Antioch Church to celebrate 185 years this weekend

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ANTIOCH – Antioch Baptist Church is marking 185 years this week.  According to Peggy Byrd and her late mother, Evelyn Pickard’s notes, the church building was remodeled in 1936 and additional rooms were added in 1938. Lightening struck it August 18, 1939 and the building went up in flames. A new building was up by 1941. This is probably that building with additions.

This coming weekend, November 12 -13, the church family and community of Antioch Baptist Church will observe 185 years of richly blessed heritage. The hard working men and women who walked through the pages of Antioch’s history will be remembered.

Now, some of you might be thinking, “Oh, here she goes again, telling the same old story!” You know…much has been written about Antioch through the years. But I’m proud to say…except for my family, Antioch Baptist Church and Fairview School is where my memory begins and marks the seasons of my childhood.

Back in those days, a winding, narrow gravel road was my family highway. It connected us to town, our neighbors, to church and to our cotton-picking fields. Even as a child I knew the routes by heart. Certain points along the way, told me how much further a trip would last.

Recently, I was asked by a church member to write a little something in this week’s paper that might include a picture or two. I am a nostalgic person, so it has been interesting to look back on the past, to see how things have changed or stayed the same.

So, here then are a few tidbits from Antioch’s history book.

Once upon a time, almost two centuries ago a strip of land was cleared and a one room log cabin was built by a group of pioneers so they could have a place to worship together.

The building sat back in the mist of settlements now known as Humboldt, Medina, Gibson and Three Way. The year was 1831.

The building was about a mile east of where today’s beautiful country church now stands.

In 1861 a cyclone blew the little church building completely away. Soon afterwards another church was built.

History tells us that the second building was destroyed by fire in 1875. Again the people rebuilt.

For many years records could not be found, giving details on the life of our church. However, on August 18, 1939 another tragedy hit. A lightning bolt struck the newly remodeled house of worship. And again it went up in flames, burning it to the ground. And again the people rebuilt. The new church building was completed in 1941. This is the church I remember.

Bro. Walter Martin became pastor of Antioch in 1949, and he became the first and only childhood preacher I ever had.

Through the years, like everything else, many changes have been made at Antioch Church through the generations.

But, one story especially, warms my heart – after the 1939 fire, a called meeting was held on Sunday afternoon.

Members met with Bro. West out under the old oak trees. At that particular meeting there was a group of about 12 to 14 boys and girls sitting out under the trees. It was reported that Bro. West pointed his fingers to those young people and said, “What are we going to do with these boys and girls?”

He made the suggestion that he would preach for six months for nothing and the church could be built back so that the young people might be educated and trained in a way that would be pleasing to the Lord.

The church today still reaps the blessings from that meeting.

One of my greatest joys the last few years before her death in 2008, was me sitting beside my mother, Evelyn Marie Pickard, on Sunday mornings at Antioch Church where she had attended for over 60 years.

A smile comes to my face every time I recall two little boys, Buddy and Ray, sitting on the front row of the small white church’s sanctuary, propping each other up with their heads as they nap through Brother Martin’s sermon. Sitting with them was Mrs. Curtis Fly, their S.S. teacher.

Oh yes, the roots of Antioch run deep, and have scattered seeds all over the world. Some of those dear to me are ministers from my generation. How could I ever forget James Brown, Jerry and Guy Milam and Charles Timberlake.

The church Pastor today is Dr. William Espey (since May 29, 2005), minister of music is Br. Kelly Sorrell; Sharon jones is the organist and Sharon Grissom is pianist.

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