Salt Lake City Lutheran Church - 1882
Lutheran church ages gracefully at 125
By Liesl Goecker
The Salt Lake Tribune
Salt Lake City's Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church celebrates its 125th
anniversary Sunday. The celebration is a chance to commemorate the five Swedish
men and women who founded the church on July 18, 1882.
It was the first Lutheran church in Utah, said Paul Mogren, anniversary committee chairman, and it immediately became very active in the community. Zion started providing meals and other charity to the miners of Park City around the turn of the century.
In some ways, not much has changed in the 125 years since. Zion was one of the first churches involved in Family Promise, which was founded in 1995 and comprises religious organizations throughout the Salt Lake Valley that provide meals, housing and fellowship to homeless families for one week at a time, four weeks per year.
"That's kind of a nice symmetry from the 19th to the 21st centuries," Mogren said.
"They [Zion] have been wonderful supporters of us," said Rev. Jennifer Hare-Diggs, executive director of Family Promise.
Hare-Diggs noted that when the church undertook recent remodeling, shower and laundry facilities were included specifically to accommodate the hosted families more comfortably.
Hospitality has been a long tradition at Zion, said the Rev. Steve Klemz.
"We've grown in the ministry of hospitality," said Klemz, who has led Zion for the past 15 years. "And that means recognizing, welcoming and accepting the stranger in our community."
Longtime congregation member Millie Ergman, 83, spent three years organizing members every Sunday morning to greet visitors as they came in.
But aside from its focus on others, Zion also provides personal as well as spiritual fulfillment to its members. For 17 years, Ergman was also in charge of tending the vines that grew in a planter in Zion's sanctuary.
"I enjoyed that," she said. "That was kind of my fun project."
Eventually, the plants had to be replaced with artificial versions which could survive Utah's cold winters. And as she has aged Erdman has taken some time off from her involvement in church activities, though she and her husband, Bob, continue to attend services and adult bible studies. But in spite of that, Erdman said, there's one thing about Zion that has never changed, and never will.
"Zion is our family," she said. "Zion has continued to be there for us."
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