Mount Zion to host special celebration

Posted: Thursday, May 30, 2013 6:00 pm

The Messenger, May 30, 2013
Special Features Editor
Founded in 1871, not too many years after the City of Union City was officially incorporated and soon after the close of the Civil War, Mount Zion Christian Methodist Episcopal Church was a simple wood frame home for a faithful local congregation who had — just five years previously — celebrated the birth of a new denomination with fellow Christians throughout the South.
At the 1865 close of the war that pitted brother against brother, the five “colored” conferences of the Methodist Church South (serving Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas, Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi and North Carolina) petitioned the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, to have a church of their own. On Dec. 15, 1870, that dream became a reality and the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church was formed, with the election of Bishop William H. Miles of Kentucky and Bishop R.H. Vanderhorst. The local church came into being in 1871 when the Rev. C.H. Phillips, a pastor of the new body of believers, spent time in the new town of Union City.
In 1954, the word “Colored” was changed to “Christian.”
By 1896, the simple but stately red brick building that still stands across the street, on the corner of College and Greenwood streets from the former Miles School had replaced the earlier wooden structure for worshipers. The Rev. W.E. Farmer was pastor and guide during this time of growth for the oldest African American church in the town.
The local presiding elder of First Methodist Church, which now meets on East Main Street in Union City, helped the congregation acquire land for the new church.
Under the leadership of the Rev. Edward Harvell, the church went on the national historic register in 1999. Mount Zion was in continuous operation until 2005, when the congregation, sadly, disbanded, leaving the property in the hands of the East Tennessee Conference of the CME church.
In 2007, however, one of the sons of the church, the Rev. Darrell Turner, was appointed pastor and the doors of the church opened once again.
Under his leadership, the building has acquired a new roof, chimes have been installed, the congregation has hosted an annual Christmas dinner for children who attend Boys & Girls Club and, on June 9, a newly renovated fellowship hall will open in the building. Plans are also being made to unveil the impressive marker, which was put in place on the church property in January, on June 9.
Application for the marker, which explains the church’s historical significance, was made by Turner, with the assistance of the Rev. Joan Blackmon, who wrote the document required, and by Emily Timm Elliston, who is interested in the preservation of historic structures.
It was submitted in June 2012 and Turner received word it had been approved in October.
“I hope Union Citians will come and join in the grand celebration June 9,” Turner says. “Plans are being made for the worship service and the repast. Presiding Elder James Dowell and the Southwest District will be special guests. State and county officials have been invited and we want everyone to come and join us in this celebration.”

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