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Mount Zion United Methodist Church - National Fund For Sacred Places
2021 Cohort

Mount Zion United Methodist Church

Washington, D.C.

Mount Zion United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C., serves as a “beacon of African American culture, history, and advocacy in this nation’s capital.”

Mount Zion United Methodist Church by AgnosticPreachersKid, CC BY-SA 3.0 

Mount Zion United Methodist Church by AgnosticPreachersKid, CC BY-SA 3.0 

2021 Cohort

Mount Zion United Methodist Church

Washington, D.C.

Mount Zion United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C., serves as a “beacon of African American culture, history, and advocacy in this nation’s capital.”

Free and enslaved Black parishioners founded the congregation in Georgetown in 1816 following decades of discrimination within the Methodist church. The church campus embodies excellence in Black architecture. The original church burned down in 1880, but Black artisans and clergy erected a Gothic Revival-style church in 1884. John Anderson Lankford, the founder of Washington, D.C.’s first African American architectural firm, designed a brick addition to the church in 1887. The Mt. Zion Heritage Center, built by skilled Black laborers in 1811 and purchased as a community house for the church in 1920, is the only surviving English medieval-style cottage in the capital. The church’s parsonage, where the first Black female UMC bishop was born, was designed by Black architect Calvin Thomas Stowe Brent. Mt. Zion served as a station on the Underground Railroad, and the congregation was influential in resisting the “back to Africa” movement, decrying Georgetown’s gentrification, and organizing schools. 

The Mt. Zion UMC congregation remains an active participant in community programming and activism. Along with six other churches, it runs the all-volunteer Georgetown Saturday Supper program, which serves meals to guests experiencing housing insecurity. The church also holds choir concerts, history tours, and carnivals that welcome all community members. Mt. Zion Cemetery served as the location of a National Trust HOPE Crew project in 2021, allowing a new generation of preservationists to gain hands-on experience through identifying missing graves with modern technology.

Through a National Fund grant of $100,000 and an equal amount in matching funds raised by the congregation, Mt. Zion will expand its physical capacity by upgrading spaces to be safer, more energy efficient, and more welcoming for community use. Work will include floor refurbishment and weatherproofing upgrades.

HOPE Crew Explores Black Land Lost in DC

In partnership with the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund and with the support of Capital One, students from University of District of Columbia (UDC) and Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) participated in a two-week HOPE (Hands on Preservation Experience) Crew project exploring Black history, D.C. historic landscapes, and historic preservation at Mt. Zion Cemetery.

Mount Zion United Methodist Church by Rev. Selena Johnson

Stories and Media Coverage

Read more about how the National Fund for Sacred Places is helping congregations around the country rehabilitate their sacred places.

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