About Us

Rev. Awood Abraham Jones

About Our Pastor

Our Shepherd is a man who is in love with his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. A man of prayer, dependent on God, and set out to seek God’s vision. He is excited about the life he lives from being redeemed and is passionate about seeing those without Christ become followers of the Savior!

History of Mt. Zion Baptists Church 1887-2017

The year of 1888 George Kelsic Sr. called to his home Edward Brooks, Taswell Harris, George Curry and Griffin Garnet to discuss the organizing of a Baptist Church in Salem, New Jersey.

The Church first met in the old Court House on Market & Broadway in Salem. They were not there very long and began holding their services in the Old Pickle House located on Hancock Street.

The early organizers know as the Virginians called Rev. Strand of Virginia to pastor the newly organized dedicated Christians.

In September of 1886 the Mt. Zion Baptist church was admitted to the West Jersey Baptist Association in Dividing Creek, New Jersey under the leadership of Rev. M.N. Carter.

In May of 1895 a small group from the congregation assembled at the “Old Pickle House”, located on Hancock Street to elect five men to be Trustees. The men were George D. Curry, George Pitney, Edward Brooks, George W. Kelesic and Peter H. Smith. These men became incorporated under the name “The Trustees of the Mt. Zion Baptist Church of Salem, New Jersey. Later that year these trustees purchased a lot on the West side of Keasbey Street in Salem from Clarence and Verna E. Sinnickson of Salem and Samuel and Emiline LaCroy of Lower Penns Neck. No record was ever found of a church being erected on that lot.

The first resident clergyman to serve as pastor was the Rev. Robert D. Johnson, who served until 1903.

In 1900 the church moved from the Pickle House on Hancock Street to Rumsey Hall located at East Broadway and Seventh Street. Rumsey Hall which was later known as the Erhardt Building was razed to make room for the current Housing Authority building known as the Towers. The congregation continued to worship in Rumsey Hall until 1913.

When Rev. Isham N Holley was called to Pastor the church there were 173 members. Rev. Holley was the sixth pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church. He followed the leadership of pastors Strand, Carter, Holstead, Robinson and Johnson.

The congregation under the leadership of Rev. Holley, were faithful servants who survived under difficult circumstances in those early years. At times they were very discouraged, but they continued to struggle in order to secure funds to recreate their church.

The Spiritual and Financial Leaders of the early church were Jacob and Mary Wright, Edward and Lucy Brooks, George and Susan Kelsic, Griffin and Maria Garnet, John and Almira Dobyns, Henry and Octavia Hawthrone, Austin and Gertrude Rick, Anna Greene, Spencer Noel, Richard and Florence Taylor, Walter Matthews, Alex Tanner; Lisha, Edward and Johnny Summerill, Charles and Lucy Walker, Lucy Fielder, James Curry and Jim Peters. The early years for the church were full of struggles. The faithful few had faith in their vision and continued on faithfully to the building of their church.

They worshiped at Rumsey’s Hall, Broadway, Seventh Street until the new edifice was completed. The cornerstone for the new church was laid in 1912.

In 1900, Rev. Holley had his first baptism of the congregation on a chilly Sunday in March, of about thirty young people in the Salem Creek. The church on Union Street in Salem was finally completed in 1913.

Prof. Otto Doran was the Organist, Choir Director for many years. Ms. Annie Peyton was the choir director and the first organist. She was followed by Joe Hill.

The first wedding at the church was that of Hannah Kelsic, daughter of George & Susan Kelsic to Richard Moore, on August 25, 1913, Rev. Holley officiated.

In 1926 a pipe organ was installed. Prof. Doran was the organist and choir director. He served the congregation for over thirty years. They also appreciated Sister Alice Warrick, Sister Maxine Young Tunis for serving as well.

To obtain the dream of the Mt. Zion Baptist Church on 5 Union Street, Salem, N.J., much was sacrificed for this dream to become a reality.

During the illness of Rev, Holley, the late Rev. J.E. Ingram presided over the congregation. During the pastorate of the Rev. J. H. Haggler, Jr., the parsonage at 5 Union Street was built. The church was also redecorated. Rev. Wayman Butler followed Pastor Haggler, Jr. as pastor of Mt Zion Baptist church.

The Pastorate of Rev. J.A. White showed many improvements to the church. The basement of the church was turned into a lounge with offices. The church as a whole was made beautiful inside and outside.

Following the Pastorate of Rev. White, Rev. Ollice Bates was installed as the new Pastor of the Mt. Zion Baptist Church in 1972. After several years serving as our Pastor, he had a vision that we needed a larger edifice to worship in. September 9, 1990 we marched from 5 Union Street to 437 Grieves Parkway. The mortgage for the church was burned September 5, 1999. Pastor Bates served faithfully until his retirement in December, 2008.

Reverend Awood Abraham Jones was installed as our new Pastor on March 27, 2011. In 2013 Reverend Jones had a vision for a Steeple to be built on the church. He envisioned the Steeple having hymns played at various times of the day to be heard throughout the city of Salem. In 2015 Reverend Jones found the original blue prints of the church with plans that included a steeple. On Wednesday, October 19th, 2016 the vision became a reality. It will go down in history as another milestone for the Mt. Zion Baptist Church that started in the “Old Pickle House” in 1887.