Little Mt. Zion fills a void

Published 11:57 pm Friday, December 4, 2009

After going three years without a full-time pastor, Little Mount Zion Baptist Church will install the Rev. Roland Brown Jr. as its pastor this weekend.

“This church now has the opportunity to broaden its horizons, reach out to the whole city of Suffolk, and reach the lost for Christ,” Brown said, seated in the church sanctuary on Friday. “We can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

The church is expecting more than 400 people to attend Brown’s installation services on Sunday. The Rev. Joshua Slack Sr. will preach at 11:30 a.m., and the Rev. Mark Croston Sr. will preach at 3 p.m. In between the services, members and guests will have a dinner celebration at Mount Zion Elementary School, adjacent to the church property on Pruden Boulevard.

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Brown, a native of Chesapeake, accepted Christ as his savior at the age of 6, and took to the ministry almost immediately. His pastor at New Willow Grove Baptist Church deliberately provided opportunities for the young people in the church to be mentored by a member of the administration, so Brown knew early on that he wanted to be a pastor.

At only 10 years old, he became chairman of the Junior Deacon Board at the church, and in his late teenage years became president of the Junior Missionary section of the Sharon Missionary Baptist Association.

At the age of 26, Brown became the clerk and deacon at New Life Baptist Church in Chesapeake. Three years later, he was elected chairman of the deacon board there.

He moved on in 1989 to be pastor of Little Zion Baptist Church in Chesapeake, serving for five years there. He then helped a pastor friend plant a new church, Manna Ministry Baptist Church in Chesapeake, leaving there in 2002.

During the past few years, Brown served in temporary capacities at Little Mount Zion and at River Shore Church in Portsmouth, while also serving as minister of finance and associate pastor of adults at East End Baptist Church, where Croston is senior pastor. He also is a member of the Portsmouth Baptist Association, in charge of bringing new members into the organization.

On Aug. 26, Brown was unanimously elected as the new senior pastor at Little Mount Zion. The church had previously rejected five candidates it did not find suitable, Brown said.

Brown has five specific goals for the church, which recently celebrated its 130th anniversary in the original sanctuary. Having been without a pastor for three years, the membership rolls are down to about 65 people, Brown said.

“In the coming years I see our church expanding in membership through faith (and) evangelism,” Brown said.

The second goal, which naturally follows the successful completion of the first, is expansion of the building, Brown said.

“I want to expand the walls to increase the size and capacity of the building,” Brown said.

The third and fourth goals depend upon the actions of an outside party — the Suffolk School Board. If the board closes Mount Zion Elementary School in the next few years, as has been recommended by a capital improvements plan committee, Brown would like to purchase the property and use the building for a child care center, Christian school and workforce education program, he said.

“I want to reach out to the greater Suffolk community to be a beacon of light for those who are hopeless, in pain and oppression and without skills,” Brown said. “I want to give them the opportunity to fulfill their dreams, their aspirations and their vision and give them a greater hope for tomorrow.”

Brown hopes to provide employment programs that will supplement the efforts of the nearby Pruden Center.

“I want to help secure employment for them, meaningful employment they can make a livelihood from,” Brown said.

Finally, Brown’s fifth goal is to build a new sanctuary.

“It’s a small church, but we’ve got great plans for the future,” he said.