First Black Baptist church in Dayton celebrates 150 years of service

Zion Baptist Church, the first Black Baptist church in Dayton, will celebrate its 150th anniversary this Sunday, at the Holiday Inn Dayton/Fairborn.

“We are proud of our heritage and the importance of Zion Baptist Church in the history of the city of Dayton, Ohio,” said the Rev. Dr. Rockney C. Carter, senior pastor at Zion Baptist Church. “It has been our privilege to serve the Dayton community for 150 years. We are especially excited because we could not celebrate (the actual anniversary) last year due to the pandemic.”

The celebration, to include a banquet and worship service, will be held from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tickets to attend may be purchased for $40 by calling Deacon Bernard Buxton at 937-545-9677. Proceeds will be given to St. Vincent de Paul.

According to Carter, the Zion Baptist Church was formed and chartered in 1870 by a group of pastors.

“Zion Baptist Church has a storied history of 150 years of doing great things in the community, and being very aware and present in the community,” Carter said. “It’s a place where everybody or every family in Dayton, on the west side of Dayton particularly, has touched Zion Baptist Church in some way or their ancestors were probably members of Zion Baptist Church. It was the church to be in at that time.”

Carter said he is grateful that the church has been able to adapt and grow throughout its history.

“We stand on the shoulders of great men and women who love the Lord who started the church and we’ve been able, with the grace of God, to keep it present, keep it relevant, and keep the spirit of God going in that place for 150 years,” he said.

Sunday’s celebration will include a luncheon at 12:30 p.m., along with a celebratory service, as well as presentations and performances. The Dayton Contemporary Dance Company will have a dance performance, and a gospel music performance will be provided by C. Baccus Band and No Drama Singing Group. The worship guest speaker is the Rev. Dr. Xavier Johnson of Bethel Baptist Church.

Carter said the Zion Baptist Church has overcome challenges faced by many churches, and other organizations, brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. He credits the church’s long history of leaders with laying the ground work for perseverance through such trials.

“When you say 1870, you’re talking about the close of the Civil War, and that’s a long time to still be relevant and active,” Carter said. “And to still have your place in the community is a testimony to the saints that have come before me that kept it going even through tough times. We’re just grateful to be a part of it now, and I’m very excited about where we’re headed.”

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