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Chapel Christmas service filled with remembrance and hymn singing


January 4, 2018

Rocklyn Zion Chapel

Wednesday, December 27, the Rocklyn Zion Chapel held a Christmas Hymn Sing at 6 p.m. Beautiful prelude music was played by Cheryl Beymer and a hearty “Welcome” was given by Judy Mielke. Pastor Kim Kruger opened the service in prayer, which was followed by everyone exchanging greetings.

As the congregation of 50 or more settled into their seats a duet was sung by Julie and Mark Baas on guitar, “Christmas Hallelujah” and accompanied by Cheryl. With song leaders Janice Kruger and Robert Mielke, the congregation would select hymns, Cheryl would play, and the familiar hymns of the past were sung with exuberance accompanied by Barbara Curtis on the violin. Barbara then played “Away in a Manger” which was so beautifully done. This was followed by Caleb Bass reciting a Christmas verse.

Pastor Kruger gave an excellent albeit short sermon entitled “Surprise” in which he made mention of so many of the surprises that were involved in the birth of Jesus. The congregation was allowed another group of selections for the Hymn Picks. Finally, the “Lighting of the Tree” on which candles had previously been placed and individuals were allowed to go to the tree and light one of the candles. During this lighting process the congregation sang “O Christmas Tree”, “Away in a Manger” and “Silent Night.” The tree also held photos of people who had passed away, and Cheryl added Eva Truscott’s photo during the service.

Kruger pronounced the benediction, and the congregation sang this response: “May the Lord, Mighty Lord, bless and keep you forever. Grant us peace, perfect peace, courage in every endeavor. Lift your eyes and see His face, trust His grace forever. May the Lord, Mighty Lord, bless and keep you forever.” A fellowship time with refreshments followed the service. The traditional brown bag Christmas treats were handed out filled with peanuts, candies and popcorn balls.

The first church building on this location was built in the summer of 1889 and dedicated on October 22, 1889 as the Zion German Methodist Church. Most of the congregation was of German descent, consequently all worship services whether preaching, singing or Bible reading were in the German tongue. For that dedicatory service a new reed pump organ was ordered and arrived as an improvement over the concertina and harmonica which had been used in the prior six years.

From the church history recorded by Helen Mielke Sandygren and Ed Mielke, “This afternoon we want to turn your thoughts to the first Christmas program held in the new church building the evening of December 23, 1889. Since the year 1889 was very special, not only for the new building and organ, but also at 3 p.m. November 11, Benjamin Harrison, then President of the United States, signed a declaration of admission for Washington Territory to become the forty-second state.”

The sanctuary that year was lit by kerosene lamps and the heat came from the old wood stove. Getting to the church from their rural homes was also not the luxury it is today. “Transportation was walking, riding horseback or with horses pulling a wagon or sleigh. The weather could at any time strike with all severity. The driver of the horses would wear a heavy sheepskin cap, warm gloves, and a fur or buffalo coat. The passengers in the sleigh or wagon would huddle together on straw with warm blankets for cover and an occasional heated brick or flat iron for foot warmth. After arriving at the church, the horses were tied to either the sled, wagon or hitching post. In preparation for the comfort of those attending the program, a fire had been kindled in a cast iron stove, and the kerosene lamps were filled and lit. The Christmas tree with its garlands, balls and candles was in place.”

Names of participants in that first program included Gottlieb Mielke, Pastor Moehring, Julius Hoffman, Sam Bursch, Henrietta Bursch, Emil Zellmer, Otto Minger, Carl Jans, Michael Maurer, Sister Hoffman and Sister Maurer, and others identified only as “recitations given by young people and children.”

The second church on this location was built in 1905 and continues to be used as the Rocklyn Zion Chapel. In 1955, Ed Mielke related past history of the church as part of the Christmas program. He recalled that the first Christmas tree was a pine, that there were four candles on it consisting of home-made tallow. (It is said that the molds for these candles were brought here by the pioneers and are kept by their grandchildren.) In 1958, at the Christmas program, Melvin Maurer read highlights of the church history. “Ed Mielke, though bedridden with an incurable illness, was to be present. He spoke to the audience, and hoped that this church would continue on with its work for the Lord through the time to follow.” It is that tenacity of the Christian spirit that brought the pioneers to this Harrington Wheat Belt to eke out a living among the bunch grass in an area with few buildings and no stores. Each family needed to secure their homestead and paramount to this was the need to present “a church on the hill” as a beacon of hope and house of prayer.

The vision for the people entrusted as board members of this community chapel is “to remain active, continuing the Hymn Sings and other special services. We have established a non-profit corporation in the State of Washington that will ensure the future of the church and the cemetery. We welcome your input and your support as we look to the future with optimism and faith in God.” Contributions or comments may be referred to Dee Kern, Janice Kruger, Paulette Meldahl or Judy Mielke. As the early pioneers stepped out in faith with their many missions, so too the chapel continues in that faith.


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