by Helga Schwartz
Independence Day, the Fourth of July, will be here soon. We’d like to look back to 1776, the founding of our Nation, which is 16 years younger than our church! Zion was organized in 1760. Distinguished preachers were among the ministers who served the people of the “Valley”. Among those ministers were members of the Muhlenberg family beginning with the “Father” of the American Lutheranism, Henry Melchior Muhlenberg. His eldest son, John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg followed in the footsteps of his father and became our minister from 1769 to 1771. In March 1771 he received a call from Woodstock, Virginia, where in 1776 he gave his famous sermon on the text:
“There is a season to every purpose under heaven”, ending with the words: “a time to preach and a time to pray, but there is also a time to fight, and that time has now come.”
At the end of the service he exchanged his pastoral robe for a military uniform. Peter Muhlenberg earnestly espoused the cause of the Colonists and he joined the Revolutionary Army. The day after his sermon, he led a force of three hundred men enlisted from his own congregation. Those men became the nucleus of the Army’s Eighth Regiment. He accepted General Washington’s commission as Colonel and remained in the army until the close of the war, by which time he occupied the position of Major General. As early as before the founding of our
Republic, he was a patriot with a distinguished political and civic career.
John Peter Muhlenberg died October 1,1807.