All About

First Zion Baptist Church

On December 1, 1887, the late Rev. Stevens Bryant with his few, faithful Liberty Street members organized what was known then as the “Tin Top Church”.  It was located on the corners of Liberty and Lafayette Streets.  Succeeding the late Rev. Bryant was the lateRev. Folsum.  He pastored the little flock until the late Rev. Thomas Columbus took over the leadership.  The late Rev. E.B. Fisher was the next called and elected pastor.  The late Rev. Fisher served as pastor of the Tin Top Church for many years.  While under the leadership of Rev. Fisher, the church was demolished and services were held at the home of the late Bro. Bud Peterson on Pine Street.  In 1907, the little church moved into a house church on Edinburgh between Lower-line and Fern Streets.  It was then called the First Zion

Baptist Church.  In 1908, the church moved to Pine Street near Olive Street.  The pastor and his loyal members worked untiring  to raise funds to erect a church.  In 1909, the first church was built on the corner of Broadway and Olive Streets.  It was built on cross ties and it was a small church, the size of one large room.  This edifice was destroyed by fire and a new larger edifice was erected as a result of hard work and many brick rallies.  The storm of September 1915 blew this building down and it was later rebuilt in 1916.  The membership flourished upon the rebuilding of the church; however, it was destroyed by fire in 1922.  Services were then held in the basement of the Danneel School for three months.  During this time First Zion was rebuilt and moved into in April, 1922.  The Trustee and Deacon boards at that time consisted of Brothers Bud Crozet, Andrew Brodley, Paul Stephens, Alfred Molaison, and Charles Quillien.  In November 1934, Rev. D. R. Fisher then in failing health passed from labor to reward.In July 1934, the Rev. David Richard Fisher, who served as acting pastor during his father’s illness, was duly elected by the membership.  He was installed by the First District Baptist Association.  During his administration the church’s debt was paid and the

note was burned.  First Zion had become a beacon light in the community and the membership had grown substantially.  In1951, Rev. N. Norfin and Rev. C. J.Allen assisted Rev. Richard Fisher while in failing health.  When Rev. Fisher was unable to service the congregation, he resigned and recommended the Rev. Dr. Norwood Thompson, Sr. to lead First Zion to higher heights.On the 27th day of August in 1951, Rev. Dr. Norwood Thompson, Sr. was elected by the majority of the membership and was installed under the auspices of the First District Baptist Association under the leadership of the late Rev. Dr. Paul Walker Raphael.  Dr. Thompson faithfully pastored the flock for 32 years.  Under his administration, the current building of First Zion Baptist Church was built.  During Rev. Dr. Thompson’s illness and subsequent death, Rev.Norwood Thompson, Jr. was unanimously elected in April 1983 and served until 1999.

On December 4, 2000, Rev. D. R.Berryhill, Sr. was elected interim pastor and served in this capacity until June 8, 2001, atwhich time he was installed as pastor of the First Zion Baptist Church.  Under the leadership of Pastor Berryhill, the First Zion Family has reached new levels.  The church underwent many physical upgrades.  Pastor Berryhill also implemented many programs to benefit the Gertown community, such as the Harvest House and First Zion Summer Camp.  First Zion was also able to acquire properties located at 3332-34 Broadway Street.  The late Tommy Varnado wasinstrumental in working with Pastor Berryhill to accomplish many of the acquisitions and upgrades.  As a tribute to his memory, Pastor declared the 4th Saturday, Men’s Ministry Day, “The Tommy Varnado “Hour of Power.On August 29, 2005, First Zion was once again destroyed.  The church sustained major damages from the flooding of Hurricane Katrina. Despite the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, Pastor Berryhill remained unwavering in his leadership of the congregation of First Zion.On October 8, 2005, Pastor Berryhill and a few members of the congregation conducted the first worship service in New Orleans after the hurricane.  The church was temporarily relocated to Washington and Tchoupitoulas.  Under the administration of Pastor Berryhill, Ida Mae Berryhill and Ollie Hunter were named the mothers of the church.  God bestowed favor upon theFirst Zion Family by blessing the church with its second location at 2200 Jackson Avenue.  In November 2006, Pastor Berryhill and the First Zion Baptist Church family dedicated this location back to the Lord.The First Zion Baptist Church continues to be a beacon light in the New Orleans community.   We’ve come this far by faith.