor Jolliff was asked to help at St. Paul's. More church ads began on the church page of local newspapers in September. The congregation provided another $200 for the Gulf Shores outreach. The church submitted its application to be a historical site for Baldwin County at this time. And, the church treasurer rented a safety deposit box for the first time.

         In October, Pastor Jolliff sent a letter to the Bishop concerning the limited support of the church. Pastor Jolliff reported a month later that his letter to the Bishop was returned unopened. About this time the Council accepted a Robertsdale Episcopal proposal of covenant to share buildings for services.


         In 1991 Zion Lutheran Church alternated Lenten services with St. John Episcopal Church of Robertsdale.312 The Sunday School building renovation was nearing completion with help from Lutheran Brotherhood. Zion and Holy Spirit Episcopal Church of Gulf Shores entered into a covenant which was affirmed on January 13. The officers of the Church Council for the year were set: President--Peter Midgarden, Secretary--Harold Wells, Treasurer--Ernest Burnett; Rachael Hoffman was to serve as the specific public relations person. Coordination of activities with other churches was seen as a need. A prayer week was to be established with Silverhill Covenant Church and midweek Lenten Services with St. John's Episcopal Church of Robertsdale.313

         The recent work on signage required no permits. The congregation committed to purchase 50 hymnals for the Gulf Shores ministry in February. At its March meeting the Council reported that the Baldwin County Historic Development Commission had designated Zion Lutheran Church a formal historic site.

         The March meeting noted that Paula Rockwell would serve as organist at the Gulf Shores ministry when Mrs. Roston would leave. In April it was reported that the Gulf Shores ministry was in the black. Remember those bathrooms in the historic church building? It is 1991 when those two bathrooms get hot water. The long-term effort to obtain ordination for Pastor Jolliff continued in May with a formal letter to Bishop Chilstrom seeking Jolliff's ordination. In June the congregation provided a Ministers Desk Edition to Pastor Hamilton, a retired ELCA snowbird pastor,
315 for use at Gulf Shores. In July the Reverend Ronald Warren, Assistant to Bishop Chilstrom, advised that Pastor Jolliff needed to formally apply for ordination. Constitutional revisions, presumably related to the merger into the ELCA, were discussed in August. Church upkeep was again ongoing, two new gable crosses to be installed in September.316


         The last formal Sunday School records were archived in 1992. Support for the Gulf Shores ministry continued in 1992 and a pig roast with proceeds to be used to buy communion vessels was set in February. In March of 1992 air conditioning for the church was discussed and an architect gave an okay for it in June. Zion began initiating some structural recommendations from an experienced building contractor, e.g., removal of the old chimney, installation of 2 x 6 bracing beams in the attic, etc., in October. By September 50 more hymnals were purchased for the Gulf Shores ministry. People who admire the ceramic chalices and paten in our Church Museum may note that Mr. and Mrs. James Potmesil donated them in October. In November the Synod advised the Council that certain constitutional changes had to be done. The church changed its yellow pages ad, but no attendance improvement was noted in January 1993.317

         Zion Lutheran Church co-sponsored a vacation Bible school with Little Welcome Baptist Church about this time. It was nominally successful, but subsequent planning and coordination did not materialize.


Zircon Pictures of Mobile used Zion's sanctuary for part of its comedy movie, "West from North Goes South." Well-known actors included Shawn Thompson, Larry Linville, Phyllis Diller, James Brown, and Lawanda Page.319 In February of 1993 the parish again sought to call a summer intern for evangelism. The church ordered a door cabinet and recognized that the kitchen roof needed replacement. That Gulf Shores communion set was scheduled to be dedicated in March. Zion now attempted to recruit a seminary student for the 1993 summer with the help of Pastor Warren. The Church Council could provide no representatives to the Synod Convention this year. In April the Council received a bid to sheetrock the church nave, a project that was not initiated. In retrospect, the sense was that sheetrock's weight would compromise the structure of the historical church building.320

         It was about this time that the church became aware of an emerging homosexuality position developing within the ELCA. Pastor Jolliff had sought to spare the congregation from this divisive issue. In May the Council sent a letter to Bishop Chilstrom regarding homosexual issues in the ELCA. A second letter was sent from Zion to Bishop Harold Skillrud of the Southeastern Synod. The specific issue will be of historical significance, since Zion Lutheran Church had major reservations regarding apparent ELCA support of a Gay March in Washington, D. C. Late in May Bishop Herbert W. Chilstrom responded. In early June the church was advised that no intern was available for the summer.

