By Benjamin Cohn
Weaverville – Church-goers from North Buncombe and Madison Counties gathered at Weaverville’s Little Mount Zion Baptist Church last weekend to mark 73 years of faith and service. Rev. Dr. Louis Grant, pastor, gathered several congregants to share their stories with the Tribune.
Three churches comprise the area’s Fifth Sunday Fellowship Union: Little Mount Zion, New Vision Missionary and Mount Olive Missionary Baptist Church. It is this organization, this fraternity of Baptist Christians from Western North Carolina, whose 73rd birthday was marked last week on June 30.
The current president of the Fifth Sunday Fellowship is Deacon Samuel Harrison, one of the folks kind enough to meet for an interview. He described the nature of the Fifth Sunday Fellowship Union. “That’s where our three churches come together on every fifth Sunday. We have service, morning service, group service and then in the afternoon, at lunchtime, we have a meal. We have a second service in the afternoon. There used to be four churches, but, you know. For several reasons some had to get out.”
Harrison said he’s not satisfied with the currently-low number of Union members. “We’d like to have more,” he said. Another church member who sat down to discuss church business was Sarah Weston Hart, a member of the Union’s scholarship committee. “I’ve lived in Weaverville for 26 years. I came to Weaverville in 1958. This has been the church ever since. I used to go to Mount Olive in Mars Hill, that’s where I belonged because I lived in Mars Hill.”
The Tribune wondered what it was that drew Hart back to Little Mount Zion. “I left for 22 years and I came back. I came back to this church because, I guess, I was so young when I got married and my husband’s grandmother who raised him, she was in this church so much. I followed her around,” she said, describing the woman as her mentor.
Pastor Grant gave his comments on last week’s celebration. “The concert was by the Nazareth First [Missionary] Church choir. They’ve been coming to us now for six years for our church anniversary celebrations. The group is called the Voices of Nazareth. They go around singing and ministering. It was awesome. Sunday, after the dinner and the concert, it was so good that people didn’t want to leave.”
The church ministry provided detailed information on the church’s history and the history of the Fifth Sunday union. From the event program, “The [Fellowship] union was organized on the fourth Sunday in October 1946 in Weaverville. It was originally called the North Buncombe Fellowship Union.
“It was established by the Reverends J.T. Dukes, J.H. Petaway, Brother George Porter, Brother Hugh Barnett, Brother Arthur Jones, Brother Ed Hamilton, Brother Roy Jones, Brother Gaston Ray and Brother E.R. Barnett.
“The union started with two churches, Little Mt. Zion (Weaverville) and Ponders Chapel (Marshall). Later Mt. Olive (Mars Hill) and Welfare (Asheville) joined the union.”
Rev. Grant worries about the state of modern, small-town Baptist churches and likens their perilous situation to that of the family-owned shop attempting to compete with Wal-Mart. He describes small, local churches, especially historically black ones, as starting to vanish entirely.
Little Mount Zion Baptist Church welcomes anyone and everyone to come join in its vibrant congregation. A bit of history about the church itself: it was established more than 100 years ago in 1913. From the program, “Greenwood Construction Company was elected to build the church. The members paid for the church by having entertainments, hot dog roast, fish fries [and] ice cream socials, just to name a few.
“Today Little Mt. Zion has [fewer] members but continues to serve the Lord as if we are great in numbers. We worked together as a church, community and families to raise $10,000 to purchase the Community Center in 2005. We had many fundraisers and donations from friends and family.”
In the words of Rev. Grant, “we had a cut-up time (fun time) on Sunday.” If you’re religious and are looking for a cut-up time, look no further than the charming Little Mount Zion Baptist Church, located near the heart of Weaverville at 21 Hillside Street.