African American churches have played an important role in the history of Mandarin. Churches have helped maintain African American cultural heritage, served as a cornerstone of the community, and provided spiritual support. There are four historical African American churches in the greater Mandarin area.
The First Baptist Church
First Baptist Church of Mandarin (now Hopewell Church) was founded in 1875 and the original wood structure was erected in 1880 in the secluded deep woods of Mandarin, off State Road 13. There were no stained-glass windows, no cushioned pews, and no air conditioners, with that in mind, everyone remembered the bell tower. The call to assemble the worshippers together was the tolling of a big bell, which could be heard for miles around.
Reverend Gary L. Williams has been the pastor since 1990. In that first year, eighty new members were added to the assembly. In 1997, the church purchased 8.5 acres on Loretto Rd and established the Promise Land; eventually adding the Family Life Center in 2000, the Promise Land Academy in 2002 and finally purchased 33 acres on Roberts Rd, the site for the second church.
Julington Baptist Church
In 1872 a family of migrating freed slaves arrived from Edisto, South Carolina to Jacksonville, Duval County, Florida. They settled in the area known as “Loretta,” Florida.
With Reverend Green as their first pastor, they founded a church and named it after the creek that flowed nearby “Julington.” According to John Green’s death certificate, he was born in Edisto Island, South Carolina, and passed away in Duval in 1934. Although this church is often by some referred to as “Julington Creek,” the creek was never a part of the name. Julington moved from Old St Augustine Rd. to the present location during the winter of 1986, in Bayard.
Philip R. Cousin A.M.E. Church
The Philip R. Cousin AME Church history begins with a purchase of 3.25 acres on Orange Picker Road for $85 in 1886. They built a small wooden church building and adopted the name Mt. Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church of Mandarin. A second building was added in 1954. The Mt. Zion name remained until 1990, when the church became Philip R. Cousin African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Years ago, it was difficult for a membership of forty-five people to believe the dream of owning 7.64 acres of land.To have an outreach ministry springing from the church into nursing homes and prisons was inconceivable. Increased membership was highly unlikely for such a small church with inadequate facilities. Yet, all of these things have taken place at Philip R. Cousin African Methodist Episcopal Church. Church membership and ownership of adjacent land have grown significantly over the years. A new Worship Center was added in 2007. Ministries of the church reach local nursing homes, community support organizations, and prisons. Rev. Eugene Moseley Jr. was the pastor for more than 25 years.
Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church
Mt. Zion Baptist Church was founded in 1867, by a group of formerly enslaved people that settled in the small community known as Greenland, FL. At first the congregation worshipped under the trees, in the bushes or wherever they could meet. The date of when the first church was built is unknown, however, it was destroyed by fire. From that point forward, services were held in the community grocery store. In 1927, the church was rebuilt under the leadership of Jasper Davis. In the early years and the oldest of the three churches, Mt. Zion fellowshipped and partnered with First Baptist church of Mandarin and Julington Baptist. The church was renovated in 1976.