ANTIOCH BAPTIST CHURCH was established by the Reverend Alexander Moore in January 1893 as Cleveland's second Baptist church for AFRICAN AMERICANS. Unhappy with the leadership of the SHILOH BAPTIST CHURCH, a small band of members began meeting informally in October 1892 in the home of Henry Myers at 10 Laurel (2327 E. 29th) St. with Reverend William Ridley as the first acting pastor. The Reverend D. D. Minor, an Oberlin College student, was engaged as the first official minister of the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in March 1893. The small congregation soon outgrew its small home meeting place and moved to the Odd Fellows Hall on Ontario St. at Prospect Ave. It purchased and remodeled a house on Central Ave. at Sked (E. 24th) St. for its first church home, dedicated in July 1893. By 1905, the congregation had once more outgrown its quarters and erected a larger church building at the same location with the aid of matching funds from JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER. The congregation became affiliated with the Northern Baptist Convention (later the American Baptist Convention). To make way for PUBLIC HOUSING in the Central area, the church moved to the former Bolton Avenue Presbyterian Church at the corner of E. 89th St. and Cedar Ave. in 1934.
One of the leading institutions in the African American community, the Antioch Baptist Church has maintained its public visibility and community recognition through the appointment of dynamic and charismatic ministers, including Rev. Dr. HORACE C. BAILEY (1903-23), Rev. WADE H. MCKINNEY (1928-62), Rev. Kelly Miller Smith (1963), Rev. Emanuel Branch (1964-83), Rev. Dr. Marvin A. McMickle (1987-2011), and Rev. Dr. Todd C. Davidson (2012-20). The church has historically advocated interracial cooperation in Cleveland and championed the civil rights of black Americans, beginning with the ministry of Rev. Bailey. Since 1945, Antioch Baptist has sponsored one of the largest Protestant credit unions in the state of Ohio, Antioch Credit Union. With the CLEVELAND CLINIC FOUNDATION and the Fairfax Foundation, the church co-sponsors a 12-story apartment building at E. 89th St. and Carnegie Ave.
Over the years, Antioch Baptist has maintained an active and varied community outreach program to address the social, economic, and spiritual needs of the black community. In 1999, Antioch Baptist launched the Antioch Development Corporation (ADC), a faith-based and non-profit agency working to enhance the quality of life of individuals and families in the Fairfax neighborhood. The agency has directed three programs: AGAPE, Stopping AIDS Is My Mission (SAMM), and Molding Minority Youth thru Faith And Mentoring (My FAM). The AGAPE Program was developed in partnership with Cleveland Clinic to heighten awareness about the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the African-American community and to improve the quality of life for all people infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS. While the AGAPE Program has focused specifically on heterosexual black women in Fairfax, offering early prevention education, testing services, spiritual counseling, and treatment referral, its programs have been open to all those in need. The program has sponsored support groups for gay and heterosexual black men as well as eight testing centers around Cleveland which provide a free oral HIV-antibody test. Antioch Baptist was one of only five black churches in the nation to offer a model full service HIV/AIDS program and AGAPE was the state's first faith-based AIDS program in 2009. Focusing on at-risk youth throughout Greater Cleveland, the SAMM project has promoted HIV/AIDS education to reduce risk behavior. The My FAM program has targeted African-American males in the sixth grade, providing them with the long-term guidance and support of minority professionals willing and able to serve as mentors.
Antioch sponsored free legal advice clinics with the help of the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland's Volunteer Lawyers Program, handling civil issues including divorce, bankruptcy, and problems with predatory lenders. It also launched Project Angel Tree to provide Christmas gifts, mostly clothing and toys, to the children of those incarcerated in Ohio, and hosted an annual "Hallo-Lujah" Festival, a free Christian alternative to Halloween for kids aged 5 to 12 complete with family activities, carnival-style games, and Bible lessons. Working with the UNITED BLACK FUND OF GREATER CLEVELAND, the church hosted the Re-Entry Resource Fest to connect ex-offenders with prospective employers and legal and financial resources. Antioch’s Loaves and Fishes Program continues to provide meals for homeless people.
During Rev. Davidson’s tenure, the church initiated a Worship and Arts Ministry including a Mass Choir, the Cherub and Youth Choirs, Dance, Hand Bells, Choral Reading, and Mime and Puppet Ministries, while continuing to focus on meeting the needs of people in the surrounding community. For several years, Antioch worked with Greater Cleveland Congregations, which describes itself as “a non-partisan organization of faith communities and partner organizations in Cuyahoga County working together to build power for social justice.” Like congregations the world over, Antioch enhanced its virtual activities during the COVID-19 global pandemic, suspending face-to-face activities and conducting worship services, Bible study, and essential meetings via Zoom and Facebook Live, and sharing videotaped services on YouTube.
When Rev. Dr. Davidson accepted a new pastorate in Virginia in 2020, Rev. Dr. Marvin A. McMickle, Antioch’s former Senior Pastor, President Emeritus of the Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, and Professor Emeritus at Ashland Theological Seminary, agreed to serve as Interim Pastor, while the church searched for a new pastor.
Updated by Regennia Williams