The History of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church
After being in existence for 157 years, it is evident that Antioch Missionary Baptist Church has a full, rich, and spiritual history. Baptist missionaries began working in Texas as far back as 1830, centering in Houston, which is said to be the Mother of Texas Baptist work. By 1945, there were four hundred thousand Black Baptists in Texas, which led to Noah Hill being called to represent the Black Texas Baptist at the Texas Baptist Convention. Among the four hundred thousand were those who lived in the small East Texas town of Palestine.
Built in the setting of Palestine’s Old Town, Antioch Missionary Baptist Church is said to be the second oldest Black Church in the State of Texas and is the first Black Church in the City of Palestine. The Church history dates back to the year 1856 when many of the worship services were conducted in various homes. Many of the members who worshipped at Antioch during those early years were the first generation of many offspring who worked in Antioch down through the years as well as today.
On November 19, 1873, John H. Reagan deeded land to Bristow Smith, Virgil Campbell, Thomas Hughes, Bob Johnson and their successors on which to build a Church in order to worship God and educate their children. This land was located in Old Town in the northeast part of Palestine on Mulberry Street. The Church was then formally named Antioch, but was referred to as Antioch under the Hill.
The membership grew rapidly and this led the members of Antioch to an unsuccessful attempt at purchasing property in a predominately white area, but it would be years before integrated neighborhoods would be geographically and socially acceptable. Determined, however, Hattie M. Davis and the women of Antioch selected land on Murchison Street. Church trustees purchased it on July 3, 1885 for fifty dollars.
On April 25, 1887, the members purchased an additional lot for forty dollars on Murchison Street for the purpose of building a Church parsonage. A small edifice was built by a Black carpenter, W. M. Freeman, and the cornerstone was laid on July 12, 1895 under the administration of Rev. W. M. Duncan. Rev. T. W. Dailey soon came to serve as pastor with a challenging future. Under his leadership, much improvement was done, including adding a lower level with a baptizing pool, new pews were purchased, and a bell was placed in the belfry. The ministers who pastored after him included Rev. C. W. Hill, Rev. J. D. Hull, and Rev. D. J. Crawford.
Beginning in 1920, Rev. J. B. Atkins pastored Antioch for eight years and was assisted by Rev. David E. Swanson. The architectural structure of the Church was completely changed under the leadership of Rev. Atkins. A pastor’s study and choir room were added to the upper level and a kitchen and dining area to the lower level. The numerous growth was more than gratifying and the spiritual development of the Church was notable.
Rev. Atkins passed away on September 14, 1928. Following his death, Rev. G. R. King, a great gospel minister, came to serve as pastor. Rev. W. G. Shephard who pastored 17 years followed him, and with a simple plan, the mortgage was paid off. Rev. M. S. Houston followed, and during his administration, restroom facilities and a drinking fountain were installed and a grand piano was purchased. Rev. B. B. Brown soon came to pastor Antioch and Rev. James L. Bass served as youth minister. Rev. Brown pastored for eight years and was instrumental in purchasing a Church bus and courtesy cars, building the membership, and strengthening the various departments of the Church.
In 1962, Antioch burned. Our hearts were saddened, but our faith was real. All that still remain are the steps that led the way to Antioch and the grand piano. Many fond memories are held of this historical red brick Church that so proudly stood atop a hill on Murchison Street, which is now referred to as Old Antioch. After this tragedy, the members worshipped in the Community Center on Garland Street until further plans could be made to rebuild a sanctuary. Later in 1962, Rev. G. L. Mays became pastor and during this time the membership was increased through street ministry, a band was added to our Music Department, and many organizations became active. On April 8, 1963, a lot was purchased to begin construction on a new Church building at 907 E. Murchison Street.
