T H E   C H U R C H

Our History

Who is Zion Lutheran Church? Our previous pastor said we were, “the most loving and caring congregation a pastor could want.” He must have believed it because he stayed here for 36 years before retiring in January 2014. Words that describe us include open, welcoming, accepting of people, nurturing, caring, unique. Over the years many guests say we are “the friendliest church they have ever visited.” No one comes here and goes away without someone greeting and speaking to them.
While Zion is an LCMS (Lutheran Church Missouri Synod) congregation most of our members do not have an LCMS background. Many come from other Lutheran churches, protestant churches, the Catholic Church, and no church. 
We leave it up to visitors to read the pamphlet in the pew regarding our beliefs on communion and to speak to the Pastor later. We have older couples, young couples, and non-conformist couples, families with young children, no children, empty nesters, and widows. We have survived schisms in the church at large because friendships that we have made within the church have lasted.
Zion’s corporate history began in 1949 when a downtown congregation in Cincinnati decided to start a new mission church in the far eastern area of Cincinnati. The Mission Board did a canvas of the area, and in 1952 twelve families started Zion Lutheran Church of Mt. Washington.
Zion did not begin on its present site at Salem and Birney Lane, but in a labor hall in Mt. Washington that is now gone. About that building one member recalled, “It was not an enticing place, just one big room where Sunday school classes were held in the corners. A pulpit and altar were moved in and out every Sunday. You really had to love the Lutheran Church to go there.”
The church eventually accepted a donation of property in Anderson Township from one of its members who would also serve as the General Contractor at a greatly reduced cost. A ground breaking ceremony took place on March 13, 1955, and the cornerstone was laid on May 15, 1955. Gradually the church took shape; however, a lot of work was done by the members, including heavy work. The contract called for the members to do all the fill work around the foundation and to put up the cross beams overhead that support the roof. In addition, they were responsible for the glazing, painting, and electrical work, as well as setting the drain tile.
Finally it was finished – sort of, and a dedication service was held on December 4, 1955. A lot of finish work would have to wait until finances made it possible, but what an achievement for a congregation which now numbered 25 families. Pews would also have to wait, so they purchased chairs from the local school system for 50 cents each. There was an organ, rebuilt by one of the members, while another member built the altar, pulpit, and lectern. The custodial work was done by the members themselves. In 1966, we added a balcony to the sanctuary.
Over the years Zion has had 6 pastors. Zion’s first pastor was Henry Kuring, the Missionary at Large called to organize a church in this area, who was followed by Harry Smith from 1956-1963. He was followed by Frank Bunn from 1963-1969 and then Milton Berner from 1969-1976. Harold Oliver served Zion from 1977 to his retirement in January 2014. Mike Hanel served us as a part-time Assistant Pastor while he completed his work at the University of Cincinnati, from 2009-2015. Gary Miller served as our Intentional Interim Pastor from 2014-2015. Pastor Jason Hoerth began his ministry with us in August 2015, coming from St. Louis, Missouri where he served as Associate Pastor. He continues his ministry with us now.

Zion grew over the years and planned for the future by purchasing adjacent property. In 1986 we expanded the existing church building to add offices, classrooms, and parking.

In 1994 we beautified and expanded the sanctuary and narthex, and provided handicap access with an elevator wing. In 2004 we added a Multi-Ministry Center (MMC) which allowed the contemporary “Praise Ablaze” service to have a place of its own.

Much of Zion’s growth came from families with young children, so in 1994 we called a trained Director of Christian Education, DCE for short, to develop programs especially for them. Chris Graves accepted our call to serve as our Family Ministries Coordinator. He continues to serve us in four areas of responsibility – Youth Ministry, Family Ministry, Children’s Ministry, and Adult Education.

Not only have we tried to serve our members better, but we also regularly try reaching out to the unchurched in our community with the annual “Absolutely Free Car Wash”, accepting no money for washing cars. We also have a biannual “Absolutely Free Garage Sale” at which we give away items to people at no cost. We also have a biannual “Jerusalem Market” geared towards young children which allows them to engage in hands on activities that would have occurred in Jesus’ time. It’s all to make the point that God’s love is also free. 
Our number and styles of worship have evolved over the years. We currently have one traditional service, a contemporary service, and a traditional Vespers communion service once a month on Saturday evening. The Traditional Worship service in the sanctuary uses settings and variations from the Lutheran hymnal, has an organist and a volunteer choir. Our Contemporary Worship service has a pool of 18 volunteers that provide at least 3 singers, 3 guitarists, a drummer, and a keyboard person supported by a team of 4 audio technicians.
Members stay connected through various activities including The Women’s Guild, which has played a major role in this church since the doors opened in 1952. We have an email prayer chain, that is well utilized by many of our members, small Bible Study groups, youth groups, and a senior group.
Regular activities at Zion include an annual Christmas party, an event catered by the Youth Group, serving food prepared by a member. The youth also raise funds with a spaghetti dinner, serving in a romantic setting in the church fellowship hall. Other youth activities include lock ins, a summer retreat, Youth Gatherings (both national and state), helping with VBS, and in 2012 there was a trip to Hong Kong to help with the VBS there. In the Fall, a Thrivent pancake breakfast is held to support a student studying at a seminary. We also had a vicar from Concordia Seminary who served us for a year from 2008-2009.
Christian Education is an ongoing thing at Zion every Sunday between services during the school year. Multiple Bible Studies/parent education programs led by the Pastor(s), the DCE, and members also occur at that time. However, we also have several small growth group Bible Studies led by members during the week, some in the morning, some in the evening, and one late at night. VBS is also a yearly activity in the summer.
We have participated in numerous activities to keep from growing stagnant, and in 1997 we had a weekend seminar with a facilitator to help develop a vision for Zion. This resulted in our 9 Core Constants based on the Great Commission of Jesus to “Go and make disciples.” Related to that is our current focus on “Families with Young Children” and the Family Friendly Partners Network in which we are currently engaged.

At present we have about 230 active communicant members with an average weekly attendance of around 200. We believe the Lord has blessed us and the Holy Spirit has led us to this point, and we look forward to what God has in store for us in the future.