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Wed, 11.15.1865

Zion Baptist Church (Denver) is Founded

*Zion Baptist Church was founded on this date in 1865. It is one of the oldest Black churches west of the Mississippi River.

Zion Baptist Church was founded by a small group of people that came from other territories and towns to Colorado.  Rev. William Norrid was Zion's first Pastor. In 1867 Zion purchased 2 lots located at 20th and Holladay (now Arapahoe) Streets and built their first house of worship.

This first church building was a 25 X 40-foot frame structure. In the late 1870s and early 1880s, a new brick structure was erected under the leadership of Rev. R.M. Duling and Rev. J.B. Fields. Zion's membership flourished under Rev. Field's tenure and grew to over 200. During this era, the church was a premiere locale for spiritual growth and community activity. The church was seen as a safe haven for many in the territory.

Zion extended its ministry into the prison system during the mid-1880s under the leadership of Rev. William Gray. In 1891 Rev. Dr. W.P.T. Jones along with about 30 other members requested and received permission to leave Zion to start a new church. This new church was organized as Central Baptist Church. Under the leadership of Rev. John E. Ford (1899-1906) and First Lady Dr. Justina L. Ford, Zion's membership grew to over 400. The debt on the church was retired and the property's value increased. Dr. Justina Ford was also the first Black woman physician in Colorado.

Zion's present church home was purchased in May 1911 from Calvary Baptist Church under the leadership of Rev. David E. Over (1909-1924). The Rev. Dr. Wendell T. Liggins was called to pastor Zion Baptist Church in October 1941 and faithfully served for 50 years. Rev. Liggins was one of the most prolific voices of the gospel to preach throughout the city and nation. Many outreach programs such as Stovall Care Center, Zion's Senior Center, and Liggins Tower were a part of his vision and still in existence today.

Zion's membership grew to over 1,000 during his tenure. In July 1993 Rev. Frank M. Davis was elected to serve as the 25th and current pastor of Zion Baptist Church. Under Pastor Davis' leadership, Zion's commitment to providing spiritual leadership continues. Their St. Luke 14:21 Ministry; Route 66 Bible Study; Grant Writing Ministry; and Women's Ministry serve as examples of ministries established under Rev. Davis to advance the gospel within our community.

Zion members have spoken both loudly and softly through their actions, deeds, and words. They have been cornerstones in good as well as bad times. The splendor of Zion, however, does not rest in the accomplishments of any one of its members, or in the beauty of its physical building. Nor does it rest on the longevity or length of time it’s been in existence. The splendor of Zion rests in the fact that for over 130 years Zion has as its foundation in worship.

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There is a tree, by day, That, at night, Has a shadow, A hand huge and black, With fingers long and black, All through the dark, Against the white man's house, In the little wind, The black... TENEBRIS by Angelina weld Grimke’.
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