In 1964 Rev. James L. Bass was elected to pastor Antioch. Under his administration, the cornerstone was laid and is presently displayed along with the 1895 cornerstone. A house adjacent to the Church was also purchased and remodeled for use as a fellowship hall. Air conditioner units, carpeting, a public announcing system, new hymnals, mimeograph machine, a Hammond organ and pews were all purchased under the leadership of Rev. Bass. A vestibule and nursery room was added to the sanctuary, and the Church mortgage liquidated.
On November 9, 1980, Antioch dedicated a new sanctuary, and the former sanctuary was remodeled and used by our Sunday school Department and as a fellowship hall. The former fellowship hall was torn down and is now a parking lot. The historical marker research of Antioch was begun in the fall of 1985 in order to register the Church as a historical institution. The administration of Rev. Bass lasted 23 years and in May 1988, Rev. Roy Duncan was elected to pastor Antioch. Under his leadership, the Church has tremendously increased, both in numerical and spiritual growth. With God’s guidance and blessings, the indebtedness of our Church was, again, liquidated and we completed our Historical Museum and production of a video tape that chronicles the history of Antioch since 1856.
On February 13, 1994, the Texas Historical Society declared Antioch a Texas Historical Landmark. Renovations to the building include the Fellowship Hall adding the Spencer Room (game/youth room), Reference library and Computer Lab, Pulpit area remodeled and choir loft elevated. Other accomplishments under Pastor Duncan consist of the acquisition of 31 properties (including eleven (11) rentals), installation of a concrete parking lot, church vans, steeple erected on main building:
- September 2002, Antioch is incorporated as The Antioch Church (TAC), Inc.
- Established a separate non-profit organization called the East Palestine Community Development (EPCD), Inc.
- EPCD, Inc. provides affordable housing for low income families and individuals.
- Opening of the Community Barbershop in December 2004 with 2 barbers, a cosmetologist and a nail technician.
- Opening of a Christian early learning center called Berean Adacemy in March 2005 with 21 children currently have 45 children enrolled.
- In September 2004 EPCD, Inc held its first Homebuyer Education Orientation a program which makes it possible for underserved families and individuals to own home. 4 homes have been built.
- EPCD has provided jobs for dozens through the lot clearing efforts and remodeling, construction of new homes, Berean Academy and the Community Barbershop.
- EPCD, Inc. provides resources such as emergency food, shelter and utility assistance.
- Hundreds of offenders of the TDCJ saved through our Prison ministry.
- Hundreds came to know Christ through our street evangelism ministry.
- In 2004 and 2005, Pastor Duncan traveled to Uganda East Africa to minister the Gospel hundreds were saved.
- In 2006 a group of twelve adults, youth and children traveled to the Caribbean where thousands of children and youth were ministered to through our Mission Bahamas effort.
- The church sponsors dozens of families during the Christmas Season.
- Pastor Duncan has empowered the staff of the youth and children’s ministries to minister to hundreds of children through ministries of TACKIDs, VBS and SNL Teen Ministry.
- February 2006 was the beginning of our Worship x2 – 2 opportunities to worship 8:30am and 11:00 am.
- September 3, 2006 marked the first Sunday of our Children’s Church with Eric Enge as children’s minister
- Currently 23 sons and associates in the ministry
- 28 functioning ministries - Local, State & Worldwide
- Printing business - Epiphany Printing - 2005
- 1st Annual EPCD Open Tennis Tournament - Spring 2007
- 1st Annual All Saints Eve held in THE PLACE building October 2007
- Pastor Roy Duncan was consecrated as an Overseer of Kingdom Builder's Global Fellowship June 14, 2009
- Small Groups ministry launched in February, 2009 with 6 groups and over 80 registered adults
- TAC Son - Rev. Dwayne Gardner ordained and installed as the pastor of Mt. Olive Baptist Church, Tennessee Colony, TX, 2009
- Ongoing support to orphans in Uganda through Kingdom Builders’ Global Fellowship, as well as foreign mission efforts in Guinea with Michael Loua Ministries and Equatorial, Guinea with Mendell Rogers.
- THE PLACE Children and Youth Community Center - dedicated October 2011