Updated May 2021
It was in December 1976
That a small Christian delegation
Decided the time and spirit was right
To form a new congregation.
We began holding services at members’ homes
And churches here and there,
And prayed each day as we patiently awaited
For the Lord to answer our prayer.
On February 6, 1977,
The Group was set aside
As Mt. Zion Baptist Church.
But now, where would we reside?
For the next 8 months services were held
At Gardner A.M.E.
And members prepared for the day we’d have
Our own facility.
We bought an organ, and a piano,
Hymn books and a communion set.
We started choirs and usher boards
And each Sunday, we regularly met.
November 6, 1977,
Was a celebratory day.
We purchased and moved into a church,
At 368 Bay.
We now had members, we had a building
But we needed to give a nod–
To someone to lead us, to spiritually feed us
To a man of God.
In May of 1978,
We called such a man.
Rev. Willie Wilkerson’s tenure
As the Church’s first Pastor began.
Under his administration
The Church prospered and grew:
Auxiliaries started; the building was improved,
Some changes to name just a few.
And then one Wednesday after Bible Study
August 1, ‘79, to be exact,
Lighting struck; the sanctuary was destroyed,
But the basement was still intact.
So, it was, the following week
And many weeks from there
Services were held in the lower auditorium,
While the sanctuary underwent repair.
This arrangement did not dampen
The spirit the Church felt and heard,
Choirs still sang; Saints still prayed;
And Reverend still preached God’s Word.
But when the sanctuary was complete
There was no day so grand
Than October 5, 1980,
When we marched into Mt. Zion again.
Oh, what a beautiful sight it was
To see the changes made,
A 16-foot expansion
And new carpeting had been laid.
Where there had once been a dropped ceiling
Now A-frame beams were in place.
The entrance changed from Bay Street to Princeton
And a balcony added for space.
One of the few items left, in fact
To remind us of the past
Were two double-hung sanctuary windows
With a dark patterned stained glass.
During the decade of the 80’s
The Church continued to be blessed:
The lawn was landscaped; more items purchased,
And membership steadily progressed.
In ’85 and ‘86
With hard work and lots of prayers,
The Trustees guided the remodeling efforts
Of all the rooms downstairs.
With 12 years of leadership at Mt. Zion
And to our Lord and Master,
In August of 1990,
Rev. Wilkerson resigned as Pastor.
After months of looking for a replacement
April 1991 ended the search.
As the second Pastor of Mt. Zion
Was found right here in the Church.
Rev. Morris A. Goggins, Sr.
Was installed July 21, ‘91
Bringing an energy, a vision
“Holy Ghost Headquarters” had begun.
His appointment at the start of the ‘90’s
Was indicative of things to come:
There were so many blessings those first six years,
It’s impossible to list all, but here’re some:
A ramp was built, a sound system installed,
The side parking lot paved.
An electronic piano and computer were purchased
And a lot of souls were saved.
Added for comfort were central air
And cushions for the pews,
And a lighted sign to grace the grounds
Announcing Mt. Zion’s good news.
The Gospel of Deliverance Choir was started
And a boys’ basketball team, too.
And the Nurses Unit was established
As membership steadily grew.
The Church continued to see blessings
As if they were poured from heaven:
Hymn books, a tithing box, and a pulpit cross
Were acquired in ‘97.
Also, in 1997,
The Church accomplished a great feat!
Under the direction of an appointed committee
We bought property across the street.
What had been just grass and gravel
By year-end was certainly not.
Instead there stood a 10,000-square foot
Fenced and paved parking lot.
’98 was another blessed year–
So many things to mention,
Like the fourth straight year delegates were sent
To the National Baptist Convention.
Or the establishment of two new ministries
Whose purposes were both achieved:
Y.A.M. was for the Young Adults.
Sharing and Caring comforted the bereaved.
Also, in 1998,
Our outreach continued to expand
As we were blessed to purchase
A 15-passenger van.
In February 1999,
Mt. Zion began a mission
To better serve the community
Providing a weekly Soup Kitchen.
In June of that same year,
To improve communications.
