LIFE BEGAN FOR MOUNT ZION…
For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Life for Mount Zion Baptist Church began as a song in the heart of a group of vocalists from the state of Virginia. Under the leadership of Reverend G. W. Holland, this group of singers organized Mount Zion in 1889. The Reverend George W. Johnson assumed the role as first pastor of the church. During Reverend Johnson’s pastorate, Mount Zion worshipped at its Third Street location until fire destroyed the structure in 1904. Reverend Johnson orchestrated the congregation’s move in 1907 to a new edifice built on Ninth Street. In the following year, the Lord called Reverend Johnson home after a pastoral tenure of 19 years.
Reverend Richard L. File, a native of Rowan County, accepted the call as the second pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church in 1909. During his 36-year mission of faith, the church experienced physical and spiritual growth. By 1914 the increasing membership proved to be too much for the existing quarters and a building site at Ninth and Maple Streets was purchased. In January 1916 the first brick for the new structure was laid, with dedication of the completed facility in September 1916. Reverend File’s work was so immensely felt that Shaw University honored him with the Doctor of Divinity degree in 1923. Mount Zion installed and dedicated a pipe organ, as well as initiated several church programs, services and missions under Dr. File’s pastorate. Dr. File died November 3, 1945.
Dr. Kelly Oliver Perry Goodwin, a native of Washington, DC, answered the Lord’s call to be Mount Zion’s third pastor in 1946. Under the leadership of Dr. Goodwin, the internal and external structure of the church was vastly improved. Mount Zion established a church constitution and by-laws; joined the National Baptist Convention, USA Inc.; adopted a church wide budget, established the R. L. File Scholarship Fund; established a child day care program; licensed and trained ministerial students, and the joint worship and fellowship activities with Knollwood Baptist Church which continues today. The years of Dr. Goodwin’s pastorate also included the purchase of a Life Membership in the NAACP; increased donations to missions; the initiation of the Expansion Fund and the launching and completion of a building and relocation program. When urban renewal displaced the congregation from its’ Ninth and Maple Street edifice in 1963, Dr. Goodwin lead the congregation in the land purchase and the erection of the present church edifice. Dr. Goodwin retired December 31, 1977 after 31 years of service. He was called home to be with the Lord on July 7, 1997.
With the arrival in 1979 of the Reverend Gilbert G. Campbell, Jr., a native of Richmond, Virginia, as its’ fourth pastor, Mount Zion experienced more growth, enhanced love of church, and program expansion. Under his management and objective leadership style, Reverend Campbell institutionalized an annual church budget and encouraged Mount Zion to make more financial investments with its capital holdings. The Inspirational Choir, Audio-Video ministry, Handbell choirs, new members’ class, Sacred Music Institute and the Athletic Association were enhanced which prompted Mount Zion’s refrain: We Are One in the Spirit. Mount Zion’s fifth and current pastor, Dr. Serenus T. Churn, Sr., a native of Camden, New Jersey, accepted the call to Mount Zion in 1984. His family includes his wife, Shirley and two sons, Reverend Serenus T. Churn, Jr. and Reverend Starling T. Churn both of whom were licensed and ordained as Baptist ministers since their arrival at Mount Zion. This vivacious Man of God has enhanced the administration and operations of the church family and extended our Christian Mission to more community involvement.
Dr. Churn has vigorously followed his dreams, interest and vision for providing community services for the Church and surrounding areas. The building of the File-Goodwin Life Enrichment Center under the leadership of Dr. Churn brings new opportunities for service to the church and community. To this end, he was instrumental in reviving the Child Development Center that began its current operation in August of 1989 with a staff of 10 providing day care of 60 children.
Another dream for Mount Zion was to provide a much-needed service to the elderly and their caregivers in the broader community. This dream became a reality in April of 1991 when the Mount Zion Church Senior Life Enrichment Center opened. Included in the mission of the Senior Life Enrichment Center is “Super Tuesday” which meets some of the needs for the seniors to fellowship, recreate and learn to maintain a healthy life style. The most ardent dreams of Dr. Churn, was to involve young people in Christian services. Thus, the Praise Dancers were introduced to the Christian Ministry with song, praise and dance in 1996. A most significant contribution was the re-establishment of the scouting units, which was designed to reach the youth of the church and community.
Dr. Churn also instituted the No Frills Saturday Sabbath Services (come as you are) in the spring of 1997. These services are for church members and others in the community to hear the Word of God when a conventional Sunday program does not meet their scheduling needs. Other community outreach programs include Narcotics Anonymous, Prison Ministry, Youth Summer Camp, and the Youth Education Enhancement Program. The church has also added a computer lab, a state-of-the art library with Internet connectivity, and expanded the Audio-Video services and transportation fleet in an effort to serve our members and the local community.
The Joy of the Whole Earth is Mount Zion!