ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Abilene has long stood as a pillar of faith and community for more than a century. In all this time, it has been a steadfast source of connection for its members.

Founded in 1885, Mt. Zion stands as the oldest African American church in the Key City. Initially located near the railroad tracks on the corner of South 4th and Cherry streets, it later moved to the north side of town in the 1940s, wheres it’s lived on Stafford Avenue since.

We spoke with several of Mt. Zion’s members to learn their journeys to and with the church.

Usher of 12 years at Mt. Zion, Patricia Murray told KTAB/KRBC she has a deep-rooted history with the church, having been a member for 55 years, joining at the age of 11 and was baptized at the church.

Stephen Wright said the family-like sense of community is what drew him in to stay when he visited the first time by an extended invitation, They are very loving; they bring us in.”

Another longtime Mt. Zion member, Treva Newman considers herself almost a lifelong participant since moving to Abilene at the age of 12. For her, the church became a second home; a safe haven; a place where she “won’t be a stranger when Jesus calls” her name.

Treva Newman praises during Mt. Zion Baptists 138th anniversary sermon

Even on challenging days, Newman prioritizes attending Sunday services.

“I struggle to get here some Sundays… But I got to go, and I just keep coming,” shared Newman.

For Barbara and George Bowens – members since 1983 – they told KTAB/KRBC they’ve witnessed the church’s evolution over the last 40 years.

“We see the members come and go, then you feel like it. Then, like, we see Sister Newman- and we saw her in her earlier years, and we see where she is now, and so you can tell time has passed, but it’s all good fun,” Mrs. Bowens reflected.

In a time when some churches must make the difficult decision to close their doors, Pastor Demotis Sherman emphasized the significance of 138 years.

“Once the church closes their doors, there is no connection with God,” warned Pastor Sherman.

However, Mt. Zion’s unwavering faith is evident each and every Sunday, showcasing a deep connection and love among its members.