Zion Baptist honors generations of service

Zion Baptist Church honors three of its members during a Legacy of Leadership luncheon. Jasmin Senior, left, presents Barbara T. Butcher with the Rose Jones Group and Team Leader Award, Thelma Young, third from right, presents Maude Matthews with the Woman in Leadership award, and Shelly Laws, far right, presents Annie M. DaBerr with the First Lady Award. — SHIRA YUDKOFF/TRIBUNE PHOTOGRAPHER

Last Saturday, Zion Baptist Church celebrated the stellar service of three women during its Second Annual Legacy of Leadership Luncheon.

A capacity crowd of family and friends attended this gala event at the ritzy Bala Golf Club to honor Barbara Butcher, Thelma Young and Annie DeBerry, under the event’s theme “Honoring Women in Service from Generation to Generation.”

Zion is one of the oldest churches in Pennsylvania, and one of its most famous pastors was the late Rev. Dr. Leon Sullivan, founder of Opportunities Industrial Center (OIC).

Over fifty years ago he established a day care center, credit union, community center programs, employment agency, retirement home, adult education courses and the Progress Plaza shopping center near Temple University’s main campus. 

And it was Sullivan’s wife, Grace, along with church members Maude Matthews and Rose Jones, who the Legacy of Leadership Luncheon awards were created to honor. The women were chosen on Saturday because they demonstrated exemplary volunteer service and stewardship while members of Zion.


  • Annie DeBerry is a 50-plus-year member of Zion and the widow of the late Rev. Joseph DeBerry, who served as an associate minister at Zion until his death, and she continues to volunteer her time at the church in many capacities. Annie received the Grace Sullivan First Lady Award.
  • Thelma Young is also a 50-plus-year member and the widow of the late Elmer Young. Thelma was a past Women’s Day chairwoman and founder of Zion Laity Day. She was the Maude Matthews Award recipient.
  • Barbara Butcher is a 41-year member and a trustee for Zion Baptist Church, a past Women’s Day chairwoman and manager of the Zion Federal Credit Union. Butcher received the Rose Jones Award.


The purpose of this event? “It’s a celebration of 50 years of service of a group of women that Dr. Sullivan selected,” for their respective leadership roles and exemplary service in the church and community, said Mabel E. Welborn, luncheon co-chair.

Welborn continued, “We wanted to honor those women, on [whose] shoulders we do stand.”

The one-hundred plus family and friends in attendance enjoyed the melodic sounds of jazz and classic R&B tunes performed by a live band, while dining on a nicely prepared lunch, with a scenic view of the Bala Golf Club’s well manicured 18-hole course.

Charlita Latham Martin, a Zion member for over 50 years, is a luncheon co-chair and a team leader responsible for overseeing and ministering to a small group of congregants at the church. Another major task she handles is raising money for the Women’s Day event.

Sandra Moon Hightower was the 2011 Women’s Day chairwoman. When asked about her role in the planning of this year’s Second Annual Legacy of Leadership Luncheon, she smiled and said, “I delegate,” and she burst into laughter. “And it was a pleasure because I have fabulous people working for me. My two co-chairs, Mabel and Charlita, took on a mammoth job.”

Three younger women of Zion were selected to introduce the three elder honorees. Among her warm remarks, Jasmin Senior, 29, a human resources recruiter for Ernst & Young, said this about Barbara Butcher, “This is an opportunity for us to honor women in our community. I look to Ms. Butcher as an example. Barbara loves life, her extended family and many friends at Zion Baptist Church. Barbara attributes her energy through her faith in God who gives strength.”

Butcher, 72, remarked, “It’s an honor and pleasure to receive this award, Rose Jones was my mentor. She was the woman who led me to baptism.”

During her introduction of Thelma Young, Shelly Laws, 32, an attorney with Fox Rothchild, shared this about her honoree: “Sister Young has been a warrior for Zion Baptist Church. (She) is the founder of (the) Laity Service at Zion, a service that recognizes stewardship in God’s House.”

Laws, a member for 25 years, underscored the charitable generosity of her honoree, saying, “Young supports others financially and spiritually as needed.”

Young offered this comment about receiving the Maude Matthews Award: “Maude Matthews were one of our esteemed leaders of the church. She was a great lady. As a result of her leadership, it’s one of the reasons we are here today.”

Monica Majors had the honor of introducing Annie DeBerry, “(DeBerry) is a very elegant lady, a very helpful lady, she’s committed.” 

Majors, a grad school level student teacher, respects how DeBerry has remained active within the church, even after her husband passed away. Majors continued, “For over 25 years (DeBerry) has volunteered her services to the Board of Trustees in verifying financial data and collating financial reports. She gets joy out of transporting senior citizens to and from church for Sunday morning service or other special programs or events.”

DeBerry, 77, was very proud to be an honoree, “I’m receiving the Grace Sullivan First Lady Award, I am the wife the late Rev. Joseph M. DeBerry — after his death, I continued to do my duties.”

One of her favorite duties includes the beautification of the church.

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