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Zion Baptist Church celebrates 174th anniversary

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Submitted by Zion Baptist Church 

Zion Baptist Church is Cincinnati’s second oldest African American Baptist congregation. Under the leadership of her founder, Reverend Wallace Shelton, Zion was organized. The first church was located on Plum Street and from this location became active in the Underground Railroad System, which aided fugitive slaves. This pioneer group built the first brick church owned by African Americans in the city in 1867.  

The public is invited to attend and share in the praise celebration of Zion Baptist Church’s 177th anniversary Sunday, November 17, at 10:15 a.m. The speaker is the Rev. Anthony A. W. Motley of Lindsay Street Baptist Church Atlanta, Georgia. 

Under the leadership of Reverend J. Franklin Walker (1905-1913), electricity was installed, a galvanized roof was added, and Zion’s first pipe organ was purchased.Reverend P.W. Edison (1913-1926) came to Zion from North Carolina. Under his leadership, the Church experienced a great awakening: 1,080 members were added to the membership.Reverend Edison resigned in 1926. 

The Reverend Barney F. Reid, D. D. (1927-1951) from Garrod, Kentucky, accepted the call to Zion. Under his leadership, many accomplishments were made: the purchase of the church annex at 432 W. Ninth Street; three buildings and a parking lot on Richmond Street; a parsonage at 135 Huntington Place; a church bus, public address system and electronic organ, and numerous renovations to the entire church. During Reverend Reid’s leadership, Zion conducted an accredited School of Religious Education, hosted the Ohio Baptist Sunday School and BTPU Convention in 1938, and the National Sunday School and BTU in 1943. Reverend Reid represented Zion at the Baptist World Alliance three times. Zion mourned the death of a great man on November 10, 1951. 

The Reverend L. V. Booth (1952-1984) accepted the call to Zion on July 19, 1952. Under his pastorate, Zion moved from downtown because of urban renewal, and built the present edifice at 630 Glenwood Avenue in 1961.Tremendous strides were made under his leadership: over 1,000 members were added and carillonic bells were installed as a memorial to deceased members; the Credit Union was instituted; the mortgage on the church was burned (1979), Zion Nursing Home adjacent to the church building was completed in 1967; Shelton Gardens (a low income facility for seniors) in 1968; Reid’s Valley View Manor, the Walker apartments, Founders Home apartments (low income for seniors) in 1970, and Edison apartments in 1971. 

Pastor L. Venchael Booth formed the Progressive National Baptist Convention, and led Zion into dual-membership in the American Baptist Convention through the Miami Baptist Association. He was involved in local community activities and was also a representative at the Baptist World Alliance. Dr. Booth resigned as pastor on May 6, 1984. 

On February 22, 1985, the Reverend Edward L. Wheeler, Ph.D., Dean of Morehouse College School of Theology, became Zion’s Pastor (1985-1991). During his tenure, the church’s membership was revived to 850 members. New programs were started, such as the Feed the Hungry and the Bag Lunch ministries. The church became involved in outreach efforts to assist the Avondale Food Pantry and the Winton Terrance Guild. In 1991, Dr. Wheeler accepted a position as Dean of the Chapel and Professor of Religion and Society at Tuskegee University. 

Upon Reverend Wheeler’s departure, the deacons voted to recommend Associate Minister Donald Porter as interim pastor (1991-1992). Reverend Porter started the Children’s Moment and continued the Bereavement Ministry, which he initiated under Rev. Wheeler. 

Reverend Leonard Thompson, Sr. (1992-1996) was called to Zion as pastor in 1992, and he continued to support the various ministries within Zion, placing great emphasis on the importance of a 7:30 a.m. Sunday morning worship service. The Leadership School was founded during Reverend Thompson’s pastorate along with the renewal of the Hattie Jackson Missionary Guild, and the establishment of the Zion Baptist Church Praise Dancers. 

Reverend Kenneth R. Johnson, associate minister, served as interim pastor from 1996- 1997, and continued to support Zion’s various ministries. 

Reverend James H. Cantrell, a native of Chattanooga, Tennessee, accepted the call to Zion as pastor in September 1997 and has been with the Zion family for two decades. Reverend Cantrell continues to support Zion’s emphasis on the spiritual and intellectual growth of her members and has extended her outreach in the larger community. His vision is to have Zion serve this present age through teaching, tithing, evangelism, spiritualism and leadership training. 

Under his pastorate, Zion has increased her fellowship with other churches in the community, joined the former Avondale Credit Union, the Amos Project, Avondale Clergy Association and the Avondale Community Outreach Ministry. Pastor Cantrell initiated a Health and Wellness Ministry hosting health fairs and forums, addressing health and wellness issues among African Americans and other minorities, such as HIV/Aids education, Diabetes, Hypertension, Childhood Obesity, Mental Health Issues and Health Screenings-It secured support from Caring Partners International; a Dr. Martin Luther King Vesper Hour (January 2005); an Adopt-A-Student Ministry for college students; a computer education class for adults; an educational partnership with the former Burton Elementary School and now in mission outreach with South Avondale School; a Candlelight Communion Service; and an Endowment Fund. Major renovations have been completed (2006) in the restrooms, Deacons’, Trustees’, and Credit Union offices. The Walk of Faith ministry (2002) honors Zion’s deceased and current members, families, and friends with engraved bricks leading into the edifice.  

Under Pastor Cantrell’s tenure, Zion’s Chapel has been named The Rev. Dr. L. Venchael Booth Chapel as a tribute to the late Dr. L. Venchael Booth and founding place of the Progressive National Convention. In the summer of 2007, a Summer Enrichment Program (ZSEP) was implemented in partnership with Shelton Reid, Inc. to serve community youth. Pastor Cantrell has received awards including 2014 Pastor of the year from The Baptist Minister’s Conference of Cincinnati and the 2014 Humanitarian Award from the University of Cincinnati.

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