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ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Just four years after the city of Abilene was established, Reverend James Curry of Sherman founded Mount Zion Baptist Church. Although there aren’t many African Americans in Abilene, according to Reverend Andrew Penns.

“Black people didn’t have access to proper churches, didn’t have access to a lot of things that were available to other races,” Penns said.

The first “house” of this church was near the railroad tracks, South 4th and Cherry Street. In 1940 a new church was built in the 800 block of Ash Street, which burned down in 1968. The church now stands on Stafford Street.

Lady Jenn, first lady of Mount Zion Baptist Church, said the church was not only the first African-American church, but also a school.

“Knowing that this was the first African-American school for African-American children is the history that our children and our children’s children need to know,” Jenn explained. “Therefore, I find it to be a very unique place of worship.”

Nancy Cruise, a member of Mount Zion First Baptist Church for 18 years, said she used to bring her mother to church and one of her favorite parts is the choir.

“She said they (the choir) were very uninhibited and they sang with their heart and soul,” Cruise recalled.

According to George Bowens, deacon at the First Baptist Church of Mt. Zion.

“It’s a beacon. I hope this is a place where you can come and feel at home. Feel comfortable,” Bowens said.

Demotis Sherman, Reverend of the First Baptist Church of Mt. Zion, shared his gratitude to be part of a long line of pastors for this church.

“I am happy to be part of this number and hope that one day someone will shine from the ministry in the footsteps of the ministry we left here,” Sherman said. “The Bible says the just shall live by faith. That’s all we have. There is no magic formula. We must walk by faith.

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