History of Mount Zion
Our legacy of faith and worship
Mount Zion Baptist Church was incorporated on February 18, 1894 and held services at the Naturalist’s Hall at 4th and University. Rev. Calvin Williams of Fort Smith, Arkansas served as the pastor.In 1890, one year after Washington became a state and thirty-eight years after Seattle was established as a city, a small group of African Americans held prayer services in their homes. These prayer services became the Mount Zion Baptist Church. Some of the church founders had been members of the predominantly white congregation of the First Baptist Church. Mount Zion’s founders received assistance from Rev. George T. Burchett, pastor, Deacon John Keith and the members of the First Baptist Church who donated the use of a store at 14th Avenue and East Madison Street for Sunday School and worship services.
Prior to 1920, Mount Zion’s members worshiped at several locations including the Peoples Church at 3rd and East Madison (1896), 2nd and Spring (1899), and 9th and Olive (1903). In 1906, Mount Zion’s first building was erected when property was purchased at 11th and Union; it was a one room wooden structure. A pot-bellied stove in the center of the room provided heating; backless benches were used for pews. The Mount Zion church building was later elevated on stilts to create space for a partial basement used primarily as a dining facility and fellowship hall.
During the first twenty-two years of the church’s history Mount Zion had many pastors resulting in considerable fluctuation in the church’s membership. The following minister’s served for periods ranging from three months to two years: Reverend R. W. Jennison, Reverend Simons, Reverend J.C. Pegram, Reverend Price, Reverend Eugene Harris, Reverend George Maney, Reverend Gordon McPherson, Reverend Walker, Reverend Wiggins, Reverend R. H. Thomas, Reverend Lyman Smith, Reverend William Hammond, and Reverend William Berry.
Under the capable leadership of Reverend W.D. Carter from Clarksville, Missouri (1912-1925), the fruits of our struggle and the testimony of our faith became evident.
In 1918, Mount Zion purchased an eight-room house at 19th and East Madison Streets. The membership worshiped at a temporary site at 21st and Jefferson during construction of the parsonage and sanctuary (valued at $30,000). Two years later, the 700-seat capacity edifice was complete. Groundbreaking ceremonies were held to celebrate; members sacrificed, giving generously to pay off the mortgage. Mount Zion quickly became a central meeting place for religious, political, educational and community events. Rev. Carter’s wife, Corrine Carter, organized the first African American branch of the YWCA in Seattle.
When Reverend Sterling Moore (1925-1932) arrived in Seattle from Iowa, he continued Reverend Carter’s legacy of community activism. Importantly, he was instrumental in relieving the church of some the indebtedness incurred by the building of the sanctuary and parsonage. Remarkably, the congregation accomplished this without securing bank or traditional loans.
From 1940 to 1942, Reverend Fountain Penick was Mount Zion’s pastor. Mount Zion was Seattle’s only African American Baptist church; the city’s black population was less than 5,000 and Mount Zion’s membership was recorded as 200 persons. During this period the Brotherhood was organized and the church purchased two lots adjacent to the church under an expansion plan developed by and voted on by the congregation. Reverend Penick left Mount Zion to organize People’s Institutional Baptist Church.
Reverend Davis was eloquent and forward thinking. He organized a building committee and stated raising funds to expand the church grounds and facility. Reverend Davis worked hard to provide religious training programs, actively involving youth and families in worship. He purchased a Sunday School bus and began the church’s nursery school program. To enrich the Music Ministry, a director of music was named and Senior, Children, Gospel and Youth choirs were organized. The Women’s Society, already active, got new energy and support through its organization into circles named for women of the Bible, became active in missionary outreach programs and established an affiliation with the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.A special person was needed to provide stability during World War II. Seattle’s African American population had steadily increased as a result of the military personnel transferred to the region and employment seekers who moved to the area to work in the aircraft and shipping industries. Church membership doubled under the leadership of Reverend F. Benjamin Davis, the new pastor (1942-1953).
Reverend Gil B. Lloyd (1955-1957) and his wife, Doris Watts Lloyd, helped to strengthen the building fund, music department and Women’s Society. They left Mount Zion to organize Cherry Hill Baptist Church. Reverend Rex Jones, Reverend Kenneth Redgard and Reverend Robert H. Davis assisted Mount Zion during its period of transition.
The social status of African Americans had changed significantly following the war and Mount Zion sought a minister capable of leading the church into the future. Reverend Samuel Berry McKinney (1958-1998), formerly of Olney Street Baptist Church of Providence, Rhode Island, was recommended by the pulpit committee. His achievements are legendary. Through his spiritual leadership, scholarly focus, and social and political activism, Mount Zion flourished. Church membership grew from 800 to 3,000.
In his first year as pastor, Reverend McKinney founded the Mount Zion Baptist Church Credit Union, the first Protestant credit union in the state of Washington, to provide the congregation and community with a member-owned and operated cooperative financial institution. With the help of his wife, Louise Jones McKinney, he organized a young married group. Reverend McKinney started the Prayer Band, taught theological classes on Baptist faith, initiated new members classes for children and youth who had joined the church, formed a Social Action Committee, held a monthly “Pew to Pulpit” hour to respond to parishioner concerns, established the Memorial Chapel Plan, strengthened the lay development program, built the educational unit of the church, conceived the unique design for the Afri-centric sanctuary, founded and served as President and CEO of the Seattle Opportunity Industrialization Center (SOIC) and on the directorial boards of many community organizations.
