To feed and nurture the faith of the flock entrusted to her and to reach out with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America, meeting in St. Louis, Missouri, called Reverend John Frederick Doescher to do missionary work among the Negroes in the South. He arrived in New Orleans, Louisiana, March 8, 1878 and on April 7, 1878, established a Lutheran Sunday School among the Negroes of New Orleans in a large building on the riverfront, then best known as “Old Sailors’ Home” located on the corner of South Peters and Erato Streets.
From this humble beginning eventually grew Mount Zion Lutheran Church, the first Black Lutheran Church in the Crescent City. Reverend Doescher returned to the North in December in order to bring his family to New Orleans, and become Mount Zion’s first regular pastor. During his absence, teacher H.L. Hutten, a former Superintendent of the Bethlehem Lutheran Orphan Asylum, at 5413 N. Peters Street, New Orleans, had charge of Mount Zion’s Sunday School assisted by Mr. B. Pohlmann, Mr. K. Keller, Miss E. Wendt, and Miss E. Smul, all members of Zion Lutheran Church on St. Charles Avenue and St. Andrew Street.
When Rev. Doescher returned to the city, he found the Sunday School Flourishing due to the untiring zeal of these workers. On January 6, 1879, Mount Zion’s Day School was opened. Its first enrollment was 120 pupils. Rev. Willis R. Polk and Miss Louise Watson taught during the years 1879 to 1882. Rev. Nils Jules Bakke, succeeding Rev. Doescher, arrived in November, 1880 and served both as pastor and teacher. In December, 1882, Mount Zion Church and School moved from the “Old Sailors’ Home” into an old church building at the corner of Thalia and Franklin Streets. From that time on, the work of the Lord began to prosper.
Pastor Bakke served Mount Zion until August 10, 1891. On May 1, 1894, Reverend Edward W. Kuss was installed, remaining at Mount Zion until 1897, when he accepted a call to Zion Lutheran Church in New Orleans. During his pastorate a new church building was erected on the old site. From 1897 to September, 1900, during a vacancy, Pastor Lankenau, then the pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Orleans, again took charge of Mount Zion. Since 1900, this church has had eight pastors and six considerable vacancies during which Reverend Gotthilf M. Kramer of Bethlehem Lutheran Congregation served in true devotion to the Lord’s work as a faithful, helpful friend of Rev. Edward C. Krause – 1908 to 1910; Rev. Albert O. Friedrich – 1912 to 1915; Rev. Theodore K. Schliepsick -1917 to 1920; Rev. Walter H. Beck – 1921 to 1925; Rev. Oscar W. Luecke – 1925 to 1950. Pastor Luecke served longer than any of our previous pastors. He also taught in our Christian Day School for about 10 of those years.
Pastor Luecke’s zeal for the Work, his passion for winning souls for Christ, and his abiding faith in man and God endeared him to the Mount Zion members. Seminary student, Mr. George Wyatt served as Vicar from 1950 to 1951 and seminary student Mr. Nathaniel Richmond was Vicar from July, 1951 to August, 1952. Rev. Victor E. Moritz, who was called by the Synodical Conference Missionary board to serve as Missionary in New Orleans, served as pastor at Mount Zion from December 14, 1952 until his retirement in December of 1992, giving 40 years of faithful service to this congregation.
On December 2, 1881, the year after Pastor Bakke’s installation, the well-known and well-beloved teacher, Eugene R. Vix, began teaching in Mount Zion School, and served there more than 36 years, until the day of his death, July 10, 1981. His well-known and well-beloved co-laborer, teacher D. Meibohm, came to Mount Zion November 17, 1893, and served until forced by old age to retire in 1923. For several years after teacher Vix’s death, there were frequent changes in the teaching staff at Mount Zion School. The names of teachers Arthur Berger, Ernest Clark, Felton Vorice, Theodore Schroeder, Andrew Seraile, and Miss Ethel Johnson will be recalled by many.
In later years, others who will be remembered are: Mr. Peter J. Robinson and his son, Mr. Paul Robinson and Pastor Oscar Luecke also taught for about 10 years. Other dedicated teachers ere Mr. John W. Twitty, Mrs. Emma Potter Taylor, Mrs. Gloria Thompson Scott, Mr. Louis A. Hamilton, Miss Beulah Mildnder, Mrs. Carrie Berkley Taylor, Mrs. Maude Berkley Robinson, Mr. Preston Young, Mrs. Ida Bea Alford Babino, Miss Delores McBride, Mrs. Iri Skinner, Mrs. Edna Khaton and especially Miss Elsie Gilbert, who taught for 43 years beginning in 1924 and continuing until our School closed in 1967. The highest enrollment for Mount Zion was 336 in 1940-41, and many children had been turned away yearly from its doors because of lack of room, and because of a policy of restricting the enrollment. For ten years, Mount Zion operated on a junior high school level, the graduates doing most creditable work upon entering the various senior high schools. Several graduated with highest honors.
When the Orleans Parish Public School System raised the elementary curriculum from the seventh to the eight grades, it became necessary for Mount Zion to revert to the elementary status. In September, 1965, hurricane Betsy destroyed Mount Zion Church and School completely. We were able, in spite of great difficulty, to continue operating our Christian Day School until 1967. We worshipped at Bethlehem Lutheran Church until our new building was erected. Construction on the present church and educational building began in July, 1968, and was completed in January, 1969. Dedication Services were held on February 23, 1969, and the son of the congregation, Reverend Clemonce Sabourin, was the speaker. We became self-supporting in 1970 and Mount Zion was received into Christian fellowship with the Southern District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod at the District Convention held in Pensacola, Florida, August 25-29, 1963, when Pastor Moritz, representing the Congregation, signed their Constitution. Pastor Moritz retired in 1992, which left Mount Zion without a permanent shepherd for two years. While waiting for our call to be answered, The Rev. John Friedrich served our congregation from 1992 to 1994 as interim pastor. In 1994 our prayerful call for a new pastor was answered in the arrival of Rev. Stephen Everett. He served the church for 6 years before accepting a call to Chicago, IL. The Rev. Warren Schulingkamp served as our interim pastor from 2000 to 2002.
Reverend Limakatso Nare came to Mount Zion in July 2002. He continues to minister as the shepherd at Mount Zion.
In August, 2005, hurricane Katrina damaged our church. Through the efforts of the LCMS – Indiana District and volunteers from churches throughout the Synod, repairs to our facility were quickly done. After the repairs of our church from damages sustained from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Mount Zion reopened in November 2005 for a funeral, Thanksgiving Service, and a wedding in its first week.
With this celebration of one hundred and thirty-five blessed years of existence, Mount Zion Lutheran Church Congregation looks forward to many more years with the gracious help of God, to carry forward with vigor and zeal His blessed work of saving souls and of defending the pure doctrine of His Holy Word.