‘A church of families’: Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church celebrates 125th anniversary


Colin Boyle/Daily senior staffer

The pipe organ inside Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church. The property the church was built on was purchased in 1916, after the members had worshipped in a plumbers union hall.

Zamone “Z” Perez, Reporter

As Christians around the world finished celebrating Holy Week on Sunday, Evanston Mayor Steve Hagerty proclaimed April 21-28 to be Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church week.

Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church is celebrating its 125-year anniversary this week.

The church began as a “church plant” of Second Baptist Church. Eventually the congregation broke away from Second Baptist Church and established a separate ministry on the fourth Sunday in April of 1894.

In the beginning, the congregation met at a local plumbers union hall which is now the downtown branch of the Evanston Public Library.Eventually, the members purchased a plot of landat the corner of Clark Street and Greenbay Road, where the church still stands today.

The parish now contributes to a variety of causes, including Evanston Own It, an organization that helps students find summer jobs and criminals expunge their records to get “second chances,” said Reverend Taurus Scurlock, senior pastor of Mount Zion.

Colin Boyle/Daily Senior Staffer
Alberta Seals, custodian for Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church. Seals has been a member of the congregation since 1984.

“Mount Zion is a church of families,” Scurlock said. “We have a very strong youth ministry. We have children who have acted on college stages and have played in Carnegie Hall.”

The church’s generosity often extends to its own members and staff. Alberta Seals,known as “Mother Seals” by many congregants, is a custodian at Mount Zion and has attended the church since 1984.

After preparing an all-church meal one day, Seals said the church threw her a surprise birthday party and even flew her daughter to attend the event.

“I come upstairs to tell them ‘I’m done cooking, and they start singing ‘Happy Birthday,’” Seals said. “It was amazing.”

On Saturday at 6 p.m., the church will host a night of celebration with performances from community groups and choirs.

This week’s celebration is part of a larger year-long affair, said former 5th Ward alderman Delores Holmes. Holmes said she been a member of Mount Zion since 1953.

Over the course of the year, the congregation has hosted guest speakers during their Sunday services at least once a month. The church will also host two services this weekend to celebrate the occasion.

Both Hagerty and Ald. Peter Braithwaite (2nd) said they will attend the service this Sunday.

Braithwaite, whose ward includes the church, said Mount Zion’s presence over the years have helped many residents in Evanston and he “looked forward” to worshiping with congregation on Sunday.

“The church is one the oldest black churches city-wide, and it has a long history of providing support and services to families within the community through their mission work,” Braithwaite said. “As well, they have served as a meeting location for my downtown constituents.”

Holmes said she could not hold back her love for a community that has seen more than a century of missions, discipleship and community, including her own children’s baptisms.

“Of course I love my church. We are a small, family church,” Holmes said. “It’s just a way to celebrate a milestone, and 125 years is something special.”

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Twitter: @zamoneperez

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