In 1868, a small church was built at what is now the corner of Johnson and Roosevelt Austin Ave. in Saginaw.
Built after the end of the Civil War, the church was founded as the second African American church in Saginaw County. While little is known about Zion Missionary Baptist Church’s early days, the church community has seen tremendous changes both in Saginaw and throughout the world.
During the early part of the 20th century, people migrated from southern states to Michigan and the Saginaw area looking for opportunity in the new auto manufacturing industry, and many of them gravitated toward Zion Baptist. They are celebrated each year in a special day called All States Day, which takes place Sunday, October 27 with a sermon at 10:00 a.m.
The church survived the era of Jim Crow and stood as a leader during the Civil Rights movement. Through much of that time was the Rev. Roosevelt Austin, who became pastor of the church two years and seven months after he first moved to Saginaw in 1953. He officially retired in 2000, but still remains an active member in both the church and the Saginaw community.
Since that time, Zion Baptist has had new struggles as the population of Saginaw and Michigan sustained a steady decline and church membership dropped off. Current pastor Rev. Roderick Smith says, however, though methods of delivering the message may change and churches may close their doors, God’s message never wavers. Smith says as long as he’s the Zion Baptist pastor, he’ll continue to deliver that message for the church family.
The church will feature several local guest pastors Thursday, October 3 starting at 6:00 p.m. On Sunday, October 6, an Anniversary Musical will feature several choirs from the area also. For more information about Zion Missionary Baptist Church, visit their website here.