Zion Hill Baptist Church at 5301 Spruce St. in West Philadelphia has had its fair share of challenges. It has suffered through a split in membership when a previous pastor moved on and it continues to confront the challenges of a changing community and a fluctuating congregation.
It’s times like these that God calls exceptional people to lead. Workers. People who are able to hear His voice and willing to follow its lead. Ironically enough, such people aren’t usually the ones whose aim is to be “the one” or “the leader”; they are the ones who just want to do God’s will.
At Zion Hill, that person was Pastor Quincy C. Hobbs Jr.
After graduating from college, Hobbs began a 30-year career in the military. After leaving the Army, he had other plans.
“I retired in 2000 in the New Jersey area because that’s where we bought a home back in the ‘80s and we decided that that’s where we wanted to retire. Little did I know that I would end up in the ministry because my goal after I retired from the military was to just chill out and go fishing, but the Lord had something else in mind for me,” Hobbs said.
“So we got in ministry, got ordained in 2006, was licensed as a minister in 2003 and that’s what we did, we just got committed to doing ministry,” he said.
One thing anyone visiting Zion Hill Baptist Church for any significant amount of time will notice is that Hobbs is a worker. After five years as Zion Hill’s pastor, Hobbs can still be found doing whatever is needed, whether it’s painting, cleaning up programs left on the pews after service, or performing maintenance duties. Hobbs doesn’t sit down. Service was always his passion.
“In 1998 I was ordained at Grace Temple Baptist Church [in New Jersey] as a deacon. I loved being a deacon and there, not only while I was at Grace, but I worked in every ministry that is conceivable in the church. I was president of the Usher Board, I was on the trustee ministry, worked in the kitchen, Sunday School superintendent, not only for our church, but was also Sunday School superintendent for the Baptist Congress of Christian Education.
“All of these things were happening, but I still felt that being a deacon was my calling.”
Well, that’s not how things turned out.
At one point, when the church found itself in need of a minister, Hobbs felt the call and couldn’t resist, so he agreed to step in.
“They were excited, especially one member because she had been saying to me, ‘Deacon, you’re supposed to be in the pulpit as a preacher,’ and I would always say to her, ‘Well, sister, you keep praying because I haven’t yet.’”
When Hobbs made the announcement, that member was the first to step up and say, “I told you so,” Hobbs said with a laugh.
“I should have realized that God was setting me up for something, but it didn’t dawn on me that this was all happening until he called me to the ministry.”
In 2013 he was called to be a pastor at Zion Hill, a position which, again, he wasn’t particularly interested in and despite the urging of several members chose not to pursue. But it pursued him.
Other candidates were interviewed since Hobbs wasn’t interested, but in the end, none of them worked out.
“I told them that I’m not candidate for the position. I’m not looking to be the pastor of anybody’s church. If I come here, it’s going to be by divine intervention,” he said.
Well, God intervened.
In the five years since he became pastor, Hobbs said he has seen God do some amazing things.
“I appreciate the founding pastor, Rev. A.J. Smith, who was here for almost 40, 41 years and he put some things in place that I really respect,” he said.
One of those things was having the children lead prayer during Sunday Service.
“What we’ve done since my wife and I have been here was get them involved in things,” said Hobbs.
“We have just been absolutely blessed about being here and excited about where God is going to take this church.
“We are just hoping that God will just rebuild. We are on a new destiny, a new road that God is leading us on, and it cannot be consumed by what happened in the past,” he said.
Hobbs and his wife, Arnetta, have been married 50 years, and she says her husband is a great man.
“I tell people all the time that if you can’t see God in him, then your eyes are closed. He is a godly man and he fears and loves the Lord,” she said.
“Some people think that I’m being short-changed because he’s here all of the time and working all of the time, but I tell them that he does not neglect me. If there is something that I need or something that needs to be done at our home, no matter what time he comes home, he does it.”
Deacon Gus Darby has been a member of Zion Hill since 1995 and came from another church to be with his wife, a longtime member.
“Zion Hill Baptist Church is a loving church; we are a God-fearing church; we are a church that not only preaches the Word, but we teach the Word. We are a church that cares for one another and that’s one of our themes, ‘a church that cares,’” said Darby.
“Jesus said, how do I know my disciples? By the way you love each other. So this is a church that cares.”
James Sparkman joined the church in 1961 after attending all of his life. Sparkman went on to join the Junior Ushers and eventually the Senior Ushers.
“Since I grew up here, I had no desire to change congregations and we have a wonderful pastor who preaches the Word,” he said when asked what kept him at the church.