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History of Mt. Zion

For centuries it has been customary to write the history of the lives of great men, women and great organizations. Hence, it is time that we should as a group of Christians write about our faithful men and women of the Church, who during their life time made a contribution in service worthy of emulation.


This history is given for the inspiration and emulation of the present generation of this Church, who should know something about the beginning of their Church as well as that of others. Also, to acquaint them with those who were the pathfinders and builders of this present Church, and to inform them of the sacrifices and struggles of those faithful men and women who through their faith in God, made it possible for all to enjoy this sacred house.


May we pay tribute to those faithful God-fearing souls who emerged with love in their hearts, and a zeal to “Press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. “ These Heroes of faith have now passed from the labors of this life to get their great reward for a job well done. They now rest in peace, but their works do follow them.


The Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church began with the spirit of adventure. Christianity is an adventure full of unknown trials and tasks. No one can tell beforehand just how many sacrifices he/she must make. In 1872 a dispute arose during the Session of the National Baptist Convention, Inc. which was being held at the First Baptist Church. Due to this misunderstanding, the majority of the members decided to work with the Boyd Session or the National Baptist Convention, Unincorporated Convention, because it was this Convention which had helped First Baptist Church financially when it was in need of funds.


So like Abraham, known by all Christians as the “Father of the faithful”, who was willing and ready to make any reasonable sacrifice that there be no strife between his heard men and Lot’s because they were related both by nature and spirit, so it was in the mind of the very small group of staunch Christians who left First Baptist Church, rented an old frame building on the lower end of South Maple Street and organized a Church knows then and now as Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church.


The first Pastor of this newly organized Church was Reverend Jimmy Steward, who set the pace to do or dare. His service continued in this place until his little flock of believers full of faith and determination started on another task, led by Pastor Steward and the following members: Brother Sam Level, Isom Randolph, Henry Tilman, Wiley Williams, J. Wesley Maney, Henry McKnight, Jim Windrow, Rufus O’Neal, William Sehorn, James Jett and Anderson Woods. Sisters Eliza Maney, Laura Overall, Minnie Shane, Alice McKnight, Katie Dartis, Josephine Primm, Mary Smith, Surella Brown and others, who with a substantial down payment brought from Mr. Alexander and Mr. Alsup a plot of land extending from Maple Street to Church Street, bounded on the north by Lytle Street and on the west by Maple Street, on the south by a Livery Stable, now the Pinnacle Bank parking lot bounded on the east with Church Street extending to the old telephone building, now the Miller Insurance Agency.

In 1884, the present Church was built on the corner of Maple and Lytle Streets. The Trustees who handled the business transaction were Brothers Isom Randolph, Henry Tilman, Sam Level, J. Wesley Maney and Henry McKnight. The Church was built as a sister Church to First Baptist Church. Both buildings were identical in structure with a Parsonage in back of facing Lytle Street. The two churches were the same faith and order.


The First Sunday School Superintendent was Brother Wesley Maney, and the first church organist was Brother Rufus O’Neal. The first Missionary Society in black churches in Murfreesboro was organized by Sister Rosa Kibble. Sister Mattie Sims was elected President and served as Mount Zion’s Missionary President for several years. The Young People’s Choir and Sunshine Band was organized with Sister Estella Reedy Bailey serving as its first president. The Senior Choir was organized and trained by Reverend Isaac, who came to Mount Zion monthly without charges. He taught vocal music not only to members of the choir, but to anyone who wished to learn vocal music. The B.T.U. (Baptist Training Union) then known as B.Y.P.U. was also organized by Reverend Isaac; and Sister Susie Minter served as the first President.

Mount Zion was fortunate then in having workers and associate workers in a great majority who were men and women of character and possessed much dignity. They were mentally, spiritually and intellectually fit. They were apt to teach both by precepts and examples.


