GASPORT - After struggling for years without a resident pastor and sometimes with no Sunday morning services, Zion Lutheran Church is preparing for a grand celebration of its 100th anniversary Oct. 14.
The celebration will begin with a service at 10:30 a.m. in the church at 4447 Central Ave. Then will come a dinner in the Gasport Fire Hall and an afternoon of memories - some of them stretching back for decades.
Nancy Luckman, chairwoman of the centennial celebration, said there is no set charge for the dinner, but a free-will offering will be collected. Reservations must be made by calling Luckman at 778-7117 by this Friday.
"The entire year has been dedicated to the last hundred years, including the use of old hymns that we had not sung in a long time," Luckman said. "Because the theme of our anniversary is 'Celebrating 100 Years of God's Love,' we have carried that through all year, including using hymns with the word 'love' in them."
The Oct. 14 service and dinner will be the final celebration of Zion Lutheran's centennial year.
"We started off with the dedication of our new Memorial Garden on Nov. 6 ," the chairwoman said. "We celebrated the memories of our Zion Saints. Memorial coins were made, and each was etched with the name of a dedicated Zion member.
"The coins were placed into a vault in the ground where they will remain for eternity. There is a bench were one can go to meditate for a moment or two."
There also was a Christmas play tied in with the anniversary theme. And for this year's Confirmation Sunday, "We got out all the old Confirmation banners from previous years, repaired and ironed them, and hung them for that day," Luckman said.
As the congregation looks ahead in 2012, "We planned to donate funds to start a farm in an African nation," she said. "At this time, with the children heavily involved, we have collected enough for over seven farms. The name of the project is 'God's Global Barnyard,' and we used it to impress mission work in the minds of the children."
The Zion Lutheran Church history stretches back to 1912, when some Lutheran families in the Gasport area called upon a minister to organize a congregation and hold worship services in the Mill District School on East Slayton Settlement Road.
"It is said that the minister received $1 per Sunday for conducting the German-language service," according to "A Short History of Zion Lutheran Church, Gasport, N.Y.," compiled by Melvin Schultz and Linda McOmber.
The fledgling congregation purchased the church building of the German Evangelical Association on Central Avenue in Gasport in 1915 after that congregation merged with one in Lockport.
In the early days, all services at Zion were conducted in German.
"Soon this was changed to twice monthly and then to once monthly," Schultz and McOmber wrote. "By 1930, an attendance of 10 at the monthly German service was considered a big crowd, so German was discontinued forever."
A succession of ministers, some of them serving only part time or temporarily, led Zion for many years. One of them held Sunday morning services in Medina and alternated between afternoons and evenings at Gasport and Lockport.
"It is a strange fact that for the first 32 years of its existence, there were no morning services at Zion," according to the church history.
The congregation found it difficult to pay even the pastors' small salaries during the Great Depression that began in 1929. They sometimes were paid in produce by members of the congregation, most of whom were farmers.
Additions and improvements were made to the church building through the years, and eventually arrangements were made for Sunday morning services, which were held at 11:30 after that day's service in Medina.
The present pastor, the Rev. Rodney J. Klinzing, was installed at Zion on July 11, 1982. The church can be reached at Post Office Box 381, Gasport, N.Y. 14067 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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