A new edifice was built in 1879. However, a storm destroyed the building in 1886. The church was rebuilt only to be struck by fire twice in 1890. Plans were made to build an impressive structure in 1925. In 1927, the basement of the present church was completed and the membership marched from Santos Street to the new site at Hackberry Street and Nebraska (now Martin Luther King Drive).
Two splits occurred in Mount Zion’s history. The first division occurred in the late 1890’s when a group of dissatisfied members left and organized a church on the porch of Live Oak and Houston Streets and named it Macedonia Baptist Church. Macedonia later moved to Chestnut and Center Streets, and the name was changed to Second Baptist Church. The second split occurred in 1929 when Rev. G.F.C. Curry resigned and, along with 43 former members of Mount Zion, organized Friendship Baptist Church.
Mount Zion’s first choir was organized in 1909. The first usher board was formed in 1923. The Trustee Board was formed in 1925. In October 1939, the second phase of the present edifice was completed under the pastorate of Rev. D. Manning Jackson and dedication services were held October 24-29.
A march from Douglass Junior High School (across the street from the church) to the new edifice was held by candlelight at 4:00 a.m., October 26, 1939 with the membership singing “We’re Marching to Zion.” A change in organizational structure was made—the membership was organized into “missions” instead of divisions; the church staff was enlarged; employee salaries were raised, and a general attitude of progress and benevolence seemed to dominate.
In March 1949, Rev. Claude William Black, Jr. was called to the pastorate of Mount Zion. With Pastor Black came many public ministries. In 1957, a day care center was opened under the supervision of W. C. White, in an area of the community that was just being developed. Mrs. Doris Gumby was the first director of the church-sponsored center.
In 1951, Mount Zion purchased a house just north of the church on Hackberry Street. It was completely renovated and is known throughout the community even today as “The House Next Door.” It was the first home of Project FREE, an innovative, community-directed ministry which included senior citizen services, an Emergency Food Bank and medical service program.
On April 12, 1966 a charter was granted for the only black church-owned financial institution in San Antonio, the Mount Zion First Baptist Church Federal Credit Union. The charter members were Rev. C.W. Black, Jr., W.R. Ross, Edell Sanders, Austin Outlaw, L.C. Rutledge, Frederick L. Clayton, Lonnie Hysaw, C.W. Black, Sr., C.N. Shandy, Harold Foster, Sr., and Ernest M. Foxx. Since its inception, the Mount. Zion Credit Union has been managed by one man, Bro. Harold Foster.
Less than a year after the church sanctuary had been remodeled, early Sunday morning on July 21, 1974, Mount Zion was once again struck by fire at the hand of an arsonist. The damage was estimated at $350,000.00. Bro. Earl Campbell, an Assistant Superintendent of the San Antonio Independent School District placed a phone call to the District Superintendent and received permission for Mount Zion to worship at Douglass School, just across Martin Luther King Drive from the now completely burned church facility.
Miraculously, Mount Zion never missed a service as a result of the fire. Services were held in the Douglass Elementary School Auditorium until the church was rebuilt. In the aftermath of the fire, while a number of persons gathered at the site of the fire, Sis. Louise Miller, a faithful member of Mount Zion, approached Pastor Black and placed a one hundred dollar bill in his hand and said, “Let this be the first contribution to the re-building project.”
During its hour of need, Mount Zion received prayers and expressions of concern from every area of San Antonio. When a resolution deploring the destruction of the church by fire was presented in the City Council chambers, City Councilman and Pastor, Rev. Claude W. Black, caught the motion on the question and explained that although the building had been decimated, the church was alive and well. And, indeed, re-entry services were held December 21, 1975.
Mount Zion has experienced tremendous growth since rebuilding in 1975. The ministerial staff was expanded to include Rev. Reginald Wade as Minister of Pastoral Care in 1991, and Rev. Kenneth Allen as Minister of Education and Growth in 1995. Outreach ministries and programs were expanded through the “Mission Alive” campaign, and the radio broadcast was reinstated on Sundays at 8:00 a.m. on KSJL AM and FM.