         Despite the dearth of records in the 70s, 80s, and early 90s, we know that a number of baptisms and marriages took place. In this photo from September 5, 1993, pictured at baptism (l to r) are Harold Wells, Clareen Wells, Pastor Charles Jolliff holding Rebecca Kerensa Flores, Merrily Yvette Flores, Ysidro Flores.
                  Zion apparently underwrote the costs for the Gulf Shores ministry's worship services to be added to the yellow pages. The Community Thanksgiving Service was held at Zion in 1993. Efforts at rehabilitation of Zion's worship space were still in the discussion phase at the end of the year. In reviewing 1993, the Council found that the congregation was over budget by 12%.322

Zion Lutheran Church
Part of Realignment in Lutheranism
in the USA,
Affiliates with Association of
Free Lutheran Congregations (AFLC)


         The Ladies Aid had become the Lutheran Church Women at the time of the mergers in mid-century. The church and the society had changed by 1994. The LCW ceased meeting.323

         Other activities remained positive, e.g., the outreach to Gulf Shores and the snowbirds continued. Valerie Weaver would report in a piece for the Baldwin Press Register that the "Snowbird ministry outgrows church: Coastal congregation outnumbers parent Zion Lutheran membership four to one." She noted that Pastor Charles Jolliff never expected in 1989 that the outreach to Gulf Shores would grow larger than Zion's ministry. Weaver would record Jolliff's words, "Five years ago we managed to get some signs up on the road leading to Zion. That year 10 couples came." Before that time only one or two couples made the 40 mile one-way trip to attend Zion Lutheran, the oldest ELCA church in southern Alabama. Jolliff would remark that the ELCA was considered a liberal branch of the Lutheran denomination. The church ultimately met at Holy Spirit Episcopal Church in Gulf Shores. Attendance was as high as 160 during peak snowbird season. Tuesday Bible Study was headed by Carlene Overholt. Both she and her husband, Dr. Hugh Overholt, were active with the mission congregation in 1994.

         However, back in Silverhill, shortfalls in pledges begin to emerge. One member formally requested that none of his offering be sent to the Synod. The Church Council scheduled meetings to discuss the ELCA's "Task Force on Human Sexuality," a major compounding issue for members. By June the Council determined to send the Synod formal feedback on its sexuality study. In August the congregation was investigating sharing a part-time pastor in conjunction with St. Paul's. The Church Council set up a congregational retreat to discuss ongoing issues. It was scheduled for November 11 at Camp Beckwith. In this flurry of activity, the Church Council accepted Pastor Charles Jolliff's resignation and formally acknowledged his health problems.

         On October 4 the Council set a Congregational Meeting for October 23 to accept the Jolliff resignation. Apparently the Synod was unaware of all details of Zion's love for Jolliff or of its acceptance of his resignation with special reference to his health needs, for on November 9, Bishop Skillrud sent a letter to Pastor Jolliff, advising him that the work he spearheaded in Gulf Shores under Zion's auspices was now separated from Zion. However, there must have been some awareness since he noted that since Jolliff had separated from Zion, the Bishop was assigning him to a one year appointment to work in Gulf Shores. "I have assured Mr. Midgarden that Zion Lutheran Church certainly may continue a ministry in Gulf Shores as well, if they should choose to do so, but it will be necessary to secure a new location." Bishop Skillrud penned a letter on the same day to the Rev. Dennis Baum at Holy Spirit Episcopal Church advising that "Zion now separated from all outreach through Holy Spirit" and that the ministry in Gulf Shores was now part of the "Division for Outreach of the ELCA."

