47 Locust St.

(Oberlin Historical and Improvement Organization)


This congregation can boast an 109-year history. In the mid 1880's there were 400 Blacks in Oberlin, a fifth of the total population. They worshipped with established congregations in two Black congregations and in the First Baptist, Congregational, Episcopal and Methodist Churches. But these children of slaves had need for their own church with more freedom in worship. Some organized themselves into a Baptist group they called Mt. Zion and met for prayer meetings in the homes of three families. In 1886 the pastor of First Baptist Church helped eighteen charter members organize into Mt. Zion Baptist Church. They moved around within the town, worshipping in three different locations before they raised money enough to begin building the present church at the corner of Mechanic St. (now Locust St.) and South Pleasant St. On July 4,1893 the pastor, members and friends dug the foundation from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and a dinner was served by the ladies of the church. While the church building progressed the members worshipped in a chapel on the site. The new sanctuary was dedicated July 16, 1905. The congregation has a rich musical history. In 1912-14 R. Nathaniel Dett served as student choir director. During his student years he roomed with a Mt. Zion family on Groveland Street. Pastor Fred Steen, a graduate of Oberlin Graduate School of Theology, has served the congregation continuously from 1952 to the present. In 1962 an education wing was built; and the parsonage at 94 E. Hamilton was added in 1965. The new Wootten-Scott-Denny Memorial organ was bought for $5000 and dedicated in 1966. The church was rededicated July 16,1995. The original stained glass windows are being repaired. The congregation recently formed the Zion Community Development Corporation, separate from the church, with diverse representatives from Lorain County on its Board of Directors; its mission is the redevelopment of the southeast area of Oberlin to meet special social and economic needs of lower income families.


The congregation sings from The New Baptist Hymnal. Favorite hymns are "Great is thy faithfulness"; "My hope is built on nothing less"; and "Amazing Grace".

Dr. Steen served on the Editorial Board for The New Progressive Baptist Hymnal.