By Heather Regula, Correspondent
Mt. Zion United Methodist Church celebrated its 173rd anniversary Sunday, November 19 at 3:30 p.m. with a full house and an uplifting service led by Pastor Teon Bass. The Order of Worship included the participation of several local churches. Sister Yolanda “Baby K” Golden entertained attendees with upbeat selections of music and the Greater Zion Temple Church of God in Christ choir performed. Scripture readings were done by Elder Charlie Berry of Belton Church of God in Christ, and Patrick Russell of Bethel AME Church. Pastor Jeff Miller, of Belton First United Methodist Church led the prayer. Brother Elbert Demerson welcomed guests, and the Brother Mario Bronson collected the offering. Bishop Rhodes of the Greater Zion Temple Church of God in Christ delivered the sermon.
Ebony Callaham of Killeen has been a member of Mt. Zion UMC for 13 years.
“This church is like a home to me. We are all family here, for real. We always look forward to coming here,” said Callaham.
Willena Funderburke is a Belton High School graduate of the class of 1971 and now lives in Austin.
“My sister Yolanda ‘Baby K’ Golden handles the music at Mt. Zion. Mt. Zion is such a nice place to come – everyone loves each other so much. My mother was a member here for a few years back in the day, and now I come up and visit the church,” remarked Funderburke.
Mt. Zion United Methodist Church is the oldest church in Bell County, and the second oldest African American church in Texas. Pastor Teon Bass is in the midst of his inaugural year as the pastor.
“The church has been open since 1844, but we do not have an exact record of which Sunday was the first service. It is believed it was the second or third Sunday of that November,” explained Bass. “Our mission statement is a simple one. We are called to make disciples of Jesus Christ.”
As with any building well over a century old, there are structural issues that are in the works of being fixed.
“We are in the process of raising funds to stabilize the original sanctuary which was built in 1893. It has a few foundation issues so we will begin there and then move on to restoring windows and repainting once the foundation is secure,” stated Bass. “We hope to kick off the foundation repair in December and have the building completely restored by this time next year.”
With slightly less than 100 people on the church rolls, Mt. Zion United Methodist Church is a small church with big plans. Love is the language spoken, and everyone is family. Pastor Bass credits the members’ dedication to serving as one of the reasons the church has kept going for 173 years.
“We are not a wealthy church so everyone has to be willing to come together and give a little so we can serve a lot. Churches just don’t last this long unless they are truly dedicated to doing the Lord’s work,” said Bass. “Our real goal is to become a church for the entire community, to be a gathering place, not just on Sunday but every day – to serve the Lord and our local area. It doesn’t matter what denomination you are, we should all be communicating and working together to support each other and the community as a whole.”