         One day later Bishop Skillrud lay out his letter of law on Pastor Gary Schimmer's status as official pastor under ELCA rules. Pastor Schimmer from St. Paul's Lutheran Church of Mobile must be at all official congregational business. Furthermore, decisions reached concerning the leaving the ELCA to this point were not valid, because no pastor was there. On November 22, Interim Pastor Schimmer determined that all actions at Zion's retreat were valid with the exception of the decision to leave the ELCA.
327 The life of the congregation continued during this turmoil and on December 4 at its Annual Meeting Zion prepared a plaque in honor of Jolliff, authorized a $1000 gift to Jolliff, and purchased an artificial Christmas tree. And yes, the congregation held a "legal" vote to withdraw from the ELCA. Five days later Zion formally covenanted with St. Paul's Lutheran Church of Mobile for interim pastoral ministry via Pastor Gary M. Shimmer. On December 13, Zion advised Bishop Skillrud formally by letter that the congregation was in the process of withdrawal. The Bishop advised the congregation that he would be present on January 22, 1995, for the formal motion and vote.328


         Congregation members in Silverhill first began to be concerned with that "liberal branch of the Lutheran denomination" in 1994. Now Zion Lutheran Church was seriously considering leaving the ELCA. Pastor Jolliff continued to have a desire to remain within the ELCA. Remember now, a new parish record book had been initiated by Pastor Jolliff and Mrs. Sandell in 1973. That book was now surrendered at resignation by Pastor Jolliff . Essentially, all births, deaths, baptisms, confirmations, and marriages had not been entered into the official records of the church since 1973. Membership records specifically were incomplete! Records began anew in 1995 as a new period of church history commenced with the congregation's trek to church autonomy and independence from the ELCA. Pastoral care would fall to Pastors Hoeferkamp, Moore, Farlow, and Smyth until 1997.329

         The Council meeting of February 22, 1995, reveals both the consequences of that January vote to leave the ELCA and also that the congregation was actively continuing its mission to the community. One person reportedly initiated a transfer from the congregation in order to stay in the ELCA. Other business was "routine," a new dishwasher installed, yellow pages ad to delete "ELCA" from the ad, announcement of Special Meetings, etc. In March the church door locks were changed, letters of resignation approved, and potential Lutheran bodies for affiliation were examined: Association of Free Lutheran Congregations; American Association of Lutheran Churches; the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod; and, Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod.

         In a letter on March 27 the congregation advised Bishop Skillrud of Zion's withdrawal from the ELCA and of its desire to join the AFLC. In April there was a resignation from the Church Council and replacement by long-term member, Lawrence Moseley. Pastor Schimmer was assisting the congregation and provided names of potential interim pastors. There was a transfer of a parishioner to St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Mobile. The Council appointed Charles Canning and Harold Wells as designated representatives to the Gulf Coast Conference with respect to ongoing dialogue with the ELCA regarding disposition of church property.

         By this time Pastor Klepatz was providing pastoral services to Zion. Routine work in the church continued. The church needed to repair a plugged culvert in front of church, the same culvert that was plugged at the end of 2004. Grace Lutheran of Gulf Shores bought the hymnals that had been "on loan" from Zion at this point for $5 each. On May 2 a letter to Bishop Harold Skillrud was drafted under the signature of Interim Pastor Gary Schimmer warning the ELCA of potential suit if it did not let Zion out of the ELCA with its property.

         On May 9 Zion Lutheran Church sent a carefully crafted letter to the Members of the Council of the Southeastern Synod of the ELCA summarizing why the congregation wanted to withdraw including these data:

  • At a congregational retreat (11/11/94) most congregational members wanted to withdraw.

  • At formal meeting (12/4/94) presided over by ELCA Interim Pastor Gary Schimmer 23 members voted to withdraw from the ELCA, 3 were opposed, and 1 abstained.

  • At a formal congregational event (1/22/95) Bishop Skillrud, who officiated at worship and directed discussion with the church, was unpersuasive in his arguments for Zion remaining within the ELCA.

  • At yet another meeting (3/19/95) Bishop Skillrud delivered a long formal presentation concerning the consequences of withdrawal, yet the vote was 23 to leave, 8 opposed, and no abstentions. The congregation voted to join the AFLC which felt it could help the congregation in its ministry goals.334

  •          On May 11 Pastor Hoeferkamp was contacted to fill in while Pastor Klepatz was away. Michael Coleman, now Professor and Doctor of Music at the University of West Florida, was appointed Director of Music. The Church Council reviewed legal options should the ELCA require Zion's litigation. The congregation prepared for a Special Congregational Meeting. In just a few short days the congregation would receive the May 11 letter from Bishop Skillrud to Pastor Gary Schimmer acknowledging Zion's activity to withdraw and the status of Pastor Klepatz administering communion at Zion. A second letter followed dated May 21 from the Bishop advising Zion that it was still in the ELCA and still bound to the ELCA constitution.335

