After the close of the Civil War, a group of Christians banded together to establish a Baptist church inFreedman’s Village. Freedman’s Village is now the site of Arlington National Cemetery. The church,called “The OldBell Church”, was under the leadership of the first pastor, Reverend Robert S. Laws. In1866 when the federal government moved the congregation from Freedman’s Village, they settled in nearby Alexandria County, which became Arlington County, Virginia. InSeptember 1866, another property was purchased on Mt. Vernon Avenue, which was later named Arlington Ridge Road. It was here that a new church was erected and named Mount Zion Baptist Church. This two–story red brick building with a white marble front waspastored by Reverend Joseph Matthews who served as the pastor for 19 years (1866–1885). Reverend Matthews was followed by Reverend E.R. Jackson who served three years, from 1887–1900.
During the first decade of the 1900’s, Mount Zion BaptistChurchhadseveral pastors: Reverend C.H.Fox (1902), Reverend A.G. Gordon (1904–1906), and Reverend F.W. Graham (1908–1912). It was in1914 that Reverend James E. Green was elected pastor, after many years of service. He joined MountZion in 1903. Heserved as superintendent of the Sunday School for three years and on the DeaconBoard for nine years. He was a well–respected leader of the church and community. Under ReverendGreen’s pastorate, a new church was erected in 1930 at the Arlington Ridge Roadsite at a cost of$26,000. In 1942, the federal government condemned the property to make way for a network of roads.The Odd Fellows Hall at Columbia Pike and South Ode Street was selected as a temporary place of worship. Later, property was purchased at19th and Lowell Streets. Groundbreaking services were held on Easter Sunday, April 9, 1944. The first services were held in the new building on the first Sunday inJuly 1945. Reverend Green served as pastor through 1950.
In January 1952, Dr. Oswald G. Smith was elected pastor of the Mount Zion Baptist Church. Before Coming to Mount Zion, he served as assistant pastor at Metropolitan Baptist Church in Washington, DC.Early in his ministry, he emphasized the role of social responsibility in fulfilling the Mount Zion mission.He fully embraced social responsibility to the Mount Zion congregation and the greater community through the establishment of a Deacon’s Fund to assist both members and non–members in meeting emergency costs for goods, medicine, shelter, utilities, and other necessities.WhileRev. Smith wasdeaf,it was admirable that the fully executed all aspects of his position, including preaching and teaching the word of God.
late 1900’s – Today
In November 1991, Dr. Leonard N.Smith became the ninth senior minister of the Mount Zion BaptistChurch. Under the leadership of Dr. Smith, the membership more than doubled and the budget increased to several million dollars. Mount Zion purchased 22 acres of land in Woodbridge, VA to further the mission to go and make disciples of all nations as we are commanded by God.Additionally, Mount Zion purchased property on Kenmore Streetfor additional parking. Several properties were acquired onLangley Street for use in future expansion efforts.
Mount Zion is organized into seven structured divisions,established to support the more than 35 sub–ministries that address the growing needs of the congregation and community. In July 2012, Mount Zionreached a historical milestone—dedicating the completely refurbished and modernized church facility with no debt upon completion. Increased stewardship allows Mount Zion to offer funding to members in need, college scholarships, and donations to various charities and organizations.In 2016, Mount Zion celebrated its sesquicentennial with a year–long grand celebration along with a Pastoral Appreciation Dayfor Dr. Smith’s 25thAnniversary.Mount Zion continues to share the “Good News” through its radio broadcast outreach and various forms of social media.
After 30 years of faithful service Dr. Leonard N. Smith retired as the senior minister of Mount Zion in December 2021. On February 20, 2022, Dr. Smith was called to heaven.