In the year of our Lord 1935, the month of June, the seventh day in the city of San Antonio and the state of Texas, on the corners of Hayes and Gevers Streets, a church was planted known as Antioch Missionary Baptist Church.
There were fifty-three persons present in the organization. There was hardly a high school diploma among these fifty-three persons, but their experience with Christ had set them apart as a peculiar people, a Holy nation, and they determined to fervently show forth the praise of Him who had brought them out of darkness into life’s marvelous light. They stood together in the calling of men to repentance and faith in a virgin-born, dead, buried, and resurrected Savior.
The late Dr. C.F.C. Curry, former pastor of Mt. Zion First Baptist and Friendship Baptist Churches, presided over the meeting and the church called as its first pastor, the Rev. Rufus Wilson, a strong man in faith, who dared the impossible and endured as seeing Him who is invisible. His motto was “God is able” and in what appeared to be a step backward, Pastor Wilson moved the little group to a tent on Center Street in the back yard of one of her members, James Parker.
From the tent, they moved the worship to a laundry building on Walters and Crockett until Fredia Keith discovered the present site, an abandoned dairy, with an old house facing Nolan at Walters Street which was renovated for worship.
Then Antioch took on the character of its historical counterpart, and the Word of God went forth and many people were added unto the Lord. The unusual fervor of the Antioch congregation