“THE MT. ZION MESSENGER: THE GOOD NEWSletter.”
Began monthly publications.
In November 1999
To the surprise of the congregation,
Rev. Morris A. Goggins, Sr.
Offered his resignation.
He had accepted another position
And was moving out of town.
Rev. James Williams was named Interim
Until a pastor could be found.
Under Rev. Williams’ leadership
New baptism robes were bought.
And a 6-foot wire fence was installed
Around the side parking lot.
In the first quarter of 2001,
A Prayer Ministry was proclaimed.
And by the end of the month of April,
A pastor was named.
Rev. James B. Williams had been elected
The third Pastor by the congregation,
Taking on this leadership role
At his May 2001 installation.
His agenda centered on the Word,
Preaching to the Church as a whole,
But when he was not visiting the sick,
He was praying for each member’s soul.
He was also concerned about God’s House
Like when the baptism water was too cool.
By the end of the year 2001,
The Church had a heated pool.
But the biggest purchase of the year
Was a small parcel of land,
Located adjacent to the rear of the Church
Where parking could eventually expand.
2002 began just as busy
As a 10-burner stove was bought new,
Track lights were added to brighten the sanctuary
And new Bibles bought for each pew.
It was also an incredibly special year
As an anniversary banquet was held
To celebrate “25 Years at the Cross”
At the downtown Marriott Hotel.
In 2003 central air was added
Downstairs in the facility.
In 2004, a 20-year mortgage
Was paid off in only three.
2005 saw a new handicap ramp
And new carpeting installed.
And the Pastor’s office remodeled with
New furnishings and fresh painted walls.
Blessings continued in 2006
With the replacement of each exterior door.
And in 2007 new hymn books bought,
Memorial plaques and more.
In 2008, Rev. James B. Williams
Received his heavenly reward.
On June 30, our beloved Pastor,
Was called home to be with the Lord.
2008 ended with a new roof
Put on the Church.
2009 began by selecting
A committee for a pastoral search.
The Deacons invited guest preachers in
For the first eight months of the year,
Until an interim pastor was elected
As the end of 2009 drew near.
Rev. Milton White, Jr. served two months
As Interim Pastor, and then,
Rev. Bert A. Johnson took on this role
For all of 2010.
And all the while, the Church continued
Offering prayers and supplications
As the Search Committee poured over
Almost eighty applications.
But with God’s divine guidance
The Committee got to three
And in the summer of 2010
Brought each in for the congregation to see.
What seemingly looked like it was going to be
An exceedingly difficult choice
Turned out not to be at all
As we listened to God’s voice.
One name was brought forth by the Committee
One name to the congregation’s delight!
Mt. Zion’s next Pastor elected in October
Was Rev. Atu O. White.
At our 2010 Watch Night Service
Rev. White’s tenure began
And since that blessed New Year’s Eve
“Busy,” best describes the man.
In 2011, we remodeled the pulpit
Bought a new lectern and choir chairs.
A new sound system was installed
Overflow seating set-up downstairs.
A Finance Ministry was established,
A Praise Team created too.
A new piano was purchased.
The side rooms made to look new.
On May 21, 2011,
Seven months after he was called,
Rev. White received his doctorate
And the next day he was installed
In front of family and friends.
On Sunday, the 22nd of May,
Rev. Dr. Atu O. White
Became our 4th Pastor that day.
Pastor White coined a new motto:
“A Place of Healing, Help, & Hope.”
Hundreds of souls would eventually be saved
Under his divine scope.
October on the grounds of Mt. Zion
Saw our first Harvest Day event–
A day we gave free food and clothing
To 100+ residents.
At the start of the year–2012,
Our leaders and members too,
Were challenged by Rev. White
To show ‘excellence’ in all we do.
The tone was set in January
With a class Pastor White taught
On stewardship and being good stewards
Overall that God has wrought.
Training of ushers and choirs followed
To help master skills of both
While attendance at Wednesday Night Bible Study
Saw incredible growth.
To further enhance the worship experience
More changes were to ensue;
We installed new sanctuary chandeliers
And upholstered every pew.