A focus on educational excellence was a hallmark of Reverend McKinney’s tenure. Church programs for youth expanded to include the Mount Zion Pre-School and Kindergarten, an accredited preschool and kindergarten. Mrs. McKinney, an educator, served as the first director. Later educational programs included the Ethnic School (later named the Louise Jones McKinney Learning Center), the Educational Excellence Program, the Youth Credit Union (Y-CUP; one of the country’s first youth credit unions), and a nationally recognized scholarship program.
Mount Zion created community partnerships with local churches. An evening service was initiated with First A.M.E. Church and a Parish Partnership was created with Plymouth Congregational Church. Reverend McKinney constantly reminded church members that, like Christ, they must focus their personal ministerial efforts on society’s least, last, lost, locked up and left out through unconditional love, spiritual fortitude and political savvy. Sponsorship of the radio broadcast and Tape Ministry, Cocaine Outreach and Recovery Program, IDEA tutorial program and weekly Feeding Program met community needs.
Facility expansions during this forty-year ministry included the dedication of a $300,000 Education Unit that houses administrative offices (1963), the building of an $850,000 Africentric sanctuary (1975) and the 64 unit Samuel Berry McKinney Retirement Manor (1998).
Community economic development has been a significant component of Mount Zion’s ministry. The Northwest Baptist Federal Credit Union has granted loans in excess of $15,000,000 and has assets of nearly $5,000,000.
Reverend Dr. Samuel B. McKinney retired on April 26, 1998 and the church approved the appointment of Reverend Dr. Samuel Pinkston, Pastor Emeritus of the Antioch Baptist Church in San Jose, California, to serve as Interim Pastor. Dr. Pinkston, recommended by the Ministers-at-Large Program of the American Baptist Churches, USA, arrived in Seattle with his wife, Esther Miller Pinkston. For the large congregation, thirty ministers, and fifty ministries, they provided spiritual guidance and stability while the church sought a permanent pastor.
On May 24, 1999, the congregation voted to approve the selection of Reverend Dr. Leslie David Braxton, pastor of the First Shiloh Baptist Church of Buffalo, New York. Arriving with his wife, Sheila and two children, he delivered his first sermon on August 29, 1999. Reverend Braxton started the Christian Education Academy, infusing the congregation with considerable excitement for Christian learning. He began the Summer Fun program, a youth activities program and created a parish partnership with South London, South Africa. Reverend Braxton resigned in 2005 and started the New Beginnings Christian Center in Renton, Washington.
Mount Zion Baptist Church History – Article from the Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History.
In August 2005, Reverend Dr. Samuel McKinney, Pastor Emeritus of Mount Zion Baptist Church, was unanimously voted out of retirement by the congregation to serve his former church the until a permanent pastor is called into service.
During the first 22 years of Mount Zion’s history, a number of pastors provided pastoral service ranging from three months to two years (some apparently prior to official incorporation). While all are part of the history of Mount Zion Baptist Church, the years of their service and their specific contributions to the growth of the church are not known.
1894 – 1912*
- Reverend Calvin Williams
- Reverend R. W. Jennison
- Reverend Simons
- Reverend J.C. Pegram
- Reverend Price
- Reverend Eugene Harris
- Reverend George Maney
- Reverend Gordon McPherson
- Reverend Walker
- Reverend Wiggins
- Reverend R. H. Thomas
- Reverend Lyman Smith
- Reverend William Hammond
- Reverend William Berry
* Contributions unknown
Reverend W. D. Carter (1912-1922)
- Mount Zion purchased an eight-room house and lot at 19th and East Madison, our current site.
- Began construction of sanctuary valued at $30,000 with seating capacity of 700. Made church a meeting place for religious, political, educational, and community events.
- Cayton’s Weekly newspaper article featuring Mount Zion and Rev. Carter.
Reverend J. Sterling Moore (1922-1932)
- Continued church as community meeting place.
- Relieved church indebtedness for sanctuary construction without securing a bank or conventional loan.
Reverend Taylor M. Davis (1932-1940)
- Began the church nursery program.
Reverend Fountain W. Penick (1940-1942)
- Organized the church’s men into the Brotherhood.
- Purchased two lots adjacent to the church (under an expansion plan developed by the congregation).
Reverend F. Benjamin Davis (1942-1955)
- Organized a building committee and started fund-raising efforts to expand church facilities.
- Developed opportunities to involve youth and families in worship.
- Purchased a Sunday School bus.
- Supported the active development of the Music Ministry; a music director was named, and the Senior, Children’s, Gospel and Youth Choirs began.
- The Women’s Society was very active during this administration, organizing into the circle structure that now exists.
- The first scholarship program was started.
- Mount Zion began its affiliation with the National Baptist Churches of America, Inc.
- The church became active in missionary outreach programs.
