By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle
There are markers of our lives. Markers that identify where we have been and what we have done. The Rev. Donald Miller said Zion Lutheran Church in Fairmont is one of those markers for the people who are touched by it.
Miller is a former pastor of Zion Lutheran Church who returned at the invitation of the church’s members to preach the sermon at its rededication service Sunday. Miller served the church from 1969 to 1973.
“It’s kinda like a homecoming,” Miller said during the 115th anniversary and rededication ceremony.
On Aug. 8, 2011, a storm with 90 mph winds tore the roof off the church, resulting in $450,000 in damage. On Sunday, more than a year later, the rededication service of the building was attended by about 150 people. The church’s pastor, Rev. Tim Dorsch, said normal Sunday morning attendance is about 80 people. Former members returned to the church for the ceremony, some coming from states such as Texas, Kansas and as far away as Minnesota, he said.
The ceremony was not only a rededication of a damaged building, but also a rededication of the faith of the members of the church and all Christian people.
Miller said no matter what problems befall Christians, God is constant. “God will be faithful no matter what circumstances you face,” Miller said. “We’re celebrating 50 years of this building, and 115 years (today) of Zion Lutheran Church in Fairmont.”
The current structure is 50 years old and is the third building for Zion Lutheran Church, he said. The church was founded in 1897.
Miller said near his home, there is a covered wagon standing in a field, which commemorates the Oregon Trail and the sacrifices made by people who took the trail to find new homes. There also are memorials at Mount Rushmore and in Washington, D.C., recognizing the founders of the country. This is a country where those are all markers, he said.
The cornerstone of the church, he said, is a marker.
“It’s not about the building,” Miller said. “It’s about God, who gave us the privilege to build this building and be here 50 years.”
Life’s markers include birth certificates, baptisms, confirmations, high school and college graduations, marriages, family pictures, celebrations and trips, which all tie life together, he said. He said Zion Lutheran Church is one of the markers that identify the lives of its members, and Zion Lutheran is a marker of the past for him.
“What is it you remember?” Miller said. “Who do you remember, and how have they impacted you so you can live for Jesus Christ today?”
Before the service, Dorsch said the church still was working on the building last week, and some work remains on the pipe organ, but it’s doing a good job. Unavoidable delays along the way were frustrating, but he said it feels good to be finished.
“It’s a relief to have it completed,” he said. “You don’t realize how much time and attention it takes. There were delays that were out of our control, but joy and satisfaction in seeing people doing their part.”
During the service, the congregation sang “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” and one of the scripture readings was from I Kings: the story of the dedication of Solomon’s Temple, according to which not even the heavens can contain God.
The loss of a church building can be catastrophic for a church family, especially a small church. Dorsch said the building was insured, but after the settlement, money had to be raised to help restore the building. So much money was raised that the church was able to perform some other repairs and renovations that needed to be done, he said.
Miller reminded the congregation the dedication is not about the building, but about God.
The first service in the renovated sanctuary was in July with yellow incandescent lights hanging from the ceiling, surrounded by protective coverings. A week later, Dorsch performed a wedding in the church.
Since the storm, the church has been holding services in the education wing of the church, which can hold about two-thirds of the pews housed in the sanctuary.