Indiana State Marker Honors Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church for Its Longtime Commitment to Service in the African-American Community

A historical marker commemorating Mt. Zion Church’s 100 years is unveiled across from the church Saturday.
Credit: John J. Watkins, The Times

Besides teaching the word of God, Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church has a slogan: “We are the friendly place of worship and the place to be.”

“We hold dear to that slogan,” said the Rev. William Collins, pastor of a faith community that is marking its centennial this weekend.

A public dedication ceremony Saturday included the posting of only the 11th Indiana state historical marker in Lake County. The marker celebrates Mt. Zion’s place in the community as both a religious and civic leader and comes as the church celebrates its centennial anniversary.

“The marker shows that we have been involved in community areas down through the years, even to now,” Collins said. “That’s been the focus and vision of the church. It’s not just about educating people religiously, but working hard to enhance our community, politically, socially and economically. That’s been our trademark.”

The state marker includes the following text:

“Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church became a center for religious, political, social, and civil life for Hammond’s African-American community. Established by black members ca. 1919, the small congregation grew under long-serving pastor the Rev. William Davis. After years of fundraising, Mt. Zion dedicated the church here in 1949 and it continues to serve the community. The Rev. Albert R. Burns served from 1945-1998 and worked to challenge racial injustice. Under his leadership, the congregation advocated for civil rights, housing, and job opportunities for Hammond’s black residents. In 1983, the Mt. Zion Housing Authority, a subsidiary of the church, helped open Mt. Zion Pleasant View Plaza to provide affordable senior housing.”

The Indiana Historical Bureau, a division of the Indiana State Library, oversees the state historical marker program. These historical markers commemorate significant individuals, organizations, places and events in Indiana history.

Mt. Zion’s history dates back to August 1919, when some people, dissatisfied with no black Baptist church in Hammond, pooled their resources and rented a storefront building at 1122 Merrill St. for Mt. Zion’s first home. The church eventually moved to 1040 Conkey St. before members purchased a lot at 940 Kenwood St.

In 1945, Burns, then a young minister, arrived for a tenure that would nearly take the church into the next century. Under his ministry, lots for the new — and current — Mt. Zion were purchased at 1047 Kenwood St.

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SOURCE: The Times –, Steve Euvino