MT. ZION CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH, UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST, the first Congregational church organized by and for AFRICAN AMERICANS east of the Mississippi River, developed on 8 June 1864 out of a prayer group led by Edward Woodliff. The former members of SHILOH BAPTIST CHURCH decided, after much discussion, that the Congregational order best suited their religious needs. With guidance and encouragement from local Congregational churches, formal organization of Mt. Zion took place at PLYMOUTH CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH on 11 Sept. 1864. Rev. J. H. Muse was appointed the first minister and a building was erected at Erie (E. 9th) St. and Webster Ave. Subsequent moves included occupation of church buildings at Maple (E. 31st) St., E. 55th St. and Central Ave (in a structure formerly occupied by the TEMPLE, 1928), and 9014 Cedar Ave (1938). In 1954, Mt. Zion purchased the Grandin Mansion on Magnolia Avenue, near UNIVERSITY CIRCLE, to erect a new modern brick edifice. Although the property was bombed soon afterward, the congregation resolved to remain and a new sanctuary at 10723 Magnolia Ave. was dedicated on 30 Sept. 1956.
Throughout its history, Mt. Zion Congregational provided facilities and resources for a variety of social services. In the 1920s, at the E. 31st St. location, the Mt. Zion Congregational Church Lyceum formed to discuss issues important to African Americans, and during the Depression, the church (at the E. 55th location) became known as a clearinghouse for problems of blacks. Among the services centered in church-owned buildings were the city's first African American troop of GIRL SCOUTS, a day nursery for working mothers, the URBAN LEAGUE OF GREATER CLEVELAND's Street Academy, and Friendly Town. In addition to serving Cleveland's black community, the congregation actively engaged in evangelical and missionary work at home and abroad.
In an effort to economically empower the African-American community in Cleveland, Mt. Zion Congregational launched the Christian Business League (CBL) to promote minority business development and collaboration among black entrepreneurs in Cleveland. The CBL organized the Minority Business Symposium in partnership with the CLEVELAND STATE UNIVERSITY James J. Nance College of Business Administration to provide quality entrepreneurial education programs for minority- and female-owned businesses in Greater Cleveland. Mt. Zion also launched the Jobs Partnership of Cleveland Training Program in cooperation with the Word Church. This 10-week faith-based career development and job readiness program brought churches and businesses together to provide mentoring, training, and employment for the city's unemployed and underemployed. Over the years, Mt. Zion worked closely with the Louis Stokes VA Medical Center to honor and empower veterans, sponsoring the Community Salute to Veterans Festival and Rib Burn-Off and visiting hospitalized veterans during the "The Day at the VA." The Women's Fellowship of Mt. Zion annually hosted "Women in Jazz" concert and "Women's Day" featuring a guest speaker. During Black History Month, the congregation presented its annual Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration and Soul Food Dinner prepared and served by the Mt. Zion Youth In Action Ministry (YIAM). Every month, Mt. Zion held a free community meal in collaboration with InterAct Cleveland. As of 2009, Rev. Paul H. Sadler, Jr. served as the pastor of the congregation.
Mt. Zion Congregational Church. Centennial Observance, 1864-1964 (WRHS).
Mt. Zion Congregational Church. 115th Church Anniversary, 1864-1979 (WRHS).
Mt. Zion Congregational United Church of Christ. 130th Anniversary, 1864-1994.