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History of Zion

History of Zion Lutheran Church of Ferndale


Pastor Louis H. Pertner was a persistent and persuasive minister who thought there should be a Lutheran Church in Ferndale. Starting with eight people on July. 8, 1923, when he conducted the first worship service, by the fall of that year he managed to pull together 23 people who organized as Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church on September 18.

The Lord blessed the work of Pastor Pertner, and on October 28, 1924, the basement of the church was completed at a cost of $23,452. Although harassed by a depression and World War II, the members of Zion were a determined lot who never lost faith. On October 15, 1950, they saw their dreams fulfilled, when the present sanctuary, with a seating capacity of 650, was dedicated. Dr. Norman A. Menter, President of the Michigan District of the American Lutheran Church, was the featured speaker.  To meet the continued growth of the congregation, an educational facility was built and was dedicated on November 9, 1958.

A willing and faithful servant, Pastor Pertner served the congregation until his retirement on April 4, 1959. He remained a member until his death on May 22, 1970.

Pastor James R. Fox, who was called as assistant pastor under Pastor Pertner on June 30, 1957, became the senior pastor in 1959 and served until August, 1964, when he accepted a call to Trinity Lutheran Church in Wauseon, Ohio.
On January 31, 1965, Pastor  George Halsted was installed as senior pastor; and on August 11, 1968, Pastor Deane A. Peterson, who had served as an intern of the congregation, was installed as assistant pastor.

1973 was our Golden Anniversary year and many people were involved in planning and preparing for the special events which took place in October. Our Golden Anniversary worship service took place on Sunday, October 14. 
In November, 1974, our assistant pastor, Deane Peterson, accepted a call to Redeemer Lutheran Church in Oak Forest, Illinois.  On September 1, 1976, Pastor Halsted resigned as pastor of Zion and returned to a position in the business world with GTE Sylvania.  The family subsequently moved to Wales, Wisconsin.

After five months without a pastor, on Sunday, February 6, 1977, Zion celebrated the installation of Pastor Paul F. Gateman at the morning worship service. Pastor Jerry B. Stroud of Christ of South Redford Lutheran Church, Redford, Michigan., was liturgist; and the sermon was delivered by Pastor Kirkwood J. Havel, Providence Lutheran Church, Holland, Ohio. Pastor Johan A. Bergh, Epiphany Lutheran Church, Toledo, Ohio, conducted the Installation Service.

In October, 1983, we celebrated our 60th Anniversary. On Sunday, October 16, a special service and anniversary tea were held and many familiar faces came back to Zion to help us celebrate the occasion. Although not able to be with us in person, Pastors Fox and Peterson sent congratulatory messages, as well as The ALC District office and several members who had moved out of the state

In 1988 the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) was formed by the merger of the American Lutheran Church, the Lutheran Church in America, and the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches. Zion became part of the Southeast Michigan Synod of the ELCA.

For the celebration of our 75th year of ministry in 1998, Bishop Robert Rimbo of the Southeast Michigan Synod preached and former Pastors Fox, Halstead, and Peterson returned to share in the festivities.

In 2005, after having served as lay pastoral assistant since 2000, John Meulendyk was called to be a pastor at Zion and was ordained and installed on April 23, 2005.

In 2008 Zion welcomed members of Truth Lutheran in Detroit, which closed in 2007.  It had ties to Zion in that it was also founded by Pastor Louis Pertner.  Its altar, baptismal font, chairs, and other items are now housed at Zion. 

After twelve years of service, Pastor John Meulendyk retired  as pastor to Zion in 2013 and Licensed Minister Walter Jackson assumed a larger role in worship and the visitation ministry at Zion until his death in 2014.

The ELCA National Youth Gathering was held in Detroit in 2015 and 30,000 young people from across the United States gathered.  Work projects and mass gatherings between Ford Field and Cobo Arena kept everyone busy for four days in mid-July.  Zion had 23 youth and adults in attendance.

After nearly 41 years of exemplary service at Zion, Pastor Paul Gateman retired from full-time ministry on Dec. 31, 2017, and became Pastor Emeritus until his death in 2021.  In February 2018 a call was made to Pastor Matthew Bode, who was installed April 29, 2018.

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