             Meanwhile, in a letter dated May 23, the "bishop" of the AFLC, President Robert Lee noted the forfeiture of property rider attached to Zion's formal departure from the ELCA, and stated that there was no AFLC claim on any church property should the church affiliate with the AFLC. On June 11, Zion formally sought AFLC affiliation, but noted that the congregation's status with the ELCA was still unresolved. It is at this point that Bishop Skillrud sent an interpretation to the effect that Zion's property should be released to the ELCA if Zion disbanded (letter of July 1, 1995). This proposal was rejected and a counter proposal was initiated by the Council on July 11.

             Meanwhile a new family was accepted into membership. A formal letter of protest was sent to the Bishop of the ELCA, the Rev. Herbert Chilstrom, particularly protesting Zion's treatment as being different from other churches withdrawing from ELCA. On August 8, Bishop Skillrud requested Zion's building if it were to disband within ten years. The turf battle was formally over when the September 28 letter from Bishop Ronald B. Warren of the Southeastern Synod formally recognized the withdrawal of Zion Lutheran Church. The church was so thankful. A letter of appreciation was sent to Pastor Gary Schimmer of St. Paul's expressing thanks for his service from December 1, 1994, to September 8, 1995, during the long withdrawal process from the ELCA.

             In November and December the Church Council reviewed options for calling an AFLC pastor, but there was no consensus on strategy. In December new "AFLC Hymnals" arrived for use in 1996. The Council asked Pastor Klepatz to continue until a regular pastor became available.
    338 Remember "out with the old"? It is at this time that June Langenbach and Lawrence Moseley completed work on selling three old church space heaters. Old wooden chairs were to be sold. In a major move the church begins funding the AFLC benevolence at a 10% level.339

             The Church Council elected Peter Midgarden as Chair, Charles Canning as Maintenance Chair, Ernest Burnett as Treasurer, and Darlene Tasso as Secretary. The first meeting of the year revealed painting was again needed. A new record book was now being used effective with date of release from ELCA, i.e., September 8, 1995. Lawrence Moseley was appointed to chair a Call Committee. The church had been advised that if it continued its Fish Fry activities, the Baldwin Health Department required a new sink. Specifications for a handicapped ramp were now being drawn up by Peter Midgarden. The congregation was added to the "City Hostess Service" packet distribution service to new residents. Yellow pages and Mobile Register ads were updated to reflect affiliation with the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations. The Council decided to poll the congregation at the January 14th Congregational Meeting as to whether Zion should become an AFLC Home Missions congregation or should choose its own pastor.


             By 1996 Zion Lutheran Church had officially left the ELCA and begun a search for a new Lutheran synodical home, ultimately affiliating with the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations (AFLC). Harold Wells is credited for first identifying the AFLC as a potential home for the congregation through an internet search.341 Remarkably, a church in Indiana opted out of the ELCA at the same time as Zion. Vine and Branches noted that St. Mark's Lutheran Church, Whitestown, Indiana, and Zion Lutheran Church of Silverhill, Alabama, both voted to leave the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, ELCA, and unite with the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations.342

             There were complications. While the ELCA-Southeastern Synod granted the Alabama congregation the right to leave with its property, the Synod had initially sought to require Zion Lutheran Church to pass a resolution promising that it would transfer title of all property and assets to the ELCA if the congregation disbanded, failed to hold regular Sunday worship services each week, or joined a non-Lutheran body before June 1, 2005. Sensing that the Synod was beyond the law as well as its constitutional authority in seeking to control the life of the congregation for 10 years after its withdrawal from that Synod,
    343 Zion continued negotiations with the Synodical Council of the Southeastern Synod. Zion was ultimately free to unite with the AFLC344 and leave with its property to "look forward to new life as a free and living congregation upholding the infallible, inerrant Word of God" in the AFLC.345 Zion Lutheran Church negotiated a commitment that promised, upon failure of Zion to be a viable congregation, it would deed the church property as a historical site to the Silverhill community at the suggestion of Fred Langenbach. This stipulation was only to be valid for ten years.