The Second pastor of Mount Zion was Reverend C. H. Mason, followed by Reverend Pearson. Praise should be given to Reverend Pearson because Mount Zion was his to save. Twice the Church was closed because of insufficient funds. Through Reverend Pearson and the National Baptist Convention, Inc., God inspired the officials to lift the load by helping to pay the debt and burning the mortgage. Reverend Field, Moderator of the District was most helpful. Others who joined him were Reverend E. D. Isaac, Sr., Reverend Hurt, Reverend Lawrence, Reverend Phillips and Reverend A. A. Bennett.

Other pastors of Mount Zion were: Reverend McCoy, Reverend Swift, Reverend Will Henderson, Reverend Bailey, Reverend Houston, Reverend Bedford, Reverend Drake, Reverend McAdoo, Reverend Hall and Reverend Batton. These pastors marched faithfully in place with a smile of hope and grace. They preached and patiently taught the Word of God. Many persons accepted Christ under their leadership and the church membership was vastly increased.


Following next was Reverend A. F. Murray. Reverend Murray was the fourteenth pastor of Mount Zion. He was an excellent speaker and a strong vigilant servant of the Lord. He gave his best service helping wherever his services were needed and was always trusting in a brighter day. During his pastorate, the Baptismal Pool was installed, the Choir stand enlarged, the annex was built, adding to the edifice a kitchen, dining room, class rooms and two rest rooms. Many souls were also saved during his pastorate.


During this period in Mount Zion’s history another feature was added to the church service; was the organizing of the “Poor Saints Fund”, now known as the “Mission Fund.” This Fund was started by Sister Sally Mai Crockett. The Poor Saints Fund helped not only the members of Mount Zion and Christians of other churches in this area, but sinners like-wise. Its help was felt throughout Rutherford County and some out of the State. Like the lady in the Bible who willingly used all the meal in her barrel to feed the Prophet of God and God continued to refill it, so was the Poor Saints Fund, its treasure was never empty.


Sister Sally Mai Crockett who organized the Poor Saints Fund was a staunch, faithful and loyal member of Mount Zion for over forty-six years. She loved her church and felt that it was one of the best. She served as Church Clerk for twenty-two years and held office in every department of the church. Her life of service to the Lord was an inspiration to all who loved the Lord and had a desire to live a dedicated life of service for God. In 1962 Sister Crockett passed from this life of labor to get her great reward for a job well done.


In 1949, Reverend H. L. Jordan became the fifteenth pastor of Mount Zion. Reverend Jordan was a strong leader who stood before the members willing and ready to fight the good fight of faith for God. During his pastorate, the front of the church building was changed from two doors to a one- door entrance. A Pastor’s Study was added, a new dining room was built, and new carpets, pulpit furniture and Communion Table were purchased. The Church Parsonage was also purchased which is located on Poplar Street. Reverend Jordan also instilled in the mind of the majority of the members the value of tithing, which is God’s method for financing His church, the results were the church became free of debt, only monthly expenses and the church had a sizable treasure. Many members were also added to the church under his leadership. Reverend Jordan remained with Mount Zion for eighteen years.

In 1950, the members of Mount Zion decided to observe one Sunday in the year as a “Get Together Day” with all the ex-pastors, members, and friends in Christian fellowship. This day was named “Homecoming Day.” The first observance of Homecoming Day was held the fourth Sunday in October, and later still to the fourth Sunday in August. Homecoming Day has always been a great day of fellowship and spiritual awakening.


In 1968 Mount Zion was severely damaged by a tornado which made it impossible for service to be conducted in the church. The pastor and members of the (white) Maney Avenue Baptist Church graciously offered their Educational Building to the members of Mount Zion to worship. Some of the members worshiped there, while others worshiped at the Education Center of the Smithfork District Association on Halls Hill Pike. Later, services were conducted in the Fellowship Hall of the church while the Sanctuary was being repaired. Brother Will Drew, Sr. who was the Chairman of Trustee Board and Deacon George Daniel, Chairman of the Deacon Board with the consent of the members negotiated with Farrer Brothers Construction Company to remodel the entire Sanctuary of the church. A new roof was installed, new pews and carpet were purchased along with seven new Deacon Chairs. The front entrance of the church was also changed to its present appearance and the outside walls were painted.


