Pastor Mark Birkholz was born and raised in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan. He was born again by water and the Word in Holy Baptism at Trinity Lutheran Church in Clinton, Township, and this gift of faith was nourished through God’s Holy Word at home and at Trinity’s grade school. He was blessed to have his mother, Karen, as his preschool teacher. At Trinity he was also confirmed in faith into which he had been baptized, and there received the life-giving body and blood of Jesus Christ.
A graduate of Lutheran High School North in Macomb, Michigan, Mark was encouraged to consider preparing for the pastoral and office, and so continued his studies in the pre-seminary program at Concordia University in River Forest. There he learned the theological languages of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and played trumpet in the Wind Symphony. He completed a Senior Honors Project with Professor Charles Froehlich on St. Jerome’s method of translation in preparing the Vulgate, the Latin version of the Bible.
Pastor Birkholz’s seminary training was at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, where he was blessed with many gifted teachers and mentors. He completed his fieldwork under Dr. George Gude at Emmaus Lutheran Church in Dorsey, Illinois and vicared at Grace Lutheran Church in LeMars, Iowa under Pastor Larry Fett. While at the seminary, Pastor Birkholz worked at the Concordia Historical Institute, and served as research assistant for Dr. Norman Nagel. During the summers he served as an intern at St. John Lutheran Church in Wheaton, Illinois.
Upon graduation from the seminary, Pastor Birkholz deferred his placement into parish ministry to continue with graduate studies. He earned a Master of Theology from Australian Lutheran College in North Adelaide, South Australia under Dr. John Kleinig, focusing his work on the ritual theology of the Old Testament and the role of the priesthood. He continued with a PhD at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. His emphasis was in New Testament theology, and he wrote his dissertation on the topic of certainty in Luke-Acts, writing under the direction of Dr. D. A. Carson.
In the spring of 2008, Pastor Birkholz was placed at Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church in Oak Lawn, Illinois and was ordained into the Office of the Holy Ministry and installed as pastor on July 20, 2008.
That summer he was also united in Holy Matrimony to Amberleigh nee Klement, and they have since been blessed with two children, Zachary and Elizabeth. Amberleigh homeschools their children and works as a Library Associate in the Youth Services Department at the Oak Lawn Public Library. Zachary is an Able Cadet in the Navy League Cadet Corps, and Elizabeth is an avid dancer, and has performed with Ballet Légere’s production of The Nutcracker.
Pastor Birkholz has served in several positions in the Northern Illinois District of The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, including as East Region Pastoral Representative to the Board of Directors. He also helped to establish Faith Hope and Peace Ministries, a Recognized Service Organization which provided services to area nursing home residents. Pastor Birkholz is a contributing coeditor of two collections of essays: Feasting in a Famine of the Word (along with Dr. Jacob Corzine and Dr. Jonathan Mumme), and Church as Fullness in All Things (along with Dr. Jonathan Mumme and Dr. Richard Serina). He has appeared as a guest on Issues, Etc, Thy Strong Word, and other radio programs, and he has contributed to several publications, including Logia and The Lutheran Witness.
Pastor Birkholz enjoys nature photography, and his work has been published by the Forest Preserve District of Cook County. He also loves to prepare meals for his family and friends.
Pastor Mark Hein was born in Cleveland, Ohio and grew up in the suburb of Parma Heights. He was baptized at St. Mark Lutheran Church in Cleveland and confirmed in the one true Christian faith at Bethany Lutheran Church in Parma, Ohio. His early Christian life was guided by his faithful parents, Elmer and Ann Hein, and by the Reverend Oscar Klemp, pastor at Bethany Lutheran.
He attended Concordia Junior College in Ann Arbor, Michigan, receiving an associate of arts degree. It is there that he met and eventually proposed to Donna Wians, daughter of the Reverend and Mrs. Herbert Wians. They were married at Hope Lutheran Church in Chicago, with Pastor Wians officiating.
The Heins moved to Bowling Green, Ohio, where Pastor receiving both a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in interpersonal communication at Bowling Green State University. He then went on to serve as director of public relations at Concordia Lutheran College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, before entering hospital administration, working for ten years in healthcare facilities in Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio.
Pastor Hein attended Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana. He was blessed with being able to serve as a marketing consultant at Lutheran Hospital in Fort Wayne during this time which greatly helped provide for Pastor, Donna and their children – Andrea, Matthew and Bethany. His vicarage took place at St. Peter Lutheran Church in Conover, North Carolina and he was ordained and installed as pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Clyde, North Carolina.
In March 1994, he was installed as pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Lockport, Illinois, where he would serve the Lord and His Church until his retirement in August, 2019. In addition to shepherding the flock entrusted to his care, Pastor Hein had the joy of supervising fifteen vicars and serving two terms on the Northern Illinois District’s board of directors.
Pastor and Donna moved to Oswego, Illinois in the fall of 2018 and upon retirement, they joined Zion Lutheran Church in Naperville, Illinois. Pastor served in an interim capacity at Zion from February to September 2021. In February 2022, he was called to serve as pastor emeritus at Zion and has the joy of assisting the Reverend Dr. Mark Birkholz as well as providing pastoral coverage at our sister congregations.