             The Congregational Meeting decided that the congregation should call a pastor and not be an AFLC Home Missions church. The church had been advised that Pastor Klepatz was not eligible under Home Missions rules to serve Zion, and he was interested in serving the church. Pastor Klepatz was in process to be admitted to the AFLC Clergy Roster. The formal Call Committee was established with Lawrence Moseley (Chair), Henri Etta Burnett, Della Sandell, Ray Tennent, Harold Wells, and Marilyn Williams. By the end of January the recommendation came that Pastor Klepatz should be called to pastor the congregation.

             In February it was determined that a handicapped ramp would mean addition of a door to the west side of the church building. It was a cold winter. Gas bills exceeded estimates because of cold. But church hearts were warmly expecting growth with AFLC affiliation. The Council ordered new offering envelopes in expectation of congregational growth. Clayton and Jodie Weaver became members.

             The congregation did call Pastor Herbert Klepatz of Mobile in February with the stipulation that he apply for status with the AFLC Clergy Roster. He accepted the call.

             By March the Council determined that its new ramp would cost $700. Other changes were coming besides the new church record book discussed earlier in the year. Changes in worship order would bring Announcements to the end of the service, communion to the first and third Sundays, communion cups to be filled before the service, and the Pastor to read Gospel lessons beginning in April. During the tenure of Pastor Jolliff, the congregation had utilized the common cup for communion. Pastor Klepatz attended an AFLC meeting in Minneapolis late in March. Meanwhile on the Eastern Shore, the ELCA mission in Fairhope offered to purchase the old Zion hymnals, $2.50 per hymnal. Ernie Burnett continued to look for other buyers. The copy machine was having problems.

             In April the Council discovered that the "City Hostess" packets would not be printed. Pastor Klepatz was going to another AFLC meeting regarding admittance to the Clergy Roster. And those Fish Fry needs? A new sink would cost $600.

             By June Ernie Burnett had arranged that 90 hymnals would be sold at $5 each with proceeds used to procure AFLC Ambassador Hymnals. Lutheran Brotherhood was now meeting at the church on occasion. A possible congregational newsletter was in the discussion phase. The congregation agreed to support Sherry Klepatz in a community "Precept Bible Study" to begin in September.

             Pastor Klepatz was on vacation in September, and Pastor Hamilton Moore was obtained fill in. The Church Council acknowledged that the Klepatzes had donated a variety of books to Zion. Fish Fry? Yes, the sink was installed by September and the church's new ramp installation began with work on the door in September. Memorial funds would cover costs and a plaque would be placed at the door. Soon the church would have a wireless mic and a functional newsletter up and running. The focus of the newsletter was every family unit in the parish. A Fish Fry was scheduled to help defray Inez Langenbach's medical expenses.

             In November it was decided to return the Annual Church Meeting to January. The "Precept Bible Study" had started out with 29 enrolled, but attendance averaged 14 each week.
    353 As an aside, the "white board" for teaching was obtained at this time and placed in what is now our Church Museum. It was moved to the Fellowship Hall at the time of the 2004 Missions Conference.354


             During the period of transition and ultimate affiliation with the AFLC (1995-1997), Pastors Hoefferkamp, Moore, Farlow, and Smyth provided pastoral services, but Pastor Herbert Klepatz (1997-1998) began as regular pastor with the church in 1997.355

             Council Minutes for January 1997 showed that all ELCA hymnals were sold. The emphasis on spiritual gifts surveys had yielded 14 completed surveys for the congregation. At the Annual Meeting Ray Tennent and Clayton Weaver were elected to Church Council. The congregation received a kind letter from Harold Skillrud, Bishop Emeritas, in February. The church became proactive in March, joining the Central Baldwin, Eastern Shore, and South Baldwin Chambers of Commerce in March. The congregation was sending $25 a month to the Central Baldwin Ministerial Association for charities. In April the Council opened bids on the church roof repair, low bid $6300. There was discussion concerning representatives from the church attending the AFLC Annual Conference, Red River flood relief, and development of evangelism packets.

             The Church Council discussed the dilemma of no children in Sunday School. Pastor Klepatz decided to talk on evangelism in a church workshop in late summer. Peter Midgarden, Charlie Canning, Harold Wells, and Ernie Burnett were to attend the AFLC Annual Conference. The congregation was to receive seventy books concerning Alabama Swedish immigrants from the Friends of Swedish Immigrants Society.

