Our first building “The Little Church on the Schuylkill” had 153 members.That building still stands at the corner of Mauch Chunk St. and Schuylkill Ave. and is now the home of the Italian Club. Our current building was begun in August, 1927, and dedicated on September 23, 1928.Our magnificent sanctuary however was not complete until 1948.On the day of dedication it was called “a towering edifice which stands out as a testimony of a devoted pastor and people to their God.”
Congregation’s Early History
For a number of years, the Protestants in Tamaqua held church in a school house on Dutch Hill and later in a union church building.In 1835 Rev. Hassinger, a traveling pastor, organized a Lutheran and Reformed congregation.
The cornerstone for the first Protestant church was laid on June 18, 1873 and was dedicated on September 19.It was a small frame church having three windows on each side and a window on each side of the entrance leading into the edifice.A bell hung in the steeple.The church was located on the present St. John’s Lutheran Cemetery.The church was known as the Union Church.
This church was used by both denominations until 1884.In 1887 the Lutherans erected a bilingual school building on the corner of Mauch Chunk and Pine Streets.The German Lutherans gained financial control in 1875, and teaching using the English language was terminated at the school.The English Lutherans moved to the basement of the Union Church.
On January 27, Zion English Evangelical Lutheran Church began as a congregation of the Ministerium of Pennsylvania.On June 26, 1876, a chapel, “The Little church on the Schuylkill”, was dedicated and it stands today and is known as the Italian Club.
In 1916 the congregation purchased land on the corner of Mauch Chunk and Greenwood Streets with additional footage being purchased in 1932.Total cost was $9,750.00.The ground breaking ceremony took place in 1924.On September 23, 1928, the church was dedicated.This day was Reverend Gebert’s 71st birthday.
Succession of Pastors:
- Jan. 1876- Sept. 1877 – Rev. D. W. S. Erb
- Sept. 1877 – Sept. 1883 – Rev. W. H. Laubenstein
- Jan. 1884 – April 1886 – Rev. G. H. Drumheller
- Jan 1886 – 1890 – Rev. J. O. Schlenker
- Sept. 1891 – 1939 – Rev. Dr. George A. Gebert
- 1939 – 1944 – Rev. Maynard C. Hallock
- 1944 – 1951 – Rev. Charles C. Schlitzer
- 1951 – 1956 – Rev. Stanley B. Jennings
- 1956 – 1961 – Rev. Luther K. Mohr
- 1961 – 1970 – Rev. Robert M. Heiberger
- 1971 – 1987 – Rev. F. Peter Muhr
- 1988 – 1991 – Rev. Robert W. Bush
- 1992 – 2006 – Rev. Fred T. Crawford
- 2006 – 2008 – Rev. James C. Covert, Interim
- 2008 – 2010 – Rev. Debra K. Ernst
- 2010 – 2013 – Rev. Jeffrey P. Kistler, Interim
- 2013 – 2016 – Rev. Virginia Goodwin, Interim
- 2015 – present – Vicar Cindy White
Dr. George A. Gebert
Dr. Gebert’s dedication to his followers is an important and long part of Zion’s history.His dream for Zion resulted in what you see today.Not only do we have a beautiful edifice but a foundation upon which Zion’s spiritual strength grew over the years.Dr. Gebert shepherded his flock with devotion and discipline, strictness, and compassion.He worked as janitor, financial secretary, church council secretary, and helped with the excavation for the new church, giving 78 days of manual labor, in addition to laying pipes at the cemetery.When on March 3, 1937 the new church was not finished, he offered one half his salary, $100.00 a month, to begin a plan to complete the building.In 1916 he was in the prime of his ministry with eyes that sparkled and a beard which was graying, walking with a cane in hand to minister to his parishioners.He labored among his people for a half century until he died in 1940.The people of Zion were and are a devoted people.This can be attributed to the dedication of Dr. Gebert and the pastors that follow him to Zion.
Between 1928 and 1947, church services were held in the social hall located on the first floor.After World War II the congregation, with the guidance of Pastor Schlitzer, made the commitment to complete the construction.The dedication was held in 1947.
The architecture of the interior has significant symbolism.One visiting the church needs to recognize these features.The structure is traditional Gothic in the form of a Latin cross.The ceiling resembles the bottom of a ship and symbolized the congregation’s voyage through life where Jesus calms the sea.The sanctuary light above the altar indicated the presence of the Holy Spirit.This Gothic structure provides the greatest acoustical quality found in the area.
The windows are made of baked painted glass.As you enter the church, the windows to your left depict the ministries of Jesus.The inserts in these windows show baptism, The Ten Commandments, communion and the alpha and omega.The rear windows portray the ascension with two angels dressed in Eucharistic vestments.Plaques above the left-side doorways symbolize two angels and the four evangelists.Over the rear doorways, plaques resemble the crucifixion.A Pascal candle is found in the front of the right row of pews and is lighted for baptisms, funerals, Christmas, and Easter services.
The chapel, to the front left of the church, is the Gebert Memorial Chapel.The windows in this area represent the birth of Christ.The window above the altar shows Jesus praying in theGarden ofGethsemane.
The Congregation welcomes your visit to Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church. We extend an invitation for your visit and worship with us in the future.