The earliest history of Zion Lutheran Church is tied to – yes, is dependent upon – the history of rural congregations of Renville County. These rural congregations existed prior to Zion and provided pastoral care during the organizational years.
Every congregation has a birth. Bethany Lutheran Church, Emmet Twp, was our mother. She held us close during our infancy and toddler years. Our earliest church records are still kept safe together with the records of this congregation which served the area from 1875-1998.
In 1886, 26 year old Gervasius Fischer (pictured) graduated from Dr. Martin Luther College in New Ulm.1 His first assignment was to serve the 11-year old Bethany Lutheran Church, Emmet Twp, Renville County. That same year he helped St. Luke Lutheran Church, Winfield Twp., to organize. The charter members of St. Luke included the Christ Nelson family – people who one year later became charter members all over again, this time of Zion, Olivia.
The Nelson family lived in Olivia. Until 1886 they and others living in Olivia traveled 11 ½ miles to Bethany for worship. Now they could go to St. Luke for worship – 3 ½ miles closer. Very soon, God’s Word and the sacraments would be available to them right around the corner. However, Christ Nelson had to act. As the story is told in our 100th anniversary booklet, “Christ Nelson…made it is his mission to ask Pastor Fischer to conduct services in Olivia.”
Christ Nelson was a devoted Christian father and lay church leader. God used his spiritual interest and initiative to bring the saving power of the means of grace into the lives of many people over the course of 120 years. His request of Pastor Fischer is a request he would continue to make of area pastors until Zion was able to call its own pastor in 1903.
It was because of Christ Nelson’s earlier and similar request of Pastor Fischer that on Rogate Sunday, 1887, Zion Lutheran Church was established. In 1887 Easter occurred on April 10. This means Rogate Sunday would have been May 15. Accordingly, May 15, 1887, may rightly be celebrated as Zion’s birthday. The newly formed congregation met in the Olivia school building every other Sunday.
Pastor Fischer was not an official Reiseprediger appointed by the synod, but he was in many ways a de facto Reiseprediger. The Reiseprediger gathered Christians together as congregations and fed them with Word and Sacrament as often as he could. Eventually they could call their own pastor. Pastor Fischer accomplished something like this for the German Lutherans living in Renville County.
Gervasius Fischer was born in Germany on June 19, 1860. He emigrated to America and graduated as a candidate for the pastoral ministry from Dr. Martin Luther College, New Ulm, in 1886. After he followed the Lord’s call from Renville County to serve in Elkhorn, SD, he returned briefly to Germany. At the turn of the century he returned to America to serve congregations in Minnesota until his retirement in 1928. Pastor Fischer died on February 17, 1930, in Minneapolis.
For a full history of Zion Lutheran Church click below