Church History

Pennsylvania Avenue African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church
Baltimore, Maryland
Rev. Dr. Lester A. McCorn, Senior Pastor

In 1844, Rev. Jacob M. Moore, a local preacher in the Methodist Episcopal Church and several others established Zion’s first society. They first met May 31, 1841 and a few months later on January 8, 1842 the church was incorporated as the First Colored Independent Wesleyan Methodist Society of the city of Baltimore. In 1844 Rev. Moore was ordained as the church was accepted in membership at the first meeting of Philadelphia convention of the A.M.E. Zion Church, in which Baltimore was included. In the ensuing years, our membership grew to nearly 600 parishioners by 1846.

One of the pastors, Rev. Mark M. Bell, the first secretary of the Foreign Mission Board of the A.M.E. Zion Church, served as minister on two historic occasions 1869-1877 and 1897-1904. Under the pastorate of Rev. B.J. Bolding in 1904, our first building on Pennsylvania Avenue was purchased at a cost of $16,000. The Rev. George Marion Edwards was assigned to the Church in May, 1931 and served until September 1959 when he died. It was during the ministry of Rev. Edwards that the church celebrated its 100th Anniversary. On October 4, 1959, Rev. Clinton Reuben Coleman was assigned as the pastor. He had the vision and led the church in purchasing the land for a new church building. He was elected as a bishop in the A.M.E. Zion Church in 1972.

Rev. Marshall Haywood Strickland was assigned to fulfill the vision of building a new edifice. He assumed the pulpit of the old church on 1125 Pennsylvania Avenue in July 1972. In 1975 he led a ground breaking ceremony on the Southwest corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Dolphin Street. On April 10, 1977, Dr. Strickland led the march, along with Bishops Coleman and Charles H. Foggie, to the new edifice. The church flourished under Pastor Strickland’s leadership for twenty years. The Zion Towers senior residences were erected in the former church location. The mortgage on the new building was burned ahead of schedule on May 15, 1988. In 1992, Marshall Strickland was elected a bishop.

In September of 1992, Rev. Dr. Dennis Vernon Proctor was appointed as the pastor of the historic Pennsylvania Avenue A.M.E. Zion Church. Dr. Proctor’s vision and leadership helped to increase the membership to over 1,800. During his tenure, the church was remodeled, additional property was acquired, full-time administrative and ministerial staff were employed, and a non-profit corporation, Zion Development Corporation was established. On July 16, 2008, Dr. Proctor was elevated to the office of bishop, the 97th Bishop in succession in the history of the A.M.E. Zion Church.

On September 7, 2008, Bishop Warren Matthew Brown appointed the Reverend Lester A. McCorn as the new pastor of Penn Ave Church. Under Pastor McCorn’s leadership, Zion has recommitted herself as a “Kingdom-Focused Church, making disciples, maturing believers and multiplying ministries,” adding nearly 300 new members. The Church has revitalized the Zion Development Corporation and established the Zion M.A.D.E. Institute, an accredited educational program which grants bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees. New ministries have been added, including the Stephen Ministry of congregational care, and the social justice and political activism ministry. Plans have been made to build the Zion Family Life and Wellness Center to serve the needs of children and families in the Upton neighborhood.

In October of 2015, Penn Ave Church kicked off its 175th Church Anniversary. Significant funds were raised to make capital improvements to the building. The church has celebrated its grand past and captured a vision for a glorious future.