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Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church History
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. This would also 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.
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, Incorporated 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 herdsmen and Lot’s because they were related both by nature and
spirit. 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 known 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
purchased a plot of land extending from Maple Street to Church Street. It is
centrally located on the north by Lytle Street and on the west by Maple Street.
This property which was located south by what was the Livery Stable but now
the Pinnacle Bank parking lot is connected 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 the back of facing Lytle Street. The two churches were the same faith and order.
The second pastor of Mount Zion was Reverend C. H. Mason, followed by
Reverend Pearson. 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. 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
Following next was Reverend A. F. Murray. Reverend Murray was the
fourteenth pastor of Mount Zion. During his pastorate, the baptismal pool was
installed, choir stand enlarged, annex was built. Also added to the edifice were a
kitchen, dining room, class rooms and two rest rooms. Many souls were also
saved during his pastorate.
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, new carpets installed,
pulpit furniture and communion table were also purchased. The church
parsonage was also purchased which was located on Poplar Street. Reverend
Jordan also in- stilled in the minds of the majority of the members the value of
tithing, which is God’s method for financing His church. As a result, the church
became free of debt. The church had a sizable treasure because at the time it
only had monthly operational expenses. 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. It was
later changed 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 and 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. and the Choir. Apparent growth was noticeable 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. 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 in the fellowship hall
were installed. A M.T.S.U. Campus Ministry was started. A college choir also
organized with students Cedric Caldwell as pianist and Barbara Gibson as choir
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
were purchased for a future ministry center. The land was dedicated on
November 14, 1999. This land was purchased without any debt. The church’s
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 Grider, 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, van, remodeled restrooms, added an ADA accessible
ramp into the church, additional musical instruments, a sound system booth,
numerous church repairs and upgrades. The church also secured rental space on
Lytle Street for additional ministry efforts. Last but certainly not least a much-
needed doctrinal statement was established. Pastor Grider constantly kept his
finger pointed to the sky to remind us of all that God was doing and He alone
was to get 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 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 but most of all love. Mount Zion is headed in a
new direction and God is getting the glory.”
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