They were encouraged by the Rev. Jeffery Milner, who is credited with being the organizer of Cartersville’s Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church.
Milner preached to his early congregation about freedom as they held their meetings under the “bush arbor,” a secret meeting place for slaves.
“The members went home and told their masters that Rev. Milner said they were going to be free,” said Victor Morgan, of Cartersville. “The white masters built gallows and were actually going to hang him, but he had the opportunity to preach one more time.”
As he was about to be hanged, Milner preached a sermon so moving that those who sought his death were transformed, Morgan said.
“After that sermon, as it was told, the people said, ‘Cut him down,’” Morgan said.
Morgan, who has been a member of the church for nearly 50 years, said members are often reminded of Milner’s difficulties and the church’s progress since.
This month, Mt. Zion celebrates 150 years and Morgan said the membership is happy to celebrate such a milestone.
“The members of our church are really proud of our 150 years of existence and the accompanying history,” Morgan said.
The church’s senior pastor, the Rev. Dr. Edward Rhodes said the church’s membership is “without a doubt some of the most dedicated church members in the world” and contribute greatly to the church’s reputation as “A Beacon on the Hill.”
“The church has given of its resources — internationally, nationally and locally,” Rhodes said. “The church has been a church of inclusion. People from all walks of life have been members of the church.”
Mt. Zion, which is the oldest predominately black church in Bartow County, has about 300 active members, and over the years, Rhodes said the church has “greatly impacted the community religiously, socially, politically and educationally.”
Several events have been planned to commemorate the anniversary.
Morgan said he hopes the community comes out to support such an important local institution.
“We want people in the community to come out and help celebrate this anniversary because this celebration is not just about Mt. Zion, it’s about the Cartersville and Bartow County community,” Morgan said.. “It’s our history and we have so many ties with this community.”
Anniversary events continue and include a prayer breakfast, a banquet and culminate with a special program at the church May 19 at 11 a.m.
For a full listing of the events visit www.mzmbchurch.com or call (770) 547-4025.