History of Zion Lutheran Church of Ferndale
The Rev. Louis H. Pertner, a Lutheran minister, believed that there should be a Lutheran Church in Ferndale so he conducted his first worship service on July 8, 1923, with only eight people. By the autumn of that year the congregation increased to 23 individuals, and with that small congregation, organized in September of that year as Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church. The number of parishioners steadily increased until on October 28, 1924, the basement portion of the church, which housed all church activities, was completed at a cost of $23,452.
The church basement structure remained the same through the Great Depression and World War II until October 15, 1950, when the present day sanctuary was completed with a seating capacity of 650. All worship services were moved
to this spectacular new facility with the basement being converted into, what is now, Fellowship Hall serving all social and community functions. To meet the continued congregational growth, an educational wing was constructed and completed on November 9, 1958, which substantially constitutes todays architectural footprint.
Pastor Pertner retired as pastor on April 4, 1959, but remained as a church member until his death in May, 1970. Pastor James R. Fox, who had served as an assistant pastor under Pastor Pertner since 1957, assumed the senior pastoral post and served in that position until August, 1964, when he accepted a position at Trinity Lutheran Church in Wauseon, Ohio.
In January, 1965, the Rev. George Halsted was installed as senior pastor. In August, 1968, the Rev. Deane A. Peterson, who was serving as an intern of the congregation, was installed as assistant pastor. The Golden Anniversary of Zion was celebrated in 1973.
In November, 1974, assistant pastor Deane Peterson accepted a position with a congregation in Oak Forest, Illinois, and in September of 1976 Pastor Halsted resigned his position to return to the business world, leaving the church temporarily without a pastor. Early the following year in February, 1977, Zion celebrated the installation of the Rev. Paul F. Gateman, who remains as pastor to this day.
In 1988, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) was formed by the merger of the American Lutheran Church, Lutheran Church in America and the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches. Zion became a part of the Southeast Michigan Synod of the ELCA.
In 2005, after serving as lay pastoral assistant since 2000, a call was issued to Pastor John Meulendyk to serve as a pastor at Zion. In 2008, Zion welcomed the members of their sister church, Truth Lutheran of Detroit, which closed in 2007. It had ties to Zion in that it was also founded by Pastor Pertner. After twelve years of service, Pastor Meulendyk retired as pastor in 2013. Licensed Minister Walter Jackson had served an active role in worship and the visitation ministry at Zion until his death in 2014. Today Zion remains a vibrant congregation serving the community through worship, education and social ministry.