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History of Antioch Baptist Church

"The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch." Acts 11:26

We are blessed to stand on the shoulders of those who came before us and laid the foundation for our ministry in our local and global communities. As we honor our heritage we also give thanks for a new season in the life of our congregation. 

The history of the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church dates back to 1887 when several African-American families living in or near Bedford Center began meeting in their homes for praise and worship service. The church was organized and officially registered as a religious corporation in the State of New York in that year. It should be noted, however, that the founding date on the church seal is 1894.

Early church records indicate that Reverend F. C. "Nay" McGee was Antioch's first pastor who served from 1887 through 1894. During his administration, Old Churchthe church was built with the aid of neighbors and was located near the junction of Bedford Center and Harris Road in Bedford, New York on land donated by Mr. & Mrs. A. J. Thorpe. In 1894, the cornerstone was laid for the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church. The original site was recently identified on a Westchester County map.

Forty-seven members and growing. In 1916, Antioch was deeded land in Bedford Hills from Hannah T. Tompkins. At that time the congregation consisted of 47 members. Reverend William O. Gordon was ordained as pastor on December 7, 1916, and served until September 21, 1925. In 1918 the church building was moved to Bedford Road near the railroad station in Bedford Hills. Mr. & Mrs. Nelson B. Williams, residents of Bedford, donated $500 to cover the cost of the move. The cornerstone was laid on August 30, 1918. The Sunday School room was added to the building later that year.

In August 1926, Reverend M. M. Pendelton became the pastor of Antioch. On August 17, 1927, the Westchester County Park Commission purchased the former church property for $10,000. This transaction was to make way for construction of the Saw Mill River Parkway.

Clipping Caption

In 1928, under Reverend Pendleton's administration, the building was moved. The new location was the corner of Railroad Avenue and School Street. A new cornerstone was laid beside theOld Church Newspaper clipping original. On June 30, 1928, Cunningham Coal and Lumber Company donated three lots to Antioch. On September 28, 1928, the first Bible Class was held with twelve members in attendance. On October 4, 1929, a vacant cottage was purchased for $625 from the Parkway Commission and was moved next to the church to serve as a parsonage.

In April 1933 Antioch named its next pastor, Reverend Richard Byrd, who continued Reverend Pendleton's endeavor to move the congregation forward. Reverend Byrd served until mid-1939.

After Reverend Byrd's departure, Antioch was under the pastor-ship of Reverend Frederick Peagrim. His fervent preaching and teaching continued to spiritually uplift the growing Ladies Outside seatecongregation. Reverend Sweppie J. W. Malbon began as pastor in 1942. His pastoral ministry focused on the spiritual needs of the church. He also encouraged having fellowship with other churches in the surrounding area.

Rebuilding and renewing. Reverend Malbon's leadership ended in mid-1952 under a cloud of dissension that led to a break in the pastor-people relationship. For the first time in its history, the Antioch fellowship was in turmoil and in need of healing. On June 15, 1952, Reverend Perry Bryant became Antioch's interim pastor and recognized the need for rebuilding and renewing. He served the congregation well in this capacity until August, 1956.

The next pastor, Reverend Verner Matthews was named on September 1, 1957. Under his leadership, the church building was expanded and remodeled. Reverend Matthews served as pastor until 1959, and was followed by Reverend Billie Dukes. He was the interim minister from March through November 1960 and was then named pastor of Antioch.Picnic

Reverend Dukes took an active interest in Antioch's young people, instituting a Baptist Youth Fellowship and an active summer Vacation Bible School. After his resignation, effective August 31, 1964, Reverend T. W. Sutton became the interim minister and served through June 1965. In a business meeting on March 15, 1965, a motion was carried unanimously that the church extend a call to Reverend Rufus A. Strother, Jr. to serve as pastor. He accepted the call and he and his family moved into the parsonage on June 12, 1965.

Self-reliance and economic growth. Under Pastor Strother's leadership, the church began to thrive. On September 22, 1965, Antioch became affiliated with the Central Hudson Baptist Association. In 1968, the Messina property, Pastor Strotherjust south of the church property was purchased. The warehouse was remodeled to provide for a youth center, including kitchen, lounge and a social area. Construction began in 1970 to build two apartments over the youth center.

