On March 17, 1931 the Missionary Bible Class met at the home of Reverend Arthur James Spence and Sister Lucy Spence, 2225 Fitzwater Street along with Deacon Willie Nesbitt, Deacon Moses Butler, Deacon H. C. Campbell, Sister Lucy Spence, Sister Sallie Branch, and Reverend Arthur James Spence. They decided to turn the Bible Class into a church. It was motioned and seconded that Reverend Arthur James Spence serve as Pastor; Deacon Moses Butler as Chairman of the Board of Deacons; Deacon Willie Nesbitt as Treasurer; and Deacon Campbell as acting Secretary.
The Missionary Bible Class was renamed the Zion Hill Baptist Church of Philadelphia after Reverend Spence’s home church in Virginia. The Church moved from the home of Reverend Spence to its first place of worship located at 2201 Montrose Street. Zion Hill began to flourish and by the end of the first year sixty members were added.
After two years of worshipping on Montrose Street, Zion Hill moved to new quarters over a garage at 2231 Carpenter Street. The building was a loft with a stable underneath. The first floor stable was turned into a garage and rented for $3.50 per month, $1.00 per week. While at this location for the price of $250.00 the Church applied for and received its charter on May 5, 1937. After an extensive period of renovation and remodeling the church was able to move from the loft and worship utilizing most of the building. In June 1938, the properties on Carpenter Street were purchased for $5,300.00.
From 1944 to 1955, Zion Hill purchased the adjoining homes at 2229 and 2233 Carpenter Street, in addition to the parsonage at 918 South 24th Street. Worship services at this location continued for twenty-four years.
In November 1955, the Church purchased the Walnut Street Presbyterian Church at 3925 Walnut Street for $90,000. On the second Sunday in March of 1956, Zion Hill moved to this new location and resumed its worship services. As years passed, the membership desired to become mortgage free. By faith and the collective and relentless efforts of the Pastor, Trustees, Deacons and Members the mortgage was burned on December 19, 1965. Zion Hill was blessed to worship at the Walnut Street location for fourteen years.
Pastor Spence appointed a committee to inquire about purchasing what appeared to be an underutilized Presbyterian Church located on the corner of 53rd and Spruce Streets. On April 13, 1969, this property was purchased in cash for $275,000 and dedicated as Zion Hill’s new place of worship where it remains today.
Zion Hill was blessed to have the founder, Reverend Arthur James Spence, serve as pastor and shepherd from 1931 until God called him home on October 9, 1971. He was a dedicated servant of the Lord for forty years tending to the sheep and giving his all to further the kingdom of God.
Reverend Grander Lee Smith became the second pastor of Zion Hill Baptist Church in May 1973. Under his leadership the church grew. Additionally, an air conditioner system was installed and a mini bus acquired. Reverend Smith served as pastor for six years.
On July 29, 1979, there was a major fire in the building. Restoration began on January 26, 1981. During the restoration period, services were held at the Parkside Community YMCA, 46th and Haverford Avenue and at Mrs. Ouida Burton’s Day Care facilities. On Sunday, November 15, 1981, restoration was completed and the church was rededicated to the Glory of God.
In May 1982, Reverend William B. Shorter was installed as the third pastor of Zion Hill. For two years, Reverend Shorter blessed the congregation with his teachings. On June 17, 1984, Reverend Larry L Marcus was installed as the fourth pastor and served for ten years. Under his leadership hundreds of members were added to the church. He established the men and women fellowships and developed a tutorial program for the church and community.
On December 14, 1997 Reverend Melvin McAllister was installed as the fifth pastor of Zion Hill Baptist church. During his one year pastorate, Reverend McAllister instituted a Flower Guild, Hospitality Ministry, Missionaries, Youth Fellowship, Pastor’s Advisory Council, and Young Adult Choir. Attendance to Tuesday Prayer Services and Bible Study was significantly increased under his watch.
On May 23, 1999, Reverend Reginald C. Johnson was installed as the sixth pastor of Zion Hill Baptist Church. In March 2003, Reverend Johnson started the Tuesday Noon Day Service for the church and community. Reverend Johnson initiated major renovations to the church. In February 2003, the men’s and women’s restrooms were completely renovated. Reverend Johnson served as pastor for twelve years.
On September 18, 2013, the church selected its current pastor, Reverend Quincy C Hobbs, Jr. On November 24, 2013, Reverend Hobbs was installed as the seventh pastor of Zion Hill Baptist Church. God sent Zion Hill a humble pastor who loves the Lord and teaching His Word. Since his arrival, Zion Hill has seen the revitalization of several ministries and the establishment of others [the Youth Praise Dance Ministry, the Children Youth & Teens Church (CYT)/Grounded 4 Life Ministry, The S.W.A.G. (Spiritual Women Abiding In God) Women’s Ministry led by our own First Lady, Arnetta Hobbs, and the Men’s Ministry (Zion Hill Men Living For Christ) and the Follow-up Ministry]. There are other on-going initiatives such as the monthly Beautification Day, Right Now Media Ministry and Walking Deacons that are enhancing the church’s worship experiences and the congregation’s spiritual growth.