Hon­or­ing their past

Mt. Zion un­veils his­tor­i­cal marker

Newark Post - - Front Page - By JOSH SHAN­NON jshan­non@ches­pub.com

Mem­bers of Mt. Zion Union Amer­i­can Methodist Epis­co­pal Church gath­ered Sun­day to pay homage to the church’s long his­tory in the New Lon­don Road com­mu­nity.

With help from the Delaware Pub­lic Ar­chives and State Rep. Paul Baum­bach, church lead­ers un­veiled a his­tor­i­cal marker that re­counts the his­tory of the con­gre­ga­tion.

“They’re ex­cited a part of their his­tory has been doc­u­mented in the com­mu­nity,” Pas­tor Eric McClain said of his con­gre­ga­tion.

Mt. Zion was founded in 1868 in an aban­doned black­smith shop at the cor­ner of New Lon­don Road and Ray Street. Three years later, the church ac­quired land on the op­po­site side of New Lon­don Road and built a new build­ing us­ing wood from the black­smith shop.

Mt. Zion moved to its cur­rent lo­ca­tion, at the cor­ner of New Lon­don Road and Cleve­land Av­enue, in 1981.

The church played an in­te­gral role in the New Lon­don Road com­mu­nity, which was Ne­wark’s African-Amer­i­can neigh­bor­hood dur­ing the days of seg­re­ga­tion.

At the time, most of the church mem­bers lived within walk­ing dis­tance. Now, as stu­dent rental hous­ing has sat­u­rated the neigh­bor­hood, most mem­bers travel from out of town to get to the church, said Wilma Jones, who has at­tended Mt. Zion for more than 70 years.

“It’s im­por­tant,” said Jones, one of the few church mem­bers who still live on Cleve­land Av­enue. “There’s still a link to the past.”

As more and more of the com­mu­nity’s old struc­tures disap- pear, like the Elk’s Lodge which was de­mol­ished ear­lier this year, com­mem­o­rat­ing the area’s his­tory is im­por­tant, she said.

“All that’s re­ally left is the plaques they put up,” she said.

When she was a child, Jones said, the church was the fo­cal point of life in the com­mu­nity. Raised by a min­is­ter, she at­tended ser­vices there three times a day.

Jones rem­i­nisced fondly about church pic­nics and va­ca­tion bible school in the sum­mer. The three churches in the area, Mt. Zion, St. John’s A. U. M. P. Church and Pil­grim Bap­tist Church of­ten teamed up for neigh­bor­hood events, she added.

“It was a fun com­mu­nity,” she said.

Sun­day’s cer­e­mony marked the end of a years-long process to get the his­tor­i­cal marker, which faces New Lon­don Road near a stair­case lead­ing from the side­walk up to the church build­ing.

“It’s a bless­ing to be part of such a rich his­tory,” said Bishop Lin­wood Ride­out, a re­gional church leader who joined the Mt. Zion con­gre­ga­tion for the cer­e­mony.

The state’s his­tor­i­cal marker pro­gram is ad­min­is­tered by Delaware Pub­lic Ar­chives and funded by state leg­is­la­tors through their com­mu­nity trans­porta­tion funds.

NE­WARK POST PHOTO BY JOSH SHAN­NON

Bishop Lin­wood Ride­out (left) and Pas­tor Eric McClain un­veil a plaque com­mem­o­rat­ing the his­tory of Mt. Zion Union Amer­i­can Methodist Epis­co­pal Church on New Lon­don Road.

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