The Zionites have been preparing for this grand celebration all year.
Organized on July 14, 1865, on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, the Zion Missionary Baptist Association is the oldest African-American Baptist Association in North America.
Members will celebrate 150 years this month, with celebratory services being held from Wednesday through Saturday at the Zion Missionary Baptist Association Center in Crescent, McIntosh County.
The Rev. Dr. Hermon Scott, moderator of the Zion Association, said the Rev. U.L. Houston, who was the third moderator of the Zion Association, met with Gen. William T. Sherman in Savannah and had input into the “40 acres and a mule field order.”
“Prior to 1953, members of the association met annually at various churches along the southeastern coast of Georgia,” Scott said. “In 1953, the Association purchased four acres of land in McIntosh County and built a headquarters building. In 1955, an anchor was placed in the front of the building symbolizing the ‘Old Ship of Zion’ had found a haven of rest to throw out the anchor and anchor down.
“In 2007, under the leadership of the late Rev. Dr. Eddie L. Hart, the association moved into a modern 10,000-square-foot worship and training facility built on these same four acres,” he said.
In August 2013, Scott, who also is the pastor of the Baconton Missionary Baptist Church in Walthourville, was installed as the moderator of the Zion Missionary Baptist Association Inc.
“My charge is to continue the legacy of fellowship and training for Missionary Baptist churches in southeast Georgia,” Scott said. “The mission of the Zion Missionary Baptist Association Inc. is to build relationships with member churches through fellowship and instruction while reaching out to the larger community to fulfill the Great Commission of Jesus Christ.
“The objective of this association is to be a dynamic spiritual organism, empowered by the Holy Spirit to share Christ with as many people as possible in our association, churches, communities, and throughout the world,” he continued. “The association is to be a worshiping fellowship, experiencing an awareness of God, recognizing his person and responding in obedience to his leadership. Our objective is also to experience an increasingly meaningful fellowship with God and fellow believers and to help people experience a growing knowledge of God and man. We will be an association whose purpose is to be Christ-like in our daily living by emphasizing total commitment of life, personality and possessions to the lordship of Jesus Christ.”
The Zion Missionary Baptist Association has member churches along the southeast coast of Georgia from Savannah to the Florida state line, including several churches in Liberty County.
“This Old Ship of Zion (the Zion Association) has been sailing for 150 years, and I am happy to report that we are alive and well and serving the present age, and our story is still unfolding,” Scott said.
The opening service of the 150th celebration will be held at 9 a.m. Wednesday. Scott said the Rev. Stanford Anderson, pastor of Calvary Missionary Baptist Church in Richmond Hill and president of the First District of the General Missionary Baptist Convention of Georgia, will preach.
At approximately 11 a.m. Thursday, the Rev. Dr. Kenneth Martin, the president of the 600-plus churches of the General Missionary Baptist Convention of Georgia, will be the speaker.
On Friday, the Rev. Robert Thorpe (moderator emeritus) will preach, and Scott will give his closing message on Saturday.
“Dinner will also be served on the grounds, and we plan to have a festive time,” Scott said.
Scott and the Zionites of the Zion Missionary Baptist Association invite you to join them in their momentous 150th celebration. The Zion Association is located at 1111 Johnson Road in Crescent. For additional information, you may call Scott at 912-977-1925.
Anderson is the author of “Dare to Soar” and “Lack of Knowledge.”