The Zion Baptist Church of Ambler, Pennsylvania had its inception in mid-August, 1895, in the form of a prayer group which met each Sunday evening in the home of one of the group’s members. When these Christians saw the need of forming an organization of believers, God inspired Benjamin Knox to lead the group and subsequently became the first treasurer. They sought the assistance of Rev. Mr. Horace Wayland, pastor of the Zion Baptist Church on 13th and Wallace Streets, Philadelphia, Pa. After visiting one of their meetings, the Rev. Mr. Wayland was impressed with their sincerity and advised them to organize and secure a building in an effort to increase attendance. This advice and encouragement inspired the group and one year later, under the leadership of the Rev. Mr. Price D. Chandler, a building lot was purchased on Madison Avenue Ambler Pa. However, due to insurmountable difficulties, they decided to abandon the site. Although this move proved a financial loss, the building lot was sold and a meeting hall was purchased on North Street. Worship services were held in this building for 11 years.
The Rev. Mr. Chandler served as the pastor of Zion Baptist Church from 1886 to 1887. Succeeding pastors were the Rev. Mr. J.C. Washington, 1898; the Rev. Mr. Smith, 1899; the Rev. Misters John Boone, H. Washington, and F.D. Hawkins, 1900 to 1901; the Rev. Mr. Anthony Lane, 1901 to 1904; the Rev. Mr. F.T. Rawlett, 1904 to 1907; the Rev. Mr. Samuel West, 1907 to 1911; the Rev. Mr. F.C. Holden, 1916 to 1960; the Rev. Mr. T.E. Parker, 1961 to 1980; and the Rev. Mr. Gerald L. Chapman, Sr. 1982 to 2014.
During the pastorate of the Rev. Mr. Anthony Lane, 1901 to 1904, the Church was recognized as an independent Baptist Church and received its charter. In 1908, during the tenure of the Rev. Mr. Samuel West, the meeting hall was destroyed by fire. The congregation then purchased another building lot on Woodland Avenue where they erected a Church.
In 1916, the Rev. Mr. F.H. Holden of Westmoreland County, Virginia, became pastor. Because the construction of the Church was poor, it was considered unsafe for public meetings. The decision was made that it would be more economical to purchase yet another building lot and construct a new Church, rather than make the required alterations to their present building. In 1922, $800.00 was paid for a building site on North Street and the present edifice erected at a cost of $45,000.00. The cornerstone was laid on October 25, 1925, and mortgage payments completed on November 19, 1945. When the property adjacent to the church became available at 12 North Street, it was purchased and subsequently rented.
After the Rev. Mr. Holden retired in 1960, the Rev. Mr. Thomas E. Parker, Jr., formerly of the First Baptist Church of North Carolina, became pastor on February 1, 1961. During the pastorate of the Rev. Mr. Parker, the interior of the main auditorium, lounges, and kitchen were improved and the exterior of the Church was refurbished. A house with adjoining grounds to the Church, located at 24 North Street, was purchased in 1976 and rented out. The Ila B. Coles Education Fund was established to aid aspiring young people in obtaining a college degree. Each year contributions to both foreign and domestic missions increased.
On February 10, 1980 Zion accepted the resignation of the Rev. Mr. Parker. For two years Zion functioned without a pastor. Membership continued to grow and the building fund increased. In addition, the Church purchased a van to transport the youth and seniors of the Church. The Search Committee proceeded in its task of accepting God’s designation of the new spiritual leader of the Church.
The Rev. Mr. Gerald L. Chapman, Sr., a native of Homestead, Pennsylvania, began his tenure as the 14th pastor of the Zion Baptist Church on March 2, 1982, and was officially installed on May 16, 1982. A graduate of the White Mountain Seminary in Lancaster, New Hampshire, the Rev. Mr. Chapman pastured the Saint John Baptist Church of Wilmerding, Pennsylvania and the South Hills Baptist Church of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, prior to his being directed by the Holy Spirit to the pulpit of the Zion Baptist Church.
Under the Leadership of the Rev. Mr. Chapman, the church has seen considerable growth. The property at 24 North Street, now serving as the parsonage, was completely remodeled. The interior and exterior of 12 North Street were renovated. Church improvements included a new public address system, new carpeting in the sanctuary and fellowship hall, and a business office for the secretary. The bus ministry has helped to increase the membership in Sunday school and worship service, and because of this success, the church has purchased another van. The building and adjacent property at 36 North Street was purchased in 1993.
In addition the Church in 1996 underwent a 1.4 Million dollar expansion project that added an overflow section to the existing sanctuary; new baptism pool, elevator, new parking lot, six classrooms, and six restrooms, the fellowship halls dedicated to former Pastors Holden and Parker received a modern kitchen, one Board Room, Church office and Pastor Study.
Zion has had eight church clerks: Mr. James Craig, Sr., Mrs. Addie Wood Brown, Mr. R.F. Thompson, Mr. J.W. Foster, Mrs. Rebecca Gaskins, Mrs. Esther Coles, Mrs. Mattie N. Dixon, and Mrs. Alice Johnson. Zion had six secretaries: Mrs. Monica Robinson, Mrs. Vickie Hodo, Mrs. Ginger Askew, Mrs. Valerie Stilley, Mrs. Gwen Forbes, and Mrs. Kathleen Dolbery.
The treasurers have been Mr. Benjamin Knox, Mr. R.F. Thompson, Mr. James Gaskins, Sr., Mr. Joseph Warfield, Mr. Samuel Ayres, Mr. Rhodes Dixon, Mr. William B. Smith, Mr. Howard Mahoney, Mr. John T. Dean, Mrs. Daisy Smithey, Mr. Joseph Palin, and Mr. Paul R. Black and Mr. Anthony Walker.
The current Deacons are Deacon Larry Cottom, Deacon Edward Davis, Deacon Robert Epps, Deacon Harvey Johnson, Deacon Isaiah McCutchin, Deacon Sherman Moore, Deacon Walter Pugh, Deacon Anthony Ryales, Deacon Jerome Spencer, Deacon William Stout, and Deacon Alvin Vereen.