The First 300

Zion Baptist Church

Front view, c. 1950, of Zion Baptist. The church is comfortably nestled within the residential community of South Ardmore. Earlier in the century, an addition to the existing facade gave the church its magnificent presence.

Late in the last century, a meeting was called at the home of Caroline Strother to organize a new church for worship by blacks. Shortly thereafter, in March 1894, Zion Baptist Church was chartered under the auspices of Mother Zion Baptist Church of Philadelphia.

Until moving into their present site (West Spring Avenue in Ardmore), Zion’s congregation met in a 10×15 foot room in a small frame building generously supplied by the First Baptist Church, located on the northeast corner of of Cricket Avenue. Later in 1894, for the sum of $1,500, a 90×263 foot lot housed a 27×60 foot building utilized for worship until 1899.

During that time, worshippers undertook a massive construction project, completing work on a $7,000 addition (quite a sum in those days). The original frame building, used as a chapel upon completion of the addition, continued to serve members until it was destroyed by fire in 1913.

Since being chartered, Zion has enjoyed the service of nine reverends and are presently led by Pastor James A. Pollard, Jr. Having recently celebrated their 100th anniversary in 1995, Zion continues as a beacon of light for the hardworking residents of South Ardmore.

Caroline Strother, matriarch of Zion Baptist Church. It was at her home that organizational meetings took place concluding in the chartering of the church. Before black churches are formally organized, oftentimes groups of interested members congregate in homes, pray together, raise funds and initiate construction of formal houses of worship. Ms. Strother’s descendents continue to worship at Zion to this day.
Zion Baptist Sanctuary in 1981. The pulpit in Baptist churches is in the center of the chapel as a symbol that God is at the center…the focus…of the religious experience. The church choir normally sings to the right of the pulpit where musicians also perform. The altar is staged below the pulpit; holy communion is served during regular service every fourth Sunday in Baptist churches.
Youth choir, c. 1950s. Music is an integral part of the black church experience. Hymns are usually sung throughout services, with several choirs leading the congregation in song. Musicians often accompany choirs in renditions of spirituals. Song inspires an emotional release among members of the congregation, encouraging a joyous religious experience.