East Zion Lutheran Church will celebrate 150 years of worship and service this Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 18-19.

The sesquicentennial will highlight community, organists, musicians, history and heritage and is meant to be a grand reunion of East Zion’s past and future, with many events planned to welcome all.

Schedule of Events

The festivities get rolling at 2 p.m. on Saturday with the lighthearted Burma Road Parade, scheduled to arrive at East Zion Church at 2:30 pm.  Bring a lawn chair and enjoy the parade from East Zion. 

The EZ Country Fair kicks off at 3 p.m. with an Ice Cream Social, Klub on a Stick, ‘Taste of Norway’ lefse and rommegrot samples, a quilting demonstration, games and ‘Open Church’ featuring historical and cultural displays, art and recently updated cemetery maps. Enjoy the EZ Music Fest from 3-6 p.m. with accordion and singalong music by Myron’s Polka Datters, a band of five sisters that includes Joyce Manning, Miriam Lindblad, Karen Mitteness, Linda Hanson and Marge Berg (known locally as “the Forbord sisters”) as they perform Schottisches, Polkas and Norwegian Dances. More ‘locally grown’ musicians will take the outdoor stage, including music from the 40s, 50s and 60s by Friends Quartet singers Jan Goff, Karen Mitteness, Jay Alsaker and Wayne Dokken, accompanied by Marilyn Inman. 

Sunday, Sept. 19 begins with a Celebration Worship Service led by Pastor Steve Carmany and Organist Karen Mitteness. Come early to hear the special prelude music.

At 12 noon, Dr. Laura Edman will lead the organists’ Postlude Parade with Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565 by J.S. Bach and Hymn to Joy by Albert L. Travis, tune by Ludwig van Beethoven. 

Laura Edman grew up in Benson, where, at age 16, she began playing organ at Trinity Lutheran Church. In 2009 she received a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Organ Performance from the University of Minnesota. She is currently an organ instructor at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and is the organist at First Presbyterian Church in Stillwater, Minn. Edman performed in the 2007 Summer Institute for French Organ Studies in Poitiers and Epernay, France. She attended the GoArt Organ Academy in Gothenburg, Sweden and performed at the Kreuzkirche in Dresden, Germany while traveling with Minnesota Public Radio’s Pipedreams tour in 2019. Edman frequently performs in the Twin Cities area and currently serves on the University of Minnesota’s Northrop Auditorium Organ Advisory Committee that promotes its historic organ through diverse programs and outreach to the community. 

Listen to Laura and featured guest organists Grace Forbord, Marge Berg, Miriam Lindblad, Linda Hanson and Joyce Manning from either inside or outside the church building, as amplified pipe organ music flows through open windows to the countryside.

A Grilled Picnic Lunch will be served outdoors by Lakes Catering. Please RSVP for the meal. The celebration will conclude with an Anniversary Cake served at 1 PM.

Congregational History

East Zion was first organized as ‘The Zion Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Congregation of Pope County’ on November 22, 1871 in a log schoolhouse located on what is now the south part of East Zion Cemetery. Pastor Peter Reque was called as the first minister. He was already serving Nora, Indherred, Lake Johanna, Chippewa Falls and Douglas Station in Stevens County and agreed to hold 8 services per year for the newly formed Zion congregation. Forty-nine men and one woman signed the original charter. In 1883, in order to serve the growing number of pioneer families in the area, Zion congregation split into East Zion and West Zion congregations. The two congregations continue to share history and many enduring connections, and now share Pastor Steve Carmany with Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church in Swift Falls.

East Zion Cemetery

History and hope live in the cemetery. East Zion Lutheran Cemetery Association was formed in 2012 as a separate 501(c)(3) non-profit organization to care for and maintain the cemetery in perpetuity. “We are fortunate to have a dedicated group of board members and volunteers to tend the 700-plus gravesites.  Significant projects over the last few years have included a new storage building, cleaning and straightening markers, and updating the cemetery maps and directory”, says Matt Pederson, Cemetery Association Treasurer. You are invited to visit with cemetery board members and local history buffs at the EZ Country Fair in their booth next to the Klub Shack.

Church Building Centennial

The first East Zion Church was built in 1884. It was struck by lightning on July 7, 1919 and burned to the ground. Plans materialized quickly to build a brick church and the cornerstone was laid on August 28, 1921 with more than 2000 people in attendance. The bell was recast after the fire and remains in regular service today.

Pipe Organ turns 75

A beautiful Moeller pipe organ was purchased by the Ladies Aid and Luther League. On July 6, 1947, an Organ Dedication was held in conjunction with a Homecoming Festival for East Zion members who had served in World Wars I and II.

In 2007, an extensive cleaning and repair of all pipes, components and the organ console was completed by Hendrickson Organ Company with help from congregational members and neighbors. In 2020, with the instrument nearly 75 years old, the organ stops were crumbling from age and use. The T-Rail that holds the stops was completely rebuilt by Peterson Electromusic Company of Chicago. It was re-installed by Luverne Forbord and Hendrickson Organ Company. We are grateful for the organ’s care and maintenance over the years, and for all past and present organists who have brought so much to our church and our lives.

EZ Entry/Gathering Space Golden Anniversary

Many people can’t remember East Zion without the spacious entry that encloses the steps to the sanctuary. Originally built by Caren Hanson and his brother Daryl, the cornerstone was laid in 1970. For just over 50 years it has served to welcome, comfort and provide room for fellowship. As we celebrate a recent upgrade to this space, we thank Caren Hanson and his family for many years of service to East Zion Church and Cemetery. Say hello to Caren and other Cemetery board members and volunteers at the Cemetery & History booth next to the Klub Shack at the EZ Country Fair.

All events are free

All events are free and everyone is welcome to attend. Please register on East Zion’s website www.eastzionlutheranchurch.org  Text or leave a voicemail at 320-760-8732 to reserve a Sunday noon meal. East Zion Lutheran Church is located at 28745 County Road 10, rural Starbuck.