Mt Lebanon Zion Baptist Church
228 Decatur Street
Brooklyn, NY 11233,
Pastor Rev.Shaun J. Lee
The Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church that we know today began with the faith of five persons in a prayer service. The Reverend Daniel W. Hill and four others gathered in February 1905, in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, New York, in a private home at Rockaway and Sutter Avenues. There they received God’s vision and the outpouring was the establishment of the mission which would be known as the Mount Lebanon. Mount Lebanon Baptist Church could have been known as “The Morning Star” or “Zion.” These names were suggested, considered and thrown into a hat for the selection of a name. The name Mount Lebanon was pulled from the hat by Reverend Daniel W. Hill’s young daughter.
God stirred the hearts of the members in Berean Baptist Church to assist Mount Lebanon in their struggles to organize. Berean Baptist Church gave the needed support to move the small band of believers from mission status to church status.
In 1909, Reverend Hill resigned as pastor and moved to Boston, Massachusetts pursuing other ministerial opportunities. After his departure from the pulpit the church continued to grow. Mount Lebanon called their second pastor into leadership. In 1910, Reverend J.W. Brooks assumed the responsibility. Reverend Brooks is noted as being a progressive and courageous leader. In his first year serving as pastor, he led the church to become a legal entity through an incorporated status and set a goal to find the first church property. On July 1, 1911 Mount Lebanon put down roots in its purchase of their first worship facility at 293 Howard Avenue. At this location Mount Lebanon became affectionately known as “the church on the hill.” The membership increased to about fifty persons under the guidance of Reverend J.W. Brooks.
In 1916 Reverend Brooks resigned to accept the pastorate at Union Baptist Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Again, Mt. Lebanon’s loss wasMassachusetts’ gain. However, Reverend Brooks did not exit before recommending his friend and colleague in the gospel, Reverend John William Hamlin. Reverend J.W. Hamlin became the third pastor of Mount Lebanon on October 4, 1916.
Mount Lebanon’s membership continued to grow and Reverend Hamlin preached God’s word to overflowing crowds. There were five services held on Sundays to meet the needs of those seeking the implantation of God’s word. In 1922, a time when the membership’s financial resources were minimal, the church paid off a mortgage of $7,772 for the property at 293 Howard Avenue and the building was completely renovated. This is a testimony to the people’s sacrificial giving and dedication that was coupled with God’s timeless miracle of multiplying the resources of the faithful. God provided. Reverend Hamlin was ill in the years preceding his death on August 12, 1937.
Reverend Hamlin left a noble legacy that was assumed by the Reverend Claude Lavoisier Franklin, who became the fourth pastor of the Mount Lebanon Baptist Church on September 27, 1938.
Mount Lebanon was further developed under Reverend Franklin. In 1940 the church purchased the second parsonage at 546 Decatur Street (paid for within 2 years). In 1943 the church acquired two buildings on Howard Avenue that were purchased for cash. Reverend Franklin and the trustee Board negotiated a sale of the 230 Decatur Street property for the price of $92,500. On Sunday, June 15, 1949 Mount Lebanon marched through the streets of Brooklyn proclaiming God’s victory from Howard Avenue and Herkimer Street to Decatur Street and Lewis Avenue. God was continuing to move in the midst of His people.
Reverend Franklin labored for twenty years at Mount Lebanon Baptist Church. He died on June 24, 1958. Under his leadership Mount Lebanon grew to be one of the leading black churches in Brooklyn and the nation.
After Reverend Franklin’s death, Mount Lebanon was without a pastor for two years. In 1960, the Reverends Gardner C. Taylor and Sandy Ray, leading pastors of Brooklyn and key leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, gained an opportunity for Reverend Ralph Abernathy to preach at Mt. Lebanon. The idea was to move the key leaders of the movement to the safety of the North and Mount Lebanon was viewed as an excellent choice. Reverend Abernathy preached at the 11 o’clock worship and Reverend Robert Alexander Laws was scheduled to preach for the Usher’s Annual Sermon during the afternoon service. Rev. Laws preached a sermon entitled “An Angel Standing in the Sun.” Reverend Laws was so empowered by God that the church was moved to call him as the fifth pastor and he assumed pastoral responsibility in 1960.
Much effort was invested in the improvements of the properties, but the edification of the spirit of the church did not go unserved. Reverend Laws made certain that Mount Lebanon was blessed with the best, often inviting the greatest preachers of his era to the pulpit. He was driven by the motto, “The task ahead of us is not as great as the Power behind us.” Dr. Laws left a legacy of great preaching, being one of the most sought after preachers of his time.
Reverend Laws was pastor for 30 years before his deteriorating health caused him to relinquish his leadership role. He resigned from the pastorate on June 30, 1991. Dr. Laws passed from this earth to glory on September 18, 1992.
During the interim period after Dr. Laws’ resignation and death, Deacon Roy S. Bratton provided sterling leadership to the Mount Lebanon Baptist Church. His strong spirituality, integrity and acute sense of the scriptures allowed him to lead the Mount Lebanon Church family through a very challenging time. Dr. Harry S. Wright of the Cornerstone Baptist Church served as the Consulting Pastor. His contributions were immeasurable. It has been noted that during the interim period led by Deacon Roy S. Bratton, the church continued to baptize new members monthly.
On the third Sunday in March, 1993, Reverend Bernstine preached at Mount Lebanon Baptist Church. In June of 1993, Reverend Bernstine was extended the call and arrived to serve in September of the same year.
Reverend Bernstine came to Mount Lebanon with a mission to continue cultivating reverence for God, but to accentuate it with relevancy in ministry. He quickly became known as the “Keep It Real” preacher because of his desire for God’s Word to affect our lives in real ways. Reverend Bernstine believed in giving God his best, particularly when it came to preaching and teaching God’s Word.
After 13 years of dedicated service Reverend Bernstine heard God calling him to ministry on the West Coast and turned in his letter of resignation to the church in April 2006 and preached his last sermon in July of the same year. For two years Deacon Alton Campbell, Sr. led the church while they searched for a pastor. It was not an easy journey, but through much prayer and patience God spoke.
On Saturday May 17, 2008, Reverend Shaun J. Lee was called to be the seventh pastor and was installed on September 28, 2008. The church and community has already felt the effects of Reverend Lee’s tremendous leadership and looks forward to how God will continue to guide in being a “Ministry of Love.”
925 MILLION UNDERNOURISHED PEOPLE IN THE WORLD
Sadly, the need for the New York City Coalition Against Hunger is greater than ever, with the city facing an increasing crisis of poverty and hunger. This year, an average of 1.5 million New York City residents, 1 in 4 of which are children, live in households facing food insecurity, according to federal statistics calculated by the Coalition.
Help Mount Lebanon stop this crisis by donating your time, resources, and or money to our Soup Kitchen.