BRIEF HISTORY OF MT HOPE A.M.E. ZION CHURCH
Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build it; except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.
Our history begins before the late 1890’s when Mt Hope’s worship services were held in a two room house on the property adjacent to where it now stands.
From early records it is believed that this property for the church and parsonage was donated by one of our founding members, Sis. Susan Whitney. This particular lot was owned by the family of Alexander Moreau, according to the Somerset County deeds, and was sold for $65.00. So thus, the church was finally organized on June 13, 1897 with the Rev. Samuel Bailey as its first appointed pastor.
About Nov. 10, 1897 the property was officially deeded to the trustees of Mt. Hope. The deed stated “In trust that the said premises shall be used, kept, maintained, and disposed of as a place of Divine worship for the use of the ministry and membership of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church of America, subject to the discipline, usage of ministerial appointments of the said church, as from time to time, authorized and declared by the General Conference of the said church, and the Annual Conference in whose bounds the said premises are situated.
Today we are happy to be a part of this organized group of believers. Over the past 116 years, 32 pastors have been sent to lead this flock. Together we have weathered many storms and rough roads. We pause to salute the pioneers and others, such as the late Mazie T. Handy who worked tirelessly to compile this first written history of Mt. Hope. These members put God first serving without financial gain and were able to hold on, carry on, and push forward. Mt. Hope has come from candle lights to electric lights, from potbellied stoves to central heating and air conditioning, from outside toilets to inside restrooms. The trustees were the church carpenters, led by Bro. Thomas Johnson, who is now the oldest living member of Mt. Hope. His God-given talent and skill of carpentry gave us a vestibule and steeple, south wing addition and the church hall and bathroom.
We’ve come through times when William McKinley was president and slavery had just ended about 32 years prior. Segregation was in full force. We’ve never known how the name Mt. Hope was chosen but from the beginning we’ve always known that, Faith is the substance of things hoped for. We emphasize the word hoped for_ we hoped for a place to worship when we could not see how it would ever be_ but this church is evidence of our faith. With God we’ve made strides, physically and spiritually. At the high point of Mt Hope during the 90’s, Mt. Hope’s congregation numbered more than 200. Today we still claim as the Rev. Michael C. Ardrey proclaimed, that the Holy Ghost has chosen Mt. Hope to be a filled church, filled with people; filled with the Holy Ghost.
Above all, we are thankful for the Master Builder who still labors beside us. He makes all things possible. He provides strength, vision, and meaning to all that we do. For except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build it.