ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Just four years after the City of Abilene was established, reverend James Curry from Sherman, founded Mt. Zion Baptist Church. Although there were not many African Americans in Abilene, according to Reverend Andrew Penns.

“Blacks did not have access to adequate churches, did not have access to lots of things that were available to other races,” said Penns.

The first ‘home’ for this church was near the railroad tracks, South 4th, and Cherry Street. In 1940, a new church was built in the 800 block of Ash Street, which burned down in 1968. The church now sits on Stafford Street.

Lady Jenn, First Lady at Mt. Zion Baptist Church, said the church was not only the first African American church but a school as well.

“Knowing that it was the first African American school for African American children that’s history that our children and our children’s children need to know,” Jenn explained. “Therefore, I find it a very unique place to worship at.” 

Nancy Cruise, an 18-year member of Mt. Zion First Baptist Church said she use to bring her mom to church and one of her favorite parts is the choir.

“She said they (the choir) were very uninhibited, and they sang with their heart and soul,” Cruise recalled.

According to George Bowens, Deacon at Mt. Zion First Baptist Church.

“It’s a beacon. Hopefully, it’s a place where you can come and feel at home. Feel comfortable,” Bowens expressed. 

Demotis Sherman, Reverend at Mt. Zion First Baptist Church, shared his gratitude for being a part of a long line of pastors for this church.

“I’m glad to be part of that number and hopefully one day someone will gleam from the ministry passed the ministry’s footsteps that we left here,” Sherman expressed. “The Bible says the just shall live by faith. That’s all that we have. There’s no magic formula. We have to walk by faith.”