The Zion Baptist Church was organized in the 1896 under a cherry tree at its present location, by a group of 13 baptized Christians who had migrated to Newport News from other areas of Virginia and the Carolinas and who had not affiliated with any local congregation. In 1896, when the City of Newport News was in its infancy, a section of town now known as the East End was better known as “Blood Field” for its street violence. There were houses of prostitution, bars, dance halls, a saloon on every corner, and gambling was a way of life. It was after several meetings from house-to-house that the thirteen Christians concluded that there was a need for some type of religious worship in the immediate area. The first pastor called to lead the group was Rev. Moses Tynes and in 1897, the first tiny structure was built under his leadership. Most of the materials were donated by whites in the community and the labor was donated by men in the community.
In 1899, under the leadership of Rev. C.J. Crudup, the sanctuary was destroyed by fire. But despite this setback, along with other difficulties, the congregation continued to grow. Rev. C. E. Jones was called to assume the responsibility of leadership in 1901 and for eleven years, Zion experienced tremendous growth, encouraging men and women to turn to Christ. Both Rev. and Mrs. Jones were actively involved in the work of the National Baptist Convention and the Lott Carey Foreign Mission Convention. In 1941, Rev. Jones’ pastorate ended as a result of a car accident after 39 years of leadership to the congregation. Rev. Joseph B. Reid became his successor and served the church for fourteen years.
In 1955, Rev. S. S. Sutton became Pastor of the church and three weeks after his arrival as Pastor, he became ill and remained incapacitated for approximately 18 months. The Lord blessed him to regain his strength and he returned to the pulpit with a new determination to move forward. In 1959, ground was broken for the present Educational Building, which was completed in 1962. On July 2, 1965, the Lord called Rev. Sutton home.
God continued to bless Zion with powerful leaders and messengers. In 1966, our leader at that time, Dr. L. T. Daye, Sr., assumed the pastorate with a vision to execute a socially holistic ministry that would touch every area of community life. He immediately led the congregation into a reorganization process, centralizing every area of the church’s program in order that outreach ministries might be established. Under Dr. Daye’s leadership, the Church orchestrated and successfully operated a full service Child Care and Learning Center that cared for 180 Children. Additionally there was a Free Food distribution service offered to Senior Citizens and a Free Lunch Program that fed over 1,000 children daily for 6 Summers. Zion secured a Federal Grant that offered the ability to provide a Summer Day Camp Program in the community. Zion was the First black Baptist Church to open and fully operate a Senior Assistant Living Facility that housed 27 patients and offered 24 hour care.
At a time when the Community needed refocus, Dr. L.T. Daye, Sr had a vision to implement a Community Assistance Program that offered GED classes; as well as classes in Nurses’ Aide Training, Typing, Shorthand, Drafting, Tailoring, and Upholstery. During this time, Zion employed over 30 people in staff members. As Zion Baptist grew in its ministry, a one hour weekly radio ministry was maintained, and a new sanctuary was built to include additional classrooms, and playground area.
Rev. Dr. Daye, Sr. created an operation that got to be a bit much to handle, so he called his son who was then residing in Chicago, Illinois and asked him to consider coming on board to assist. In 1994, Dr. Daye, Jr. joined the team as Co-Pastor to help continue the legacy that had been established by his father and to introduce new ministries. Under his leadership several outreach ministries were introduced; Computer Ministry, Singles Ministry, Couples Ministry, Tutorial Ministry. Unfortunately, the MLK Auditorium (formerly the sanctuary built in 1907) was destroyed by fire in October, 1997, and the Zion Congregation was deeply saddened.
In 2006, Rev. Dr. L.T. Daye Sr retired and Rev. Dr. L.T. Daye, Jr assumed the Pastorate. Dr.. Daye Jr, began his role as Senior Pastor with a myriad of different ideas and innovative ministry endeavors that strengthened the membership of Zion. He preached powerful messages and shared his vision for a greater and stronger Zion. However, in November 2007, Dr. Daye Jr answered the ultimate call of God to rest. And Zion was yet again saddened, as they mourned the death of their pastor.
In February 2009, the congregation of Zion welcomed a new leader in the person of Rev. Dr. Tremayne M. Johnson. Pastor Johnson hails from the state of North Carolina. Upon Pastor Johnson’s arrival, Zion was on tip toe anticipation as they would welcome a new Pastor and began a new era. Johnson arrived to Zion with his wife, Rev. LaTysha N. Johnson and their two daughters Taylor and TaKayla. This was the first time in Zion’s history that they would welcome a Licensed and Ordained Minister as the First Lady. Since Pastor Johnson’s time at Zion, the church has taken on a neoteric and different direction. The church has made a commitment to “Make Every Effort to be the Church Where God Dwells among His People.” Under the leadership of Pastor Johnson, the church has recorded its first ever television commercial and has implemented a Children’s Church Ministry, entitled, Transformation Generation.
Zion has witnessed growth in both discipleship and membership. To aid in the healthy growth of Zion, Pastor Johnson began to personally teach New Members’ Class. Additionally Johnson introduced a new Welcome Song sung each Sunday to Welcome first time guests to the Zion Worship experience. The Church has become revived in Worship and invigorated with Praise to Our God. To continue Zion’s long history as a viable resource to the community, under Pastor Johnson’s leadership, the church has begun a Clothes Closet; where people are standing in line every Tuesday waiting for its opening time, and a weekly Bread Ministry, which provides bread to the hungry and the less fortunate. To continue Zion’s long history of Community Service, Pastor Johnson has also implemented, “The Season of Giving.” A time in November-December in which hundreds of families are given food for Thanksgiving and also gifts for Christmas.
Pastor Johnson believes in holistic ministry and has begun several new ministries since becoming the Pastor of Zion. Some of those ministries are: Bereavement Repass Ministry, Drama, Evangelism, Kingdom Business, Outreach, Media, and Pastoral Care. In an effort to advance the continued growth and development of ministries, Pastor Johnson created the Coordinator of Church Ministries administrative position. This endeavor has allowed ministries in Zion to stretch to reach the highest level of effectiveness.
In 2016, the church sanctuary was completely renovated with a new state of art Sound System, new and innovated media equipment with HD cameras and several Media Screens and enhanced visual equipment throughout the church’s campus. It was also a Vision of Pastor Johnson to remodel a Welcome Center; a place in which first time visitors would experience hospitality Z-style. There are so many other ministry endeavors in which Zion has become involved since the arrival of Pastor Johnson, but as a body of believers along with our Pastor, we believe the Best is yet to come. The spirit of the original 13 saints is still present with us today and God still has much more work for Zion to do in the East End.