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Our History

You might say that Mt. Zion United Methodist Church can trace its roots back to the year of 1738. That's when John Wesley, born in Epworth, England in 1703, had an experience that changed his life. He started a spiritual awakening in England and later in America. On the night of May 24, 1738, Wesley accepted Christ into his life and received salvation. He then took the salvation message throughout the land. Wesley sent preachers to America, including Francis Asbury who traveled 247,000 miles on horseback from 1771 until 1816.


In 1781 Methodism spread from Baltimore County to upper Calvert County and a new circuit called Calvert Circuit was formed. That's when Mt. Zion Church began. At that time Methodist circuit riders rode on horses from place to place and held classes in homes or schools. Around 1813 a group of people began to gather in a grove of trees at a crossroad in southern Anne Arundel County and in the beginning of the 19th century camp meetings were being held there. Camp meetings were a way of bringing people to religious conviction. By 1818 these meetings led to the building of a small wooden chapel near the crossroads. The chapel would be called Mt. Zion and it would mean that Methodism had spread northward from Calvert County.


In 1835 a proposal was accepted to divide the Calvert Circuit and Mt. Zion Chapel became part of the new West River Circuit. From that day on, Mt. Zion would be the scene of many West River Quarterly Conferences. We were the mother church of the West River area. During these years men and women were forbidden to sit together in the Sanctuary.


The church was incorporated in 1837, and by 1850 the congregation had grown so rapidly they had outgrown the small wooden building. As fate would have it, the original wooden church built in 1818 burned down from a lightning strike just four days after the dedication of the new building in 1851.


The Sabbath School, or Sunday School, began at Mt. Zion Church in 1852. The church originally had an outside staircase leading to the balcony provided for African American worshipers, but by 1859 they were meeting separately in a small building in the church yard. That congregation eventually moved and became Mt. Zion on Ark Road in Lothian.


During these years, the church was not just a place of worship. A small commercial center, a place to sell fruits and vegetables, was built around it. The present parsonage, located next to the church, is on the site where a school once stood and our current parking lot in front of the Fellowship Hall was the site of a grindstone and mill. A store and post office were located along Bayard Road in front of the church. Reminders of this village life are nearly gone, but our church stands as a great witness of the faith of all who have gathered here to study and hear the Word of God.


In 1859 the church was closed for extensive repairs. In 1886 that double-decker chapel was torn down and a new church was built, using some of the materials from the old building. It was an exciting day when, in 1919, electric lights were installed at the church. From the early 1920s until 1950, Mt. Zion was part of a four-point charge which included the Methodist churches of Centenary, Galesville, and Owensville. In the early 1950s it became a two-point charge, with just Mt. Zion and Owensville. In 1968 when Owensville closed, Mt. Zion was on its own.


Mt. Zions parsonage was built in 1955. During the early 1950s, the need for an educational building was deeply felt by the congregation and the church broke ground for this building in December 1956.


In 1971 the sanctuary was once again restored and in 1975 the bell from Owensville Church was placed in the steeple above the Fellowship Hall.  In the late 1980s the church was rapidly growing and there was a need for more space. This time they built another educational wing with office space. In 1997 another wing was added with seven new classrooms.

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