             In late summer the Council investigated the feasibility of bringing a Bible School Barnabas Team to Silverhill and a commitment was made for 1998. There was discussion concerning development of a snowbird article for the AFLC Ambassador. The Council investigated obtaining insurance help for roof repairs post hurricane and repair was underway by October. A new brochure was to be used at Heritage Day with a door hanger operation in conjunction with the annual Fish Fry. Pastor Klepatz preached at the Community Thanksgiving Service held at the Silverhill Covenant Church. By November, Debra Stults had become another new member. Optional pledge cards were still in use in 1997. The Council readied constitution recommendations for the Congregational Meeting in January 1998.


             Pastor Herbert Klepatz continued his service. By January 1998 the Council was still figuring out how to get potential names of new residents via the various Chambers of Commerce. Ray Tennent would report in February that the Chambers of Commerce had many helps for recruitment of new members.359 The Annual Congregational Meeting recorded a number of details: 6 members were added in 97 by pastor report; the Lutheran Church Women were active with a missionary family, food basket, Save-a- Life, flood relief, fair booth, and Fish Fry; the new constitution was accepted; Lent was to have a potluck before each midweek service; and, the new members to the Council were Ralph Utter, Marilyn Williams, and Dennis Langer.360

             Pastor Klepatz left the congregation in spring of 1998. The pastoral services of Pastor Moore were procured for Sunday services. Pastors St. Pierre, Delgehausen, and Billy Godwin were to be on-call. A new Call Committee was established with Linda Allen, Darlene Tasso, Ernie Burnett, Pete Midgarden, Jody Weaver, and Ralph Utter as members. In mid-1998 Rick and Virginia Thomas became new members. Harold and Linda Allen represented the church at the AFLC Annual Conference. The church welcomed the Southern Barnabas Team the summer of 1998. By November there was a congregational meeting to call Paul E. Jecklin as pastor. Optional pledge cards were still in use at the conclusion of 1998.

             The Church Council welcomed the Lamberts as new members. The minutes of the Annual Meeting showed there had been 5 baptisms in 1998 and 4 new members. Revenue from the Fish Fry event brought in $900. Pastor Jeklin would begin serving the church on February 1. Worship changes introduced included readers introducing the Creed and the Prayer of the Church delivered by congregation participants. Congregational participation in prayers continues at the time of this writing. Chamber of Commerce commitments were renewed.


             The Zion booth took first place at the Robertsdale Fairgrounds winning a prize of $100.00. The theme was "Fan the Flames of Your Spiritual Life." Pastor Paul Jeklin was welcomed to the church.363 By March 1999 two websites had been established for Zion Lutheran Church: www.community.al.com/cc/zionlutheran and www.hows.net/36576zlc. Yet another website was to be established by Harold Wells by mid year. Fliers were now being delivered in a number of communities. The Council accepted a painting from Aleda Midgarden in 1999 which replaced the "Risen Christ" painting of the mid-century in the Nave. Pastor Jeklin committed to attend the AFLC Annual Conference in Fergus Falls. The congregation purchased pew Bibles in memory of Emil Sandell. The Council continued to struggle with Sunday School issues and it was recognized that Zion Lutheran Church needed to invite children and families to build any Sunday School. Shirley Stephens was invited to serve as substitute organist. The first Fish Fry benefit to support the surgical needs for little Whitney Fritz was scheduled for May. The Council recognized the need for baby changing stations to become more child-friendly.364

            The Zion Lutheran Church Women have been a dynamic force through much of the history of the church. Here they were involved with a baby shower for Kay Langer’s Kaitlyn in 1999.
             There was a 1999 attempt at Daily Vacation Bible School, but no data were reported. The church interior was painted with funding through the Aid Association for Lutherans chapter support. The congregation was to host a missionary family. Volunteer cleaning activities by Lillian Moseley and Violet Buonauro ended in mid year. The congregation met for a church picnic at Camp Dixie in September. More signage and more pledge cards were discussed in November. Copy machine problems continued and a new machine was needed for 2000.365


