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Singing sensations: Cross 4 Crowns adds to Zion's anniversary

Special Photos. Gospel recording artists Cross 4 Crowns, including, clockwise from bottom center, Justin Terry, Tim Owens, Allen Leath and Bob Jenkins, will perform at Zion Baptist Church on Aug. 20.

Special Photos. Gospel recording artists Cross 4 Crowns, including, clockwise from bottom center, Justin Terry, Tim Owens, Allen Leath and Bob Jenkins, will perform at Zion Baptist Church on Aug. 20.

Zion Baptist Church in Covington is celebrating its 185th year with a concert by the Southern Gospel recording group Cross 4 Crowns at 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 20.

A love offering will be taken for the group, which has performed with The Florida Boys, The Talley Trio, The Hoppers and other top gospel names.

Cross 4 Crowns is working on its fourth recording, and since December 2006, the group has continued to have at least one song in The Singing News National Top 80. Cross 4 Crowns was also nominated for Horizon Group of the Year.

Cross 4 Crowns has been ministering in song since 2003 and includes Tim Owens as the tenor, Justin Terry as bass, Bob Jenkins as baritone and Allen Leath, the group's founder, as baritone. The concert is just part of a special weekend of activities as the historic Baptist church honors the anniversary of its founding in 1826.

"Celebrating God's Harvest: Glancing at the Past -- Focusing on the Future" is the theme for the celebration, which begins with a dinner at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 20, followed by the concert featuring Cross 4 Crowns. A ticket is required for the dinner with prices set at $5 for adults, $3 for children 3 to 10 and free for children under the age of 3.

The celebration continues with Sunday school the following day at 9 a.m. and worship at 10:15 a.m. There will be no evening service on Aug. 21.

"This is a very special time in the life of our church," Zion Worship Pastor Wayne Rickard said. "We are very grateful to God for all the blessings He has given ... Our pastor, Rev. Mike Galdamez will be preaching on reaffirming our foundation -- Jesus Christ our Lord.

"Since Brother Mike has been here, which is a little over two and a half years, we have seen over 100 people join our church. I believe it's because he is emphasizing this theme. Our foundation as a church has to be built on Jesus and Jesus alone."

Rickard said during Sunday morning's worship service, in addition to the special music and preaching by Galdamez, the church will hear from some of its oldest members as they share their fondest memories of Zion.

Galdamez, the senior pastor of the church, is a graduate of Columbia Bible College in South Carolina. He received his master of divinity degree from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., in 2004. He was ordained into the ministry in 2001 at Grace Baptist Church in Tahlequah, Okla., and is now working on his dissertation to complete his Ph.D. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

A native of Kansas City, Mo., the pastor and his wife Amy are the parents of three children, Michael Jr., Hudson and Hannah Kate.

Constituted Aug. 5, 1826, with 10 charter members, Zion Baptist Church called its first conference to elect delegates to the Yellow River Association and to elect two deacons. A pastor was called to serve one Sunday each month.

During the early years of Zion, slaves were received into the church, according to the church minutes, which read, "The following joined our church by experience from Sept. 4, 1826 till Sept. 14, 1826: 30 white males and females and 3 blacks. One black, Sam Perall, felt the call to preach. After examination and hearing him preach from Zion's pulpit, he was licensed to preach."

In 1840, the church joined Rock Mountain Association, which merged with Appalachia at a later date. A letter to the Stone Mountain Baptist Association is mentioned in 1872; however, no definite date is given when it joined the SMBA.

Church records show Zion has long been a missionary Baptist church with some of its earliest donations being sent to Mercer University and annual support for foreign, home and American Indian missions. The church history states that the Civil War "caused a hardship on Zion in that the Yankee raids separated Zion from their pastor."

A conference during that time passed a resolution stating "that we sympathize with our pastor being cut off from us by Yankee raids and rejoice to meet with him once more at Old Zion."

Church records show that soon after the war when slaves were given their freedom, Zion sold the church building to them.

In 1869, a new church was built on land donated by Thomas Hicks and Thomas Black at its present location, the crossroads of Ga. highways 20 and 212. Zion Baptist Church is located at 7037 Ga. Highway 212 in Covington.