New Zion invites community to celebrate its 150th anniversary

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  • A photograph of the New Zion Missionary Baptist Church building that was replaced in 1907 after a fire. The church was established in 1870 and will celebrate its 150th anniversary next weekend. SUBMITTED
    A photograph of the New Zion Missionary Baptist Church building that was replaced in 1907 after a fire. The church was established in 1870 and will celebrate its 150th anniversary next weekend. SUBMITTED
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New Zion Missionary Baptist Church is one of the oldest churches on Amelia Island. New Zion was established in 1870 under the leadership of Reverend Lewis Cook, a pioneer of the Gospel, with 69 followers. These 69 Christians, ably supported by Father Cook, as he was sometimes called, erected the first original wood church at the corner of 10th Street and Atlantic Avenue in the historic district of downtown Fernandina Beach. It is the second-oldest African American church on Amelia Island.

The original wood structure built in the 1800s was destroyed by fire in February 1907. By November 1907, the current structure of gray cement brick veneer was rebuilt on the same site under the skilled supervision of a well-known local, talented African-American boat and ship builder William “Billy” Rivers.

The new church pretty much resembles the original structure.

The interior of the church resembles an upside-down ship as designed by Rivers and a cathedral-style auditorium.

New Zion is a gray cement brick veneer sanctuary. The corner belfry features four sets of double doors. The hardwood floor inside was built with a gradual theatrical incline toward the rostrum. Stairs lead to a spacious upstairs balcony.

The chief ornamentation of this historic landmark is its stained glass Queen Anne windows and interior woodwork.

New Zion has always had the largest auditorium and seating capacity in Fernandina. Through the years, it has been used by local citizens and various groups for community activities. Peck High School graduations were held in New Zion until the Peck gym was built in 1957. It is still used today in the same way for MLK Jr. commemorative services and other outreach ministries.

There have been many accomplishments in this historic church under the leadership of 22 pastors up to 2020. Standing tall as a beacon light, New Zion continues to sit at the corner of South 10th Street and Atlantic Avenue under the leadership of Pastor Reverend Jeremiah Robinson Jr. since his Dec. 7, 1997 installation services were held.

Pastor Robinson and Sister Cynthia Robinson and their family have been a blessing to the New Zion family.

In 2020, New Zion began celebrating its 150th year of ministry in February and March. A proclamation has been provided by the city of Fernandina Beach in recognition of New Zion’s 150 years of ministry.

Sunday, Sept. 20, will begin with Sunday school at 9:30 a.m. The main worship event will be at 11 a.m.

Everyone is invited to come and be a part of this celebration. Social distancing will be strictly followed and masks are required.

More history about New Zion Missionary Baptist Church can be found in PECK HIGH SCHOOL – Golden Years Remembered. To purchase a copy, check with local bookstores, online at https://www.girodimondo.com/online, or email annettemmyers2170@gmail.com.