Reverend Gil B. Lloyd (1955-1958)
- Strengthened the building fund, music department and Women’s Society.
Reverend Rex Jones (Interim pastor, 1957-1958)
- Assisted Mount Zion during its period of transition.
Reverend Samuel Berry McKinney (1958-1998)
- Rev. McKinney provided the longest continuous pastorate in the 115 year history of Mount Zion
- Enlarged the membership from 800 to approximately 2,800;
- Served as first African American President of the Church Council of Greater Seattle (1965-1967);
- Served as President of the Baptist Pastor’s Conference of Seattle and vicinity (1965-1968);
- Served as President of the Black American Baptists (1965-1974);
- Served as Board and Executive Committee Member of the American Baptist Convention, USA (1970-1972);
- Served twice as President of the North Pacific Baptist Convention (1960-1963 and 1981-1984);
- Mentored over 40 ministers of the Gospel (Sons and Daughters of Mount Zion);
- Taught Denominational Studies at the Northwest Theological Union, Seattle, Washington;
- Lectured and taught at colleges and universities around the nation;
- Preached in pulpits in most of the states in the U. S. and in guest pulpits in other countries;
- Co-authored Church Administration in the Black Perspective with Rev. Floyd Massey, 1976, 2003 (seventeenth printing);
- Served as Board Member, American Baptist Board of National Ministries, 1966-1974;
- Served as Board Member, American Baptist Board of International Ministries, 1981-1983;
- Served as Board Member of the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, California
- Instituted the Ethnic School, designed to enhance self-esteem through cultural education;
- Established the accredited Mount Zion Preschool and Kindergarten;
- Sponsored the donation of more than $20,000 per year in academic scholarships and grants-in-aid to college and graduate students.
- Built Educational Unit in 1962-1963;
- Built Africentric sanctuary in 1974-1975;
- Bought adjacent properties in order to construct a sixty-four unit retirement home, an additional educational unit, and to expand the physical facility of the Credit Union;
- Created the Mount Zion Federal Credit Union in 1958, expanded and renamed it in 1993.
- Served as Founding Member of Liberty Bank, Seattle’s first African American bank;
- Founded the Seattle Opportunities Industrialization Center, was President of the Board of Directors for twenty years;
- Served as the first Vice President for the Board of Directors for OIC’s of America and increased fiscal knowledge and support for financial responsibility;
- United the Northwest Baptist Federal Credit Union and African American Car Dealers to provide access to transportation for the community;
- Served as Board Member, Board of Directors, Washington Mutual Bank, 22 years; Served as Board Member, Housing Commission of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.;
Reverend Dr. M. Samuel Pinkston, Interim (1998-1999)
- Provided transitional stability for a large congregation and ministerial staff.
Reverend Leslie D. Braxton (1999-2005)
- Increased Christian Education program offerings for children and adults
- Began the ordination of female deacons
- Held an annual Youth Revival
- Sponsored a church in South London, South Africa.
- Began Summer Fun Program.
Reverend Dr. Samuel Berry McKinney, Pastor Emeritus (2005 – )
- In September, 2005, Reverend Dr. Samuel McKinney, Pastor Emeritus of Mount Zion Baptist Church, was unanimously voted out of retirement by the congregation to serve his former church the until a permanent pastor is called into service.
Reverend Aaron Williams (2008 – )
In May 2008, Rev. Aaron Williams was called to become Mount Zion’s 24th Senior Pastor.
At the age of ten he recognized his desperate need for Christ. He credits his mother and grandmother with helping him to solidify his commitment. At age 18 he accepted the call to the ministry. He developed an insatiable appetite for studying and teaching the Word of God in Sunday School and Bible Study. He was licensed to preach in 1988 at the age of 20, and ordained in 1992 at 24 years of age.
Read more about Pastor Williams
Women in Our History
Reverend Emma Herrington
- According to the 1926-1927 version of Who’s Who in Religious, Fraternal, Social, Civic, and Commercial Life on the Pacific Coast in the State of Washington, Mount Zion had on its staff an ordained Assistant female pastor, the Rev. Emma Herrington, under the leadership of the pastor of the church at that time, the Rev. J. Sterling Moore.
Reverend Dr. Patricia Hunter L. Hunter
- A daughter of Mount Zion, Reverend Dr. Hunter is the first known woman to have been ordained a female minister by a minister of this congregation. (Rev. Herrington came to the church already ordained).
- A graduate of the Saint Paul School of Theology (Doctor of Divinity), Colgate Rochester Divinity School (Master of Divinity) and Seattle University (B.A, Business), Reverend Dr. Hunter is well trained for the work of God that she brings to God’s people. Employed as an executive with the Ministers and Missionaries Benefit Board of the American Baptist Churches, she has multiple ways in which she provides essential services to ministers who have served God well.
- Reverend Dr. Hunter has served as Mount Zion’s Worship Leader.
Mount Zion Baptist Church
1634 19th Ave
Seattle, WA 98122
Mount Zion Baptist Church
1634 19th Ave
Seattle, WA 98122
Phone: (206) 322-6500
We are located between Madison St and Pine St in Seattle’s Central District. Parking is available on the south side of the building. Wheelchair access is provided.