             The Zion booth again took first place at the Robertsdale Fairgrounds winning $100.00. The theme was "The New Millennium."366 Clayton Weaver continued as congregational President in 2000; Darlene Tasso was Secretary; and the congregation authorized establishing a Building Fund in early 2000.367 A formal needs assessment for space for the next five years was itemized in March: fellowship area for 200; 2 restrooms; 2 classrooms for 50 people each; larger narthex; nursery cry room. The Council began looking to tour other churches re space planning. Lighting in the sanctuary was a particularly sore item and the addition of ceiling fans to lights was investigated and ultimately installed by June. Specific building concerns were brought to Marshall Lambert for preliminary sketches and recommendations.368

             The church parking area was compromised by the long-standing ditch on the south side of the church. A culvert was installed by the Town of Silverhill to allow more parking at a cost to Zion of $539.05. Carl and Jackie Stumer, Irene McFadden, and Roger Matthews were added to the membership in May. The June Council meeting received sketches from Mr. Lambert, and Ralph Utter proceeded to get some estimates. The church began an evangelistic outreach as teams of two visited the community. One team discovered that the church was identified as that "gay church," bringing back memories of homosexual issues in the early 1990s with the ELCA.

             The Church Council formalized the Building Committee to include Charlie Canning, Mack Gibbs, Pete Midgarden, Larry Poland, and Roger Matthews. It would address classroom space needs and office space needs by the end of the year. Continuing care of the historic church building involved evaluation of handrails by the altar, but they were found to be infeasible. The window blinds were in need of repair in 2000. The church dropped further membership in the Central Baldwin Chamber of Commerce.

    Zion Lutheran Church
    Initiates Its First
    New Building of the New Millennium


             In 2001 there was an initial decision to build an auxiliary building on the site of former parsonage garage.371 The working Building Committee was comprised of Ernie Burnett, Charlie Canning, Mack Gibbs, Roger Matthews, Peter Midgarden, Larry Poland, and Ralph Utter.372

             At a Special Congregational Meeting on January 7, 2001, the Building Committee presented drawings by Tom Stults and building cost estimates via Charles Canning. The decision of the congregation was to pursue further plans and estimates. It was just after this meeting that Pastor Jecklin requested a "peaceful release letter" from his ministry at Zion. Pastor Jeklin resigned to accept a call in the Northeast.

             At the Annual Meeting two weeks after the Special Meeting, membership was reported at 60 baptized, but there had been a net loss of 7 by the end of year. Of 57 communicants, there had been a net loss of 6 by end of year. The 2001 Church Council consisted of Treasurer Ernest Burnett and Council members Darlene Tasso, Linda Gibbs, Pete Midgarden, Harold Wells, Larry Poland, and Ralph Utter. Soon $500 was reallocated to evangelism. When the Council formally organized itself in February, Peter Midgarden became President and Darlene Tasso, Secretary of the congregation.

             A new vacuum and 150 St. Mark audio tapes were purchased for evangelism. By July Charlie Canning presented revised plans and estimates for a new building which were brought to a Special Congregational Meeting on July 29. The congregation voted 17 "yes" and 10 "no" for building a new building. By the end of the year pledges would amount to $25,256 . Mack Gibbs was given the task of finding appropriate financing. By the end of August Pastor Paul Jecklin officially resigned to go to St. John's Lutheran in Pennsylvania. He had advised the Council of his sense that his ministry was drawing to close earlier in year.

             Pastor Rupert St. Pierre would begin filling in October and a new Call Committee would become functional in November. The Council's attempt at evangelism allowed it to recognize that there was a sense in the community that Zion Lutheran Church did not want to change and that a building program would help Zion's negative image. The church was seeing growth in its Building Fund and in average Sunday attendance. The Council was concerned about debt and began pursuing non-debt options for the new building, ultimately concluding that no building could begin until $70,000 was in hand.
    376 New members were received in the fall: Vera Avera, Margaret Stephens, and Shirley Stephens. Harold Wells was designated to represent Zion at First Baptist Church of Silverhill for the Community Thanksgiving Program. As the year wound down, there was Council recognition that hearing assistance was needed and that the existing public address system needed work.377

    Zion Lutheran Church
    Implements Website


             The 2002 Annual Meeting was noteworthy for direction and focus. Pastor Jecklin reminded the congregation that its resources should work for the cross and not for savings. The congregation embraced a building plan to finance $51,000 after reaching a Building Fund total of $70,000 on hand. The Call Committee reported on its initial work. Loreli Walker was added to membership.378

             Pastor Dave and wife Cindi Johnson arrived from Minneapolis, MN, upon accepting a call from the congregation in the spring and was formally installed October 6th, 2002.

