156 Years of Historical Accomplishments
At the conclusion of the American Civil War, black Christians were allowed to leave the white churches of their slave masters. For with the abolition of slavery, Negro men and woman no longer had to worship while sitting in the rear of white sanctuaries; they organized their own religious congregations.
In Shreveport, a group of seventy-three former slaves received letters of honorable dismissal from the (white) First Baptist Church. With one black minister and one white minister, this group of Negro Christians established the First Colored Baptist Church on the recorded date of April 23, 1866. Rev. John Jones served as the first Pastor.
In a matter of years, these former slaves constructed their first church buildings. Although their early buildings were destroyed, the Pastors still preached, souls were still baptized, and the membership still grew. In 1871 the congregation changed the Church’s name to Antioch Baptist Church.
The membership of Antioch Baptist Church exhibited remarkable faith and was truly blessed by the grace of God. Land was purchased on Texas Avenue. In 1901 renown Shreveport Architect N. S. Allen was engaged to design and erect the present structure. With faithful Christian commitment, these former slaves labored for three years building this sanctuary which consisted of popular Romanesque Revival style, curved balcony, and stamped metal ceiling. By 1903, the current edifice was completed and Antioch Baptist Church became a stabilizing religious presence in this neighborhood which would endure for generations to come.
Antioch Baptist Church was not only the first Baptist church organized as a place of worship for black people in the Shreveport area; following periods of Christian growth, organizational strife, and religious unrest, Antioch Baptist Church gave birth to several congregations namely the historic Churches of Avenue Baptist, Evergreen Baptist, Trinity Baptist, and Union Mission Baptist. As a result, Antioch Baptist Church fondly became known as “the Mother Church”.
From the emancipation as slaves through periods of racial challenges, life for Black people in the South has been described as tumultuous. Yet the men and women of Antioch Baptist Church remained faithful to God, shared the gospel of Jesus Christ, and grew in moral strength. Christianity became functional and not theoretical. Worship services attracted African American Christians from the Shreveport area and beyond. The establishment of Sunday School, Baptist Training Unions (Nurturing Baptist Churches), and other church missions added to the religious enrichment of the members of Antioch Baptist Church and influenced others throughout this City, State, Nation, and around the world.
The foundation of Antioch Baptist Church where those former slaves had established God’s Church endured the test of time. During 1982, Antioch Baptist Church was placed on the registry of historical places making our religious structure a tourist attraction because of its architectural integrity.
However, most importantly, those former slaves who organized and built Antioch Baptist Church gave African Americans and others a rich religious legacy to cherish. The last original member of the congregation, Catherine Ford, died in 1940 at the age of 109.
A beacon of light, Antioch Baptist Church attracted outstanding ministers who contributed greatly to the religious, political, civil rights, and educational principles of this vicinity. Antioch Baptist Church has been especially blessed by God to have been sent Pastors like Rev. J.H. May, Rev. James A. Bingaman, Rev. H.L. Thompson, Rev. E.C. West, and Rev. Dr. David Matthews, who served as Pastor the longest (over twenty-nine years). Our late Pastor, Rev. Webster C. West, was sent in 1993, and is the brother of Rev. E.C. West.
The seventy-three Negro slaves made a significant impact in black history by organizing Antioch Baptist Church; so have other members of Antioch. From within the congregation of Antioch Baptist Church, men and women assumed important responsibilities in black history as educators, newspaper publishers, elected officials, military personnel, sports coaches and athletes, healthcare providers, attorneys and judges, owners of funeral homes, insurance companies, beauty and barbershops, government employees, entrepreneurs, and religious leaders. Antioch Baptist Church became a place in history where everybody is somebody and Jesus Christ is the Head.
During a more recent era, Antioch Baptist Church witnessed less prosperous growth. In January,1999, the church sanctuary was plagued with structural decay and the church premises had to be vacated until necessary repairs were made. But God made a way as the late Pastor Webster C. West reminded the membership of the scriptural principles in Philippians Chapter 4, verses 11 - 13: “We can do all things through Christ which strengthen us”.
Many local churches invited the Antioch congregation to worship in their facilities. After worshiping with the Mt. Canaan Baptist Church, at the Retledge Activity Center of Evergreen Baptist Church, and in our own renovated Annex Building facilities on Texas Avenue, the membership joyfully returned to our completely restored church building on October 15, 2000, under the leadership of Pastor Webster C. West. In extraordinary afternoon worship services involving the congregations of the Zion Baptist Church (African American) and First Baptist Church (White), the membership of Antioch Baptist Church renewed its commitment to God, demonstrated the strength of its faith, and prayerfully celebrated the re-entry into the current sanctuary.
Although thriving in the midst of one of Shreveport’s least populated and active areas, Antioch Baptist Church remains an anchor for Christian life in this Community. The many fundamental Christian principles for which those emancipated founding Negro slaves established Antioch Baptist Church upon and lived by are still strongly shared by the membership today: belief in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; confidence in prayer; yearning for salvation; and love of God. The rich religious heritage of Antioch Baptist Church is still available for others to appreciate, experience, and join.
In June 2015, the 13th District Moderator, Rev. Robert Hudson was instrumental in filling the pulpit with excellent preachers. We have also heard words of wisdom and encouragement from Dr. Harry L. Blake and Dr. Alvin Mays.
Having been led by the Holy Spirit, On Mother’s Day 2017, the members of Antioch voted to elect Bruce C. Carroll, Sr. as their new pastor. He was installed on July 9, 2017. Under the leadership of Pastor Carroll members have been added. Rev. Carroll has served Antioch through the pandemic of Covid 19 from 2020- present. Due to the pandemic, Antioch went totally virtual in March 2020. He ensured that the church members had a way to worship virtually during the pandemic. In 2021, Antioch held it’s 155th Anniversary worship service in Shreveport Common Park. Although, some members were still not able to come out due to Covid. God blessed and two new members were added. Pastor Carroll continues to serve this great church.
African American men, women, boys, and girls of Antioch Baptist Church shall continue to praise, honor, glorify, and lift-up the name of God. And during this 156th Annual Anniversary Celebration, the members of Antioch Baptist Church rejoice evermore; pray without ceasing; and in everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.