One of the new Deacon’s Chairs was donated to the church and paid for from the estate of Sister Etta Jackson, a deceased member of the church. Sister Jackson was a loyal and faithful member of Mount Zion who loved her church and served on the Mother’s Board for many years.


The next pastor of Mount Zion was Reverend R. B. Ragland. Reverend Ragland accepted the call to become the sixteenth pastor of Mount Zion in 1968. He was a student at the American Baptist Theological Seminary, during his pastorate. Rev. Ragland also served as the Bible Instructor of the Smithfork District Association in Murfreesboro while he was pastor of Mount Zion.


In April, 1974, Reverend James Vann, Jr., became the seventeenth pastor of Mount Zion. He was a graduate of the American Baptist Theological Seminary. Reverend Vann was a gentle, patient servant of the Lord who loved the flock of God. He was made the overseer of Mount Zion. His love for the children, young people, the elderly and the membership as a whole, was quite apparent. He remained with Mount Zion as pastor for eight years. In 1983, Reverend John Ratliff served as interim pastor of Mount Zion for a few months while the church was without a pastor.


On October 26, 1983, Reverend James Norwood, Jr. was elected Pastor of Mount Zion. He was the eighteenth pastor of the church. Reverend Norwood was a talented, scholarly pastor. He was a servant of the Lord whom the members believed had been touched, and sent by God to carry His Word. Under his leadership much progress was made in areas of the church, such as Sunday School Department, B.T.U., the Choir, increase in Bible Study, Prayer Service and other areas were worked on and carried out under his leadership. An organ for the church was purchased by the members also. Reverend Norwood stood tall as a Pastor and Leader, and Mount Zion moved forward under his leadership.


In 1984, Reverend John Ratliff was called to pastor Mount Zion. Under his pastorate, the church was remodeled. New carpet was installed, pews covered, the sanctuary painted, new lights and; window treatments for windows in the fellowship hall were installed. A M.T.S.U. Campus Ministry was started. A college choir also started with students Cedric Caldwell as pianist and Barbara Gibson choir director.

In November 1993, Pastor David Tolbert, Jr. was installed as the 20th pastor of Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church. Under his pastoral leadership and guidance the following people accepted their calling in the ministry; Pastor Craig Conyers, Pastor Kenny Donaldson, Pastor Charlie York, Elder Greg Arnold, Minister Lottie Carney, Minister Arthur Drake, Minister Danny jones and Minister William Parker.

Under Pastor Tolbert’s leadership, 13.5 acres of land located on Hwy 231 South was purchased for a future Minister Center. The land was dedicated on November 14, 1999. This land was purchased without any debt. The Church parsonage on Poplar Street was sold.


On Christmas Day, 2005, Rev. Craig Grider accepted the call to Pastor the Mount Zion Church Family, on that day he preached his first sermon as Mount Zion’s pastor elect. Pastor Grider was officially installed as Mount Zion’s 21st pastor on January 15, 2006. Under the leadership of Pastor Craig, Mt. Zion experienced growth in many areas. Many new members joined, some former members reunited with Mt Zion and many water baptisms took place. The church added a new roof, a van, remodeled restrooms, added an ADA accessible ramp into the church, additional musical instruments, a sound system booth, numerous church repairs and upgrades, rental space on Lytle Street for additional ministry and, last but not least, a much needed doctrinal statement. Pastor Craig constantly kept his finger pointed to the sky to remind us all that God is doing it all so God be the glory! In October 2011, Rev. Craig Grider resigned as Pastor of Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church.


After several months of prayer, in June of 2012 the Church called as interim Pastor, Rev. Jerry D. Marable. After serving one year as interim, and after the Church prayerfully seeking a Senior Pastor, Rev. Jerry D. Marable was called to be the Senior Pastor of Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church. He answered the call on June 8, 2013 and was officially installed on July 21, 2013. As he stated in his letter of acceptance, he promised to “give the Church the best leadership, preaching, teaching, guidance, love”, and the list goes on that any one Church can receive from their pastor. I will say without hesitation that Mount Zion is headed in a new direction and GOD WILL GET THE GLORY.” 

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