Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church
9000 Menard Ave
Oak Lawn, IL 60453
Phone: 708 422-1433
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"We lost our home during the recent hurricane. Without the generous support of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church and its volunteers, I don't know how we would have coped during those difficult times."
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We're here to welcome you. Please stop by during these hours:
Sunday English Lang Svc: 9:30
Sunday Lithuanian Lang Svc: 11:00
Sunday School: 10:30
Wed Bible Study: 11:00 - Lithuanian lang
Preschool/Daycare: Mon-Fri 7-6
HISTORY OF ZION EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
1910 - 2010
Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church was founded by Lithuanian Lutherans who needed a stable, comforting environment to aid them in adjusting to a new country and a new way of life. They needed a place where they could worship and hear the Gospel of Christ in the language and according to customs of their fathers. The maintenance of a church in their own language and tradition was very important to these people, who were born and raised in Roman Catholic land yet managed to retain the faith and customs of their forbearers.
Lithuanian services had been conducted in Chicago since 1903 by the Rev. Martin Keturakaitis, pastor of Jerusalem Lutheran Church in Collinsville, IL. He came to Chicago each month to bring the message of Salvation in the Lithuanian language to those early immigrants until December 4, 1910, when they formally organized Zion Lithuanian Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession. In June 1911, the Rev. John J.D. Razokas was installed as the first pastor. Under his leadership the Lithuanian paper “Pasiuntinys” (Messenger) was printed, and the Sunday School Primer was published as well as the first Constitution still used by the congregation today. In early 1921 pastor Razokas was untimely called to eternal rest.
On May 15, 1921, the Rev. John Rozak (cousin of former pastor) was installed as pastor. During the years of his ministry, the Congregation prospered in spiritual welfare, membership, and property. The brick building on Bell Avenue was purchased. A 1927 Lithuanian Hymnal Book and the church paper “Paslas” (Messenger) were published by the pastor.
The Rev. Ewald Kories took charge of the Congregation from October 1934 to 1946. During that time, the Dorcas Society rendered helpful services for the church. Some debts were paid off with the assistance of the Zion Daughter’s Society organized on November 10, 1919 and the Lithuanian Evangelical Lutheran Benefit Society founded on March 18, 1923. Both organizations are no longer in existence.
Early in 1947, the Rev. Elmer H. Nauyok began his ministry at Zion and served congregation until October 31, 1949.
In December of 1949, the Rev. Lic.Doc. John Pauperas, a recent immigrant from Germany, was installed as the sixth pastor of Zion Congregation. Under his leadership the Congregation grew in communicant membership largely due to the new immigration of Lithuanian and Germans after the World War II. More than 800 affidavits (some 280 by Pastor Pauperas alone) were signed by various members of the church for new immigrants to come to these shores. Pastor Pauperas took personal charge of providing housing and employment for these new arrivals to Chicago.
In 1950, a German service was added. Church activities increased: Lithuanian and German choirs beautified the Sunday worship; “Rutos” Society (Feb., 1953) and a German Ladies Society (1955) were organized; and a Saturday morning language school was maintained for the German and Lithuanian children. For many years, Mrs. Maria Pauperas provided guidance and leadership for the Lithuanian and German Sunday Schools. With a choir concert on June 4, 1955, Building Fund was started which grew so much that, in 1970, a 20 acre parcel of Lemont land was purchased for $60,000 as a possible relocation of the church. Unexpectedly God called His servant John Pauperas on May 22, 1971.
In August of 1971, Reverend John W. Josupait, Pastor of St. Martini Lutheran Church in Chicago, was called to be interim minister and, on January 30, 1972 was installed as the seventh pastor of the congregation. With the coming of pastor Josupait, an English service was added to the Sunday morning schedule. Much discussion took place for relocation.
On March 24, 1974, the last service was held in the old church in Chicago and entrance was made into the newly purchased church at 9000 South Menard in Oak Lawn. Many parishioners worked hard and donated their time and effort for the necessary renovation to make this building a more suitable place for Sunday worship.
On February 2, 1975, the Congregation in a special meeting decided for a major renovation project of the church. Thus - with new pews, sanctuary furniture, stained glass windows, etc. - the project was completed at the cost of $115,000. Three dedication services followed: on June 22, 1975, Lithuanian; July 13th, German, and July 27th, English. The $12,000 “Allen Digital Computer” organ was donated by the Lithuanian Lutheran Men’s Benefit Society. It was officially dedicated on November 23, 1975 with an organ recital by Dr. Thomas Gieschen, Professor of Music, Concordia College, River Forest, and our own soloists - Erna Josupait, the late Inge Paul, and Victor Mieliulis - participating in the dedication services.
Besides many donations and offerings from the people, the land in Lemont was subdivided and sold to parishioners to help pay the remodeling cost. Three acres were kept for future use.
The need for a larger hall to provide space for fellowship meetings and luncheons resulted in the purchase of additional land on the west side of the church for $20,000. An architect was engaged and, on October 17, 1982, a cornerstone was laid. The project was completed at a cost of $175,000. On June 5, 1983, the new fellowship hall was dedicated to the glory of God in a concert of sacred music. The church office was also relocated from upstairs to downstairs for the convenience of older parishioners.
After the collapse of communist regime in Soviet Union, Lithuania, the fatherland of majority of our parishioners, became free country in 1990. The changes brought about the religious freedom. Members of Zion personally and as well as a congregation became very much involved in reviving and enriching of religious life of Lutheran Evangelical Church of Lithuania. The congregation supported several projects in Lithuania: reconstruction and renovation of several church buildings; financial support of pastors; financed professional seminar for church workers and pastors, summer youth camps; initiated and partially financed translation and publishing of confessional books such as “Here I Stand: The Life of Martin Luther” and the Holy Scripture itself. The congregation is also providing spiritual as well as financial support to the pastors and theology students who recently received opportunity to study in United States, by providing a sacred space to worship in their mother-tongue and actively involving them in life and activities of the Congregation. One of unpredicted outcomes of this work is taking expression of development of stronger relationships between the Lutheran Evangelical Church in Lithuania and Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod.
Rev.Dr. Valdas Ausra has been pastor of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church since 2002. He was instrumental in establishing the “Spindulelis” day care center, a kindergarten class, a ping-pong club, a German club, as well as, a place that welcomes people seeking answers to secrets of the Bible. Through his efforts, the church is also a meeting place for the Lithuanian Association for Psychological and Spiritual Support to assist those in need of help. .
Rev. Ausra is vice-president of Lithuanian Human Services USA, founder and president of the Lithuanian Association for Psychological and Spiritual Support, president of Lithuanian Lutheran Student Fund, and a variety of other organizations. Even as he is extremely involved in many Lithuanian organizations, he never declines to help a person in need. He received his Ph.D. on May 16, 2010 from The Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.
Under his guidance, Sunday School is offered once again. Bible Study groups in both Lithuanian and English are active and we continue to seek ways to welcome the new immigrants into our church.
All this was and is accomplished, as St. Paul tells us, by “WORKING TOGETHER WITH CHRIST” (II Corinthians 6:1)