Perched on top of a hill just four miles north of the city of Columbia, South Carolina, sits a stately old church – Zion Chapel Baptist Church No. 1. It was founded in 1865 shortly after the Civil War. Four men, Reverend Joe Taylor, Brothers Walter Titer, Ned Crosber and William Johnson left the Sandy Level Church located in Blythewood, SC and under a brush arbor elected Reverend Joe Taylor as the first pastor of Zion Chapel. A log structure was built some time later to accommodate the church members.
It is not known through whose generosity the land upon which the church was established was provided, today, 150 years later, the gift is still giving. Early history reveals that because the land is located near a creek named Crane Creek, members, along with community members, often referred to Zion Chapel Baptist Church as “Crane Creek”. In addition, research of earlier death certificates reveals that burial references were made to “Crane Creek Cemetery” and “Crane Creek Church”. During the early history, it was in the Crane Creek where Zion Chapel baptized its members.
The number 1 was added to Zion Chapel Baptist Church’s name years after it was founded to distinguish itself from another church that is located in the southern part of Richland County as it, too, was named Zion Chapel.
Reverend Joe Taylor, Zion Chapel’s first pastor, ministered to his 290 members for twenty-nine years. After Reverend Joe Taylor’s death in June 1895, the members elected Reverend Jim Taylor as pastor. Following Reverend Jim Taylor’s eleven years of ministering Zion Chapel, Reverend C. P. Benjamin was elected pastor and served until his death in 1907.
MCNEAL ERA: 1907-1921
For the next fifteen years, Reverend T. H. McNeal of Ridgeway, South Carolina led Zion Chapel. He accomplished the following:
- Increased Zion Chapel’s membership and finances
- Secured the deed in 1912
- Demolished the original Church’s log structure and built a wood frame one
SMITH ERA: 1922-1947
A wood frame church with wooden benches for seating and outdoor restrooms, along with a pot belly stove with piping gracing its ceiling and wall, all welcomed Reverend Nathan Smith of Ridgeway, South Carolina as he became Zion Chapel’s fifth pastor. He accomplished the following:
- Transformed the Church’s white wood frame to a brick-veneered building (in 1941)
- Constructed an indoor baptismal pool
BAILEY ERA: 1948 – 1962
During his fourteen years of service, Reverend Arthur B. Bailey, the Church’s sixth pastor, continued to increase membership and improvements to Zion Chapel. He accomplished the following:
- Built an educational facility
- Increased the Church’s Membership
MUNGIN ERA: FEBRUARY 17, 1963 – 1963
During the very short leadership of the Church’s seventh pastor, Reverend John W. Mungin approved the suggestion that worship services at Zion Chapel be held every Sunday.
GROVE ERA: 1964-1989
Dr. Andrew J. Grove’s arrival on July 3, 1964 inspired many projects for the physical appearance of the Church during his twenty-five years of service. He accomplished the following:
- Ensured the Church became a station church (every Sunday church)
- Updated the Church’s windows
- Remodeled the educational facility which included a nursery
- Added the beautiful facade, which now graces the front entrance of Zion Chapel
SCOTT ERA: 1989 – 1990
While the search was continuing for a permanent Pastor, the Church called Reverend Louis Adam Scott, Jr. to be its interim pastor. He accomplished the following:
- Held Zion Chapel together on one accord
- Guided the Church toward the selection of a permanent pastor
- Served as Assistant Pastor to Dr. Andrew J. Chishom from 1990 to early 1993
CHISHOM ERA: 1990 – 2003
In May 1990, the search ended with the election of Zion Chapel’s ninth pastor, Dr. Andrew J. Chishom. During his thirteen years of service, he accomplished the following:
- Sponsored programs such as the Back-to-School Flings, the Harvest Festivals, and the Family and Friends Day
- Graced the community and church grounds with a park – The Gantt-Taylor Park
- Renovated both the men’s restroom facility and the Pastor’s study
After Dr. Chishom’s departure, the church was blessed to have numerous ministers maintain Sunday services until the election of a permanent pastor.
WELLS ERA: 2005 – 2008
In 2005, Zion Chapel welcomed its tenth pastor, Reverend Carl R. Wells. He accomplished the following:
- Guided the Church towards purchasing over forty-four acres of land
- Inspired the youth musically and brought out many of their talents
- Re-circulated the newsletter
WASHINGTON ERA 2009 – PRESENT
Reverend Jesse Washington, Jr. came to Zion Chapel as the eleventh pastor on October 9, 2009. He accomplished the following:
- Initiated quarterly rap sessions with the youth
- Re-established the Adult and Youth Praise Teams
- Began the Morning Praise Worship Team
- Negotiated the sale of the Gantt-Taylor Park, which was purchased by Richland County and is now being used by the community
He continues to enhance the members’ joy, faith, and hope with a new sense of pride. As he leads Zion Chapel, Reverend Washington is guided by his favorite scripture, which is Isaiah 6:8, and it states: “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, here am I; send me!”