The Legacy Of Mount Zion United Methodist Church (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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The Legacy of Mount Zion United Methodist Church

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

13:28:39
So today's show is all about Washington and D.C. But before we had either one, we had a place known as Georgetown. It was founded in 1751 and you can still catch glimpses of its early days if you go to places like the old stone house on M street. That's the oldest standing building in the city, by the way. And if you go to the Mount Zion United Methodist Church on 29th street. A group of slaves and free African-Americans founded the church in 1816.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

13:29:06
The building we see today was completed in the 1880s. For more than a century, Mount Zion was a cornerstone of Georgetown's predominantly black community. But over the years, the neighborhood has changed and congregants have dispersed to other parts of the city and region. Still, many worshipers travel a long way to come back and participate in Sunday services.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

13:29:26
Jessica Gould recently attended a service to speak with members about what keeps drawing them to this local landmark. She brings us this audio postcard.

PASTOR ROBERT SLADE

13:29:38
This church was a part of what is now Dumbarton United Methodist Church. Back in the 1800s or late 1700s, African-Americans had to worship with their masters. And then, there were several who decided that they wanted to have their own church. They bought property and they spent their own money and so forth. Many of them were day providers, we call them, cleaning homes and so forth. And they didn't make much money.

PASTOR ROBERT SLADE

13:30:10
But yet and still, they were willing to sacrifice and give whatever they could afford to give to insure that they had a place of worship. As you look at the upstairs of the church, you'll see that there are a lot of woodwork and all that I understand was done by a pastor then and those who were still, kind of, enslaved. Some were free people. Mount Zion has continued on in this location since then.

PASTOR ROBERT SLADE

13:30:41
But it's always been in Georgetown. I think it's special, in that, it's in the heart of Georgetown, where at one time, it was heavily populated by African-Americans. However, due to gentrification, we are now sitting in the heart of a white community. And we've been able to continue to be a vital congregation even though many of our members do not reside in the immediate Georgetown area.

PASTOR ROBERT SLADE

13:31:08
They come from other areas of Washington, D.C. and some of them even come as far as Silver Springs, Potomac, Virginia, La Plata, Maryland and so forth. So they come from great distances.

MS. JANET LEE RICKS

13:31:20
One bus brings people in that wish to come from Camp Springs, but they go around to the individual houses. I've never been on it, but I can imagine it's kind of long.

MS. WENDY FEATHERSON

13:31:32
I have been asked that question many times. I now live in southern Maryland and I guess, people figure I wouldn't want to travel on the weekends to come to church but I never really thought of going anywhere else. I grew up in the church, I have family connections here. I have deep friendships here and I really never even thought of going to another church because this is an extended part of my family.

MR. VERNON RICKS

13:31:51
My DNA is in this church. It has touched me. It has brought me through my life. It was a part of my education. It was a part of my establishing my moral fiber in life, my values, and so you don't just walk away from something that has been so significant in your life and leave it because this is a monument to the real fiber of this Georgetown community. It is an anchor in this community.

SHEIR

13:32:33
That was Mount Zion board of trustees chair Vernon Ricks, Pastor Robert Slade and congregants Janet Lee Ricks and Wendy Featherson. You can see pictures of the Sunday service at Mount Zion on our website metroconnection.org.
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