Community outreach ministries were also expanded with the construction in 1986 of Mount Zion Sheltering Arms, an apartment community for seniors, and the opening of a second day care center at Hackberry and Wyoming in 1992. In 1995 and 1996, the church edifice was completely refurbished, including the church sanctuary. Fellowship and support groups emerged, responding to the appeal for more personal, need-based ministries. The Widows Support Group was formed in 1994; the Young Adult Discipleship Ministry was reorganized in 1995, the Youth Praise Dance Team and the Drama Ministry were added in 1997. And Sunday morning worship was expanded with the addition of “SuperChurch” (children’s church) on Father’s Day 1997.
In the January 1998 Annual Church meeting, Pastor Black announced his intention to retire on March 31, 1998. On Wednesday, March 18, 1998, in an overwhelming vote of the congregation, Rev. Kenneth Allen was elected to succeed Rev. Black as the seventeenth Pastor in the (then) 126-year history of the church.
Under Pastor Allen’s leadership Mount Zion has continued to be a beacon light in the community. The InterVarsity Christian Fellowship Summer Mission Partnership, Discipleship Academy, the Praise Team, the Young Adult Gospel Choir, the Evangelism Ministry, a more diversified Sunday School curriculum, the Back to School Revival, Bible Boot Camp, the Church Careers Assistance Fund, “Remembrance Sunday,” and “Good Neighbor” Sunday are just a few of the programs and ministries initiated under the leadership of Pastor Allen.
Four preachers have been licensed, and three preachers have been ordained under his ministry at Mount Zion. All three ordinates are now engaged in full-time ministry. In January 2003, the ministerial staff was expanded once again with the addition of a full-time Minister of Youth and Missions. Following an extensive search, Rev. Anthony Cobbs was invited to take on the challenge of strengthening the missions, and reaching and teaching the youth and children of Mount Zion.
The Fifth Annual Mission Leaders Workshop was held November 2, 2004 and each year has surpassed the previous, in attendance and quality. Wednesday night JAM (Jesus And Me) sessions, a tutoring program, the HYPE House, Bible Boot Camp, and the Pastor’s Honor Roll are just a few of the new programs he has introduced. Many other programs have been strengthened, reorganized, and re-energized under his leadership. The H.Y.P.E. House has become the center of youth activity, and is now furnished with computers, an air hockey table, ping pong table, and a television with VCR and DVD player—all generous donations from the members of Mount Zion.
In January 2002, after burning the mortgage on the remaining debt from the major renovation in the mid-1990’s, Mount Zion undertook the “Vision of Hope” campaign to lay the groundwork for the expansion of the church campus and construction of a new educational and administrative facility to accommodate the growing need for classrooms, meeting space, and more modern equipment. Property has been purchased and cleared in preparation for this exciting new chapter in the life of our church.
In the summer of 2004 Mount Zion held its first neighborhood block party. Various city service organizations participated and distributed information to those who desired it. This neighborhood block party was followed by a neighborhood meeting discussing concerns from the community.On April 24 Rev. Kenneth Allen delivered his last sermon at Mount Zion and accepted a position in Wayne, Michigan. In May of 2005 the congregation voted to have Rev. Claude W. Black, Jr. as Interim Pastor.
On April 5, 2006 Rev. Otis I. Mitchell was elected the pastor of Mount Zion First Baptist Church. Rev. Mitchell was installed as pastor of Mount Zion on September 10, 2006.
Mount Zion First Baptist Church has been a pacesetter for 133 years. Its members have made major contributions to society. Its ministries have enhanced the lives of its members and the larger community. And its leader has a new vision for a new millennium: “transforming the world through discipleship.” Our pastor is a man of vision who always seeks to be led by God. At his side is his loving and devoted wife who warms everyone’s heart. Mount Zion is looking forward to a bright future with continued growth—in numbers, and in the Lord.