Welcome to the Mt. Zion Union American Methodist Episcopal Church. This church has a long and beautiful history and is one of the three active churches of this community. The UAME denomination was founded by Peter Spencer in 1813 as the African Union Church in Wilmington, Delaware, and was the first denomination completely under the control of African Americans in the United States. Eventually, the name changed to Union American Methodist Episcopal Church, or UAME.
Before the founding of Mt. Zion in 1868, congregants used to walk approximately 3 miles to St. Daniels UAME Church in Iron Hill. When Mt. Zion was established in Newark, services were first held in an abandoned blacksmith shop near Boogie Run. When the church was able to acquire land on New London Road, church members dismantled the blacksmith shop, and rebuilt it on that spot which is just across from us on New London Road now. Community members, both men and women, helped in the construction of that building.
By the 1950’s, the structure on New London Road was falling apart and had to be repaired or rebuilt. In 1973, the state settled with the church in order to widen the road; the funds from that settlement allowed the congregation to rebuild Mt. Zion across the street from where it stood. Construction began in 1979, led by Inky Wilson, but the church faced many challenges in crossing the road. After much toil and trouble, resulting in the entire community coming together to help rebuild the church, the current Mt. Zion opened its doors in 1981, lead by the Reverend George W. Pointdexter.
Mt. Zion stirs many pleasant memories in current community members. Alvin Hall recounts that,
“Well, in the summertime, churches always held what they called Bible school, and most of the children around that area went to Bible school like in the morning from like nine o’clock to twelve or maybe from ten to twelve, and that was a good guidance I would pretty much say on the neighborhood kids, because they got in very little trouble.”
And Arnold Saunders remembers how important church socials were, in all three churches:
“The big thing church socials, if one had it they all had it. Whatever socials they threw, all the churches was invited to come, and same as today. I was a great part of, Black religion is—when sanctuaries was built, they always built a place to eat, and eating was part of our culture, of saying that we love you, invite you in, and we had big, matter of fact, we’d go up on the school ground, and have big events, social events that the churches would put on, but one church wouldn’t borrow, another church would come and we were all together, just like the last one we just had.”
Many other community members recall getting up on Easter Sunday to attend services at all three churches, starting with Mt. Zion at 5 am.
Mt. Zion currently runs a variety of ministries, chorus groups, Bible studies and Sunday schools. Services are held several times on Sunday.
Across Rose Street from Mt. Zion is a little but old cemetery. In this cemetery, you’ll find a variety of headstones, and even some unmarked sites. One community member, Bob Jones, used to engrave headstones for those who could afford such a service. Others would mix their own cement and carve the headstones themselves. Yet other people simply knew where their relatives were buried, and didn’t need a marker to go visit. Eddie Toulson used to put flags on the graves for Memorial Day in preparation for the 21-gun salute, which continues today.
Now, continue down Rose Street, towards Cleveland Avenue. Turn Right on Cleveland, and stop at the corner of New London Road, where you can see St. John’s African Methodist Church. You are now standing in the heart of the community.