Pastor Strother's ministry instilled the importance of self-reliance and economic growth. The teaching philosophy fostered the purchase of the Manse in Somers in 1973. Minutes of the June 28, 1975 business meeting empowered the trustees and Pastor Strother to purchase the United Methodist Church located at Church and Main Streets in Bedford Hills. We were able to acquire the building with renovations beginning immediately. On Palm Sunday, April 11, 1976, the congregation marched from our old house of worship on Railroad Avenue to our new home.

After occupying the edifice, major renovations took place, some of which were changing the altar area to accommodate a raised choir stand, the organ and a baptistery. A vestibule was added, custom-made pews were purchased, and the memorial window from the Railroad Avenue building was moved and installed.

Antioch's membership increased significantly during the 1980's. Antioch embarked upon an expansion program in 1985 and added a new wing to the building. This addition provided moreMoving Day One office space and rest rooms. Pastor Strother continued to lead the congregation to even higher mountains and broader horizons as Antioch launched into another expansion project in April 1992. The completion of this project significantly increased the seating capacity in the sanctuary.

Upward and Onward.
After Pastor Strother's retirement in January 2004, The Reverend Dr. Paul S. Briggs was installed as Antioch's new leader in March 2004 and continued the progress of this fellowship. Pastor Briggs announced new initiatives for spiritual and ministry growth at his first business meeting in July 2004. He led Antioch to move "Upward and Onward", a vision that emphasized spiritual growth.

The Upward and Onward vision led Antioch to launch the Raise the Roof! Campaign in order to fund the building expansion, which resulted in additional classroom space, ministry meeting rooms, redesigned nursery, a new administrative office suite and technology upgrades. The Youth ministry also flourished under Pastor Briggs leadership with the introduction of additional programming designed to encourage fellowship and spiritual growth.

Pastor Briggs and the Peace Pole As an accomplished artist, Pastor Briggs was instrumental in expanding the Arts Ministry to include quilting, culinary and primetime original theatre productions. He also introduced “The Salon”, a biennial eventwhich highlighted a variety of visual, textile and performance arts. Pastor Briggs, also an accomplished drummer would regularly play with the choir, adding his rhythmic beats on the djembe drum.

Pastor Briggs was a founding member of Unity Made Visible, a cooperation circle of The United Religions Initiative, a world-wide organization whose purpose is to promote enduring interfaith cooperation. Pastor Briggs continued Pastor Strother’s legacy of peace, community involvement and interfaith worship. Antioch truly moved Upward and Onward during the 10 years of leadership of Pastor Paul Briggs.

Forward In Faith. In September 2014, Pastor Briggs retired and Antioch embarked on a nation-wide search for their next spiritual leader. After prayerfully considering dozens of candidates, Antioch extended a call to The Reverend Merle D. McJunkin in March 2015. Pastor McJunkinThe Reverend Merle D. McJunkin was installed as pastor in June 2015 and Antioch is growing and moving forward in faith. Members are discovering their spiritual gifts and being deployed in ministry. The ministries of the church are impacting lives through dynamic bible study, worship services, expanded vocal and instrumental music opportunities and new mission and outreach ministries. Antioch's affordable housing construction project, Antioch Homes Apartments, will be completed in late fall 2017. We pray that God continues to bless us as we move forward in faith while touching lives with transforming love.

FORWARD IN FAITH means, every disciple/member at Antioch will be:

Consistent in Worship Participation
Engaged in a Church Bible Study
Consistent in Giving (with percentage increases to tithing and beyond)
Discovering and Using their Spiritual Gifts
Participating in a Service/Fellowship Ministry

The Antioch Missionary Baptist Church has made significant progress since its inception in 1894. Thanks will always be given to God for the original members who laid the foundation and for those who followed in their footsteps. As we face the future, we believe that "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13)

"And I will give you pastors according to mine heart which shall feed you with
knowledge and understanding.
" Jeremiah 3:15

Our leadership, since 1887:

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Antioch Baptist Church • 3 Church Street at Strother Crossing • Bedford Hills, NY 10507 • 914.241.0189 • antiochchurch@optonline.net