Church History

Sixth Mount Zion was established in the year 1929.
Community from 1876

In 1898 a group of humble Christians, under the leadership of Rev. Thorton Logan, secured the building of the old Emory Episcopal Church on the corner of Penn Avenue and Station Street and opened its doors to the public as the New Bethlehem Mission. 

They worshipped there for about three years.  Rev. Blandham Rose was called as pastor and took charge of the church on the third Sunday in May 1901.

1900's - 1920's

In 1902, the church was chartered and admitted to the Union Baptist Association, now the Allegheny Union Baptist Association.  Following a fire, the congregation was forced to move across the street to the old Philadelphia Gas Company.  A lot was purchased on Joseph Street and a frame structure was built in 1904, at a cost of $500.00.  Rev. Rose served the church until 1911. 

Following Rev. Rose, Rev. R. C. Quarrells was called and served as pastor.  He was succeeded by Dr. W. H. Hill.  Under the pastorate of Dr. Hill (1912-1920) a brick dwelling was erected in 1916 and the name of the church was changed to Sixth Mount Zion.  This building stood at Joseph Street near Larimer Avenue until 1930 when a fire destroyed it. ​Following Dr. Hill’s pastorate, Rev. J. D. Buschell, S.S. Grayson and T.C. Phillips served.  In 1928, the church called the Rev. John C. Hairston of Columbus, Ohio.

SMZ Sanctuary Photo
SMZ Baptist Church
SMZ Sanctuary Photo
SMZ Baptist Church

1930's - 1960's

During Dr. Hairston’s pastorate, a fire destroyed the structure that stood until 1930. The congregation then purchased in 1931, the building on the present site at a cost of $23,000.

Renovations were made at a cost of $40,000 and the church grew substantially during Dr. Hairston’s administration.

This created a need for additional space.  An annex was erected at a cost of $133,000 and was dedicated on October 18, 1959.  Dr. Hairston served as pastor for forty years.

1960's - 1980's

On May 16, 1969, a call was extended to the Rev. Elmer L. Williams of Vauxhall, New Jersey.  Rev. Williams began his ministry on the second Sunday in September of that year.  During his pastorate there were many significant achievements, both physically and organizationally. 

A center at 6530 Shetland Street was dedicated on October 4, 1970, as the Dr. J. C. Hairston, Sr. Center and Memorial Library.  The successful Sixth Mount Zion Christian Academy operated from the Center from 1984 to 1997. 

Between 1973 and 1975, the church purchased all the houses on Farlson Square.  Additional properties were also purchased, and parking lots were added.

In 1983, Rev. Williams presented an outline to the membership of a plan for much needed renovations to the church.  Because of a tragic occurrence in August 1984, Rev. Williams was rendered physically unable to function.  He was made Pastor Emeritus in 1985.  After years of dedicated service to the gospel ministry, he was called to his eternal rest on Sunday, January 13. 1990.

1980's - Present Day

In June 1991, a call was extended to Rev. Cornelius Williams.  He assumed his pastoral responsibilities in October 1991 and was installed on December 15, 1991.  While at Sixth, Rev. Williams earned his Doctor of Ministry.  During his pastorate he stabilized and maintained the existing ministries while developing new ones, such as Junior Church, Spiritual Rites of Passage; Ministry to the Homeless; Recovery Ministry; Youth Activities; Ambassadors for Christ; Gathering of Men and Evangelism.  During Rev. Williams’ tenure, many daughters and sons were called to the preaching ministry.  On June 27, 1997, dedicatory services were held naming Farlson Square, the “Elmer L. Williams Square” in honor of his remarkable leadership and his many accomplishments for Sixth Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church and the community.  Rev. Cornelius Williams served as pastor for seven years.

In May of 1999, the church celebrated its 100th year of existence and on Sunday, April 30, 2000, installed Rev. Eugene M. Downing, Jr. as its 11th Pastor.  In this new millennium, pastor and people were faithful in their worship, increased community engagement and missionary outreach.  As a result, we witnessed the elimination of the church mortgage and other debt, reupholstered pews, roof replacement, and the acquisition of property.  Worship was enhanced with the hiring of a minister of music, upgraded sound system, instruments, the addition of liturgical dance, and mime ministries.  The church renewed pledges to Lott Carey Foreign Mission Convention and therefore  assisted Hurricane Katrina victims, students in Liberia, and earthquake recovery in Haiti.  

On Sunday, April 21, 2013, Rev. Dr. W. David Lee was installed as our 12th Pastor, he served until December 2014.  

On Saturday, March 6, 2021, by a near unanimous vote, Rev. Dr. John C. Welch, M.Div., PhD, was voted in as our Pastor-elect and installed on July 18, 2021.

Rev. John C. Welch, M.Div., PhD
Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church Senior Pastor