             November 19, the Silverhill Planning Commission met to consider Zion's Fellowship Building proposal. After an initial response that Zion would need to file an appeal because it did not have a detached minor building and the area was not zoned for commercial use, the Lord opened a door.

             What is now called the "Fellowship Building," so long in congregational consideration, was deemed an "accessory structure" which would replace the "Annex-Garage-Sunday School-Fish Fry Building." The limitation? The new "replacement" structure had to be at least 5 feet from the Zion property line.
    380 Zion Lutheran Church's new website, www.LutheransInSilverhill.com, was initiated in the fall of 2002 by Pastor Dave. Within several months, Debbie Owen volunteered her services to work with the website, quickly adding a dimension of quality and integrity to Zion's website which would be over a hundred pages within a year or so.


             Long-time Zion member Fred Langenbach would pass away and be remembered in a funeral service within the sanctuary in which he had so often labored over the last half century.

             But the congregation was finally on a move in terms of a new building. The congregation had the old parsonage garage moved from its site in early 2003. The congregation broke ground for construction of its new auxiliary building in March and dedicated its Fellowship Building with AFLC President Robert Lee officiating in November. By the time the project began, Zion had approximately $60,000 in hand and obtained a loan for the balance from Thrivent for Lutherans (the former Aid Association for Lutherans and Lutheran Brotherhood companies) for this new $120,000 edifice.

             The wedding of Bettina and Barry Langham took place in October in the historic church building with a reception in this new Fellowship Hall. It was 98% completed. Cindi Johnson was joined by a number of church women in inaugurating a women's Bible study.


             A men's fellowship ministry called "Men's 710 Second Tuesdays" began in January. This monthly breakfast program incorporated a breakfast, a short devotional, and a speaker with a men's topic.

    Men's 710 Fellowship. - Click to Enlarge.

             The first major activity in Zion Lutheran Church's new Fellowship Hall was a Valentine's Celebration in February.

    Valentine Fellowship, Feb. 14, 2004. - Click to Enlarge.

             Midweek Lenten Services utilized a "Soup and Sandwiches and Lenten Vespers" format and the new kitchen was fully put to work. A full set of kitchen cabinets would be completed by year's end.

    Kitchen Cabinet Installation, Oct. 1, 2004. - Click to Enlarge.

             A Lutheran Missions Conference was sponsored in March entitled, "God Restores the Broken- Hearted: A Lesson in Evangelism from Russia and Eastern Europe," using Pastor Don Richman from East European Missions Network in Minneapolis as conference speaker.

             The congregation commissioned a commemorative medallion in honor of its first hundred years. Five hundred medallions were distributed before year's end and a second five hundred were ordered for use in 2005.

             Zion Lutheran Church of Silverhill honored the life and ministry of its longest serving lay pastor, Pastor Charles Jolliff, in June, noting that he "served the congregation from 1972 to 1994, after receiving a commission from retiring Pastor Clarence Daniels 'to pastor Zion Lutheran Church with only one stipulation, that Christ be preached.'"

             In recognition and honor of his ministry, the Church Council donated 22 Gideon Bibles to the work of expansion of the Kingdom of God and our Lord Jesus Christ in the memory of Zion's Pastor Charles Jolliff. Pastor Jolliff had served the congregation for 22 years.
    382 Pastor Jolliff's daughters, Margreta Martin works with Lutheran Services of Missouri in St. Louis in a Missouri Synod-ELCA joint activity and Dallas works as Executive Director with Lutheran Conference Centers of SC.383

             With the freeing up of the "old kitchen" space in the historic church, Henri Etta and Ernest Burnett took on the task of developing a Church Museum to house a century of artifacts.


             And that gets us to the beginning of the one hundredth year. The congregation has established a parking lot paving fund in hopes of blacktopping its soggy parking area. Council member Loreli Walker resigned from the Council in Spring and was replaced by Milt Luoma.

             At the time of this writing, Zion plans to celebrate its Centennial with a variety of activities culminating in AFLC President Robert Lee joining the congregation for events October 29 and 30, Reformation Sunday weekend.

    Continue on to Zion Lutheran History Endnotes Page.