100+ Years of History
The year was 1915 and early church records reflect hat the seeds for what would become the center for worship were planted by Mr. Sam Slaughter and Mrs. Ruffins. The first church gathering place was held in the home of Bro. William "Pink" and Sis. Caroline Simmons who lived at 1915 South 22nd Street. After several meetings, the group chose for its name, "Little Zion Baptist Church". The first ministers to lead the early church family were Rev. Monroe Hardaman and Rev. Collins. With increased interest in the church and membership number growing, the church later moved to the home of Mr. Fred Reed. It was during this time that Sis. Pearl Reed, "Mother of the Church", united with the Little Zion Baptist Church.
Five Deacons were chosen from this first group of 28 members: Brothers Sam Slaughter, Sam Owens, Lewis Coleman, N.B. Burleson, and Sam Brown. Two deacons were also borrowed from two of our sister churches: Bro. Pollard from New Hope Baptist Church and Bro. Israel Dawson from Antioch Baptist Church. As the church continued to grow, the need to expand became more apparent. The church then moved to South 21st Street between Wood and Daughtry Streets. In a few short years, with Rev. J.C. Campbell as pastor, the church purchased a plot of land at 1919 South 18th Street and built its first church sanctuary. In 1922, with Rev. Campbell still serving as pastor, the church joined the Union Baptist District Association and has remained active since that time.
The church history reflects four name changes: Little Zion Baptist Church, Zion Baptist Church, Zion Missionary Baptist Church, and presently, Greater Zion Missionary Baptist Church. The church has relocated seven times. To date (2022), twelve ministers have served as Pastors: Reverends Monroe Hardaman, Collins, J.C. Campbell, P.T. Thompson, T.J. Andrews, D.V. Carrington, C.B. Williams, M.E. Robinson, P.E. Armstrong, Rufus McClain, Joe N. Bedford, and Connie J. Oliver. These Pastors served with the blessings of God and led the followship of Christian men and women who were seeking knowledge and a relationship with God.
Many milestones mark the expansion of Greater Zion. Among those are the following: Rev. C.B. Williams introduced God's plan for financing the church: Tithes and Offerings. Rev. M.E. Robinson established a youth program and was instrumental in the addition of a baptistry and education building at 1919 South 23rd Street. In1971, the annual Homecoming observances marked the initiation of the annual building fund event. Sis. Odessa Hughes served as Chairlady of this event from 1971 to 2008. In 2009, Sis. Earline Keys succeeded Sis. Hughes as Chairlady and began providing leadership for annual fellowship and fund-raising gathering of past and present members of Greater Zion.
On June 13, 1974, Rev. Rufus McClain accepted the call to Pastor the church. With Rev. McClain as Shepherd, the church purchased a parsonage and erected a fence around the churches' parking lot. Three vans were purchased to transport members to worship services. Zion Missionary Baptist Church was renamed: Greater Zion Missionary Baptist Church. An Angel Choir and McClain Special Choir were organized. McClain's Platoon Drill Team was formed and traveled the country performing during state and national congresses. Three young men received the call to preach during Rev. McClain's time as pastor: Reverend Ray Roberson Jr., Richard Worley, and Richard Manning.
Following that initial campaign in the early 1920's, November 1983, marked the start of a second building fund campaign. The timeline shows that the church purchased then acres of land at 2625 South 18th Street on November 21, 1983, with Groundbreaking Services held on September 2, 1982. During the construction phase, worship services were held at Union Baptist District Association Tabernacle Grounds on Price and Earle Streets. Construction of a $650,000 edifice began in October 1984. Plans for that worship center were designed by Vernon Lockridge a member of the Board of Deacons at Greater Zion. Deacon Lockridge served as the church's lead liaison working with the contractors to oversee construction of the building. Deacons James Polk and Robert Keys worked alongside Lockridge with the contractors.
Entrance Service was held on June 23, 1985. Dedication of the new sanctuary was held the following Sunday, June 30, 1985. A 15-year note for $150,000 (the balance owed at the time of construction was completed), was secured on July 31, 1985. The note was retired in just over a year, on October 6, 1986. The formal Note Burning Service was held November 30, 1986.
Later, Deacon Lockridge designed and built a garage and kitchen on the property adjacent to the main sanctuary. Subsequently, Lockridge also created the design for McClain Chapel and again served as liaison to the contractors for construction of that building.
Following the death of Dr. Rufus McClain in November 2007, the Greater Zion members chose Rev. Joe N. Bedford to lead the congregation. Under Pastor Bedford's leadership, renovation of the church sanctuary and exterior was completed.
In August 2017 Rev. Connie J. Oliver began serving as Interim Pastor. A year later, he became Senior Pastor.
We are immensely proud of the history of our church and the work of humble servants beginning in 1915 and extending throughout to this present time. For more than a century, we have been blessed and strengthened by Almighty God to be a beacon shining in the community. It is our prayer that generations to come will be grateful and will remain steadfast in the Kingdom work that was begun in the home of Bro. William "Pink" and Sis. Carloine Simmons in 1915.
Jeremiah 29:11 NIV - "For I know the plans I have for you," declared the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."