In addition, we purchased an organ
And a new audio sound board
And placed screens in the sanctuary
To visually praise the Lord.
One choir ended in 2012,
The Gospel of Deliverance dissolved.
While Get Connected started its ministry
Of getting members involved.
2013 began with more changes
Just like in the past…
In January, the heating system
Was converted from oil to gas.
The baptism pool was painted
The inside stairs as well.
Sunday School ended
Because attendance fell.
At our May Anniversary brunch
We enjoyed good fellowship and food,
And was pleasantly entertained
When our Youth Dance Ministry debuted.
All the while membership growth
Was on such a rapid pace,
That a wonderful Sunday problem developed–
A lack of seating space.
So, on June 2, 2013,
Two services were born…
8:45 and 10:45
Every Sunday morn.
Blessed with a grant at the end of year,
Specifically, for the Soup Kitchen
A freezer, two refrigerators, a dishwasher
Were bought to further its mission.
In 2014, emphasis was on
Bettering the worship place.
Four major projects were contracted
To improve and maximize space:
Siding was replaced on the back of the building;
The mural in the sanctuary removed;
A downstairs conference room created;
The women’s restroom improved.
In August, a bid was accepted
By the City for us to buy land.
Next door at 380 Bay Street,
Creating an opportunity to expand.
The year 2015 began
With an event historic and new
Mt. Zion held its Easter service
At an off-site venue:
April 5, at Rebecca Johnson School
440 people, to be precise
Were part of a “Believe Again” service,
With over 30 giving their life to Christ.
July 3, 2015,
Was another memorable day,
It was the date the Church closed
On the property at 380 Bay.
An old garage and partially collapsed building
Was on the land we had acquired.
In November, we began demolishing them,
For more parking space, we desired.
On the last day of 2015
Before New Year bells chimed,
Our newest ministry–Adult Dance
Performed for the very first time.
We also held two Watch Night services
One at 12 noon, and then
Another at 10:45 p.m.
To watch the new year come in.
Right after the start of 2016,
380 was a cleared lot.
So, a property-perimeter fence was installed
To surround the Church’s plot.
But with all the outside expansion
It was still very much the case
That inside the building there was a need
For a lot more ministry space,
As evidenced by three new ministries:
Each filling an important need
Young Joshuas designed to work with young boys
To mentor and to lead.
A Women’s Ministry also began
And one called Grief & Gladness.
The first to empower women to grow,
The second to help deal with sadness.
So, a group was formed called Project Impact,
Whose job it was to try
To “shape, transform, and improve” the Church
Recommending whether to build or buy.
While they looked at properties and spoke to builders
An unexpected development arose…
The Dunbar Community Center
Was about to foreclose.
This historic site in the McKnight Neighborhood
For years had a reputation
For being a place that community kids
Could go for safe recreation.
So, in April the Church began exploring
Buying this facility.
And after six months of negotiations
It became a reality.
By the closing date of October 12,
God had made a way.
The Dunbar Community Center
Became Mt. Zion’s that day.
Now what exactly had we purchased?
How did it differ from our current place?
We went from a 3,000 square foot area
To over 30,000 square feet of space.
And the new facility might be described
As a 2-part church abode:
A newer side built in 2001,
An historic side a century old.
As the new owner of The Dunbar
There was so much work to be done.
In November on the historic side
A new roof was put on.
But the leaders decided from our current home
There was no rush to vacate.
Rather we’d wait until the spring
Before we’d relocate.
It was, however, a good time to announce
That our community focus would be:
“The Arts, Wellness & Education”
In the new facility.
At the start of January 2017,
Moving preparations began,
As well as in-depth discussions
On a renovation plan.
Work commenced in March
That could not wait ‘til later,
Changing the old “Death Valley” gym
To a sanctuary/theater.
While the renovation of the sanctuary
And other rooms were underway,
In March we sold our 39-year home
At 368 Bay.
On Sunday, April 30,
Best described as “bittersweet,”
We held the last worship service
At our home on Bay Street.
