During the height of World War II, Zion Lutheran church was formed in 1943 under the guidance of Rev. E.J. Roleder of Lodi. The name “Zion” is found throughout the Old Testament. It is most often referred to as the place where God dwells so the name serves as a reminder that God dwells among us. The original church building sat at the corner of Monroe and Willow streets, situated north of downtown Stockton and south of the Miracle Mile. In 1953 Zion purchased property in a small subdivision called Lincoln Village. At the time it consisted of a few hundred homes and a shopping center but Zion members knew the area would grow. On this property Grace Lutheran Church was established under Rev. C.H.S. Hunziker, In 1961, as more of Stockton’s population moved to Lincoln Village, the downtown congregation of Zion and the young congregation of Grace decided to merge. The original Zion church building was sold in 1962 to the young Stockton Civic Theater, offering them their first permanent home and forever building a relationship between Zion and the Stockton arts community. To this day, Zion is known as a Christian community that celebrates and supports the arts.
As the two congregations merged their outreach and membership surged and they quickly outgrew the facilities so they started a building campaign to build a new sanctuary. Situated at the corner of Porter Ave. and Gettysburg Pl., just a block west of Pacific Avenue, the new sanctuary was dedicated in 1966. The old sanctuary was converted to a fellowship hall and is now known as “Grace Hall” on the church campus. The church hosts many activities in Grace Hall and community organizations often request the use of the facility for their events. For over 50 years, the members and guests of Zion Lutheran Church have worshiped God in the sanctuary, and it’s use continues today.
In 1988, the Lutheran Church in America and the American Lutheran Church united to form the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The ELCA is currently one of the largest denominations in North America and has over 9,000 congregations. Being a member of one of the merged church bodies, Zion is now a proud member of the ELCA. The ELCA is a church that shares a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, tracing their roots back through the mid-17th century, when early Lutherans came to America from Europe. Even before that, Martin Luther sought reform for the church in the 16th century, laying the framework for our beliefs.
Though once enveloped by fields, the neighborhood surrounding Zion has undergone tremendous change over the decades. The campus is nestled between the heavily commercial district of Lincoln Center and encircled by low-income housing serving many of north Stockton’s neediest residents. Yet no matter the changes, Zion’s presence in Lincoln Village has remained and the church continues to live out its mission of “Sharing the light of Jesus Christ”. Liberated by our faith, we embrace you as a whole person–questions, complexities and all. Join us as we do God’s work in Christ’s name for the sake of the world.