And as a final symbolic gesture
To tie the old with the new,
After the service, members took Bibles
And hymn books from each pew
And brought them to our new home
Where everyone assembled as one,
And praised God and thanked Him
For all the things He had done.
The first service in our new home
Was held the 7th of May
In the gymnasium on the newer side,
Oh, what a spirit-filled day!!
For the next 8 weeks, in the gym
Services were repeated
And this continued until early July
When the sanctuary was completed.
From Sunday, July 16th,
And every Sunday from there,
We worshiped in the sanctuary,
Sang, praised God, and had prayer.
Saturday, July 22nd
Saw quite a celebration,
As over 400 people witnessed
Our facility’s dedication.
From the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony,
To the Keynote Speaker’s address,
To the delicious ending meal…
Oh, how we were blessed!
On Tuesday, October 31st
We held our first FunFest,
A safe alternative to Halloween
Hosting over 900 guests.
Bounce houses, face painting,
A costume contest, too,
There was an abundance of activities
For community kids to do.
To aid a younger generation
Who tended toward cashless living,
In early 2018,
We introduced on-line giving.
April 27th marked 20 years
Of preaching by Pastor White.
A service called “A Night of Hope”
Recognized this milestone that night.
The Young Deborahs Ministry
In 2019 began.
And two partnerships started
To meet community demand:
The first was with the Food Bank
Whose mobile truck would touch
Over 300 families monthly
By providing fresh produce and such.
The second with Christ Child Society
A book box they did make
On our property, with children’s books
Free for all kids to take.
On November 16th, a gala affair
Was held to honor our Pastor.
We celebrated his 40th birthday
With good food, dancing, and laughter.
2020 started like
Another year to exalt,
But by March, everything, everywhere
Came to a screeching halt!
On Sunday, March 15th,
When we left church that day,
We had no idea our next in-church service,
Would be six months away.
The world was plagued by a virus
‘COVID-19’ was horrifying,
There was no treatment, there was no cure
And thousands of people were dying.
From the science community and government officials
Information data said:
Direct contact with others
Is how the virus is spread.
So, from March 22, 2020,
And continuing until mid-September
Technology became the lifeline
For worshipping and reaching each member.
Facebook, YouTube, and calls on Zoom
Became the way we heard
The voices of our Praise Team
And Pastor preach God’s Word
But starting in September
With virtual services proceeding,
We also opened the Church on Sundays
Requiring masks and limiting seating.
In-church services lasted 10 weeks
When we again closed the sanctuary door,
For the country was experiencing a COVID surge,
Some say, worse than before.
So, for the last 6 weeks of the year,
As virus numbers swelled.
To ensure members’ safety
Only virtual services were held.
But, despite this coronavirus,
We still experienced God’s grace.
For even during the building’s closure,
Improvements continued to take place:
The Youth Room was completed,
And a room for Toddlers made.
A Founders Room created
Where Church history would be displayed.
The gym floor was resurfaced.
Broken floor tiles replaced all around.
A new basement door was installed,
And decaying trees cut down.
As we ushered in 2021
Many things were still unsure.
But our faith in God kept us strong,
As the world prayed for a virus cure.
Prayers were answered in February,
When an announcement from the CDC
Said a vaccine was ready for distribution,
That would protect the majority.
On Easter Sunday, April 4th
While virtual services continued,
Limited capacity, in-church services
Were once again renewed.
* * * * *
And so, we continue in another year
Not knowing what paths we’ll trod.
Striving for excellence and having faith
Knowing all things are possible with God.
We have seen many changes
As the years have come and gone
But one thing that has never changed,
And one thing alone.
And that’s the Church’s mission
To bring souls to Christ,
And to lift up the name of Jesus,
No matter what the price.
We never lost sight of this
Through whatever storms that passed.
For we saw a building can be burned
But only Christ will last.
We also saw a deadly virus
Can change our normal behavior.
But not even a virus can stop the praise
To Jesus, our Lord and Savior.
So, as we celebrate these 40+ years
And all the things that took place,
Remember, it was not Mt. Zion’s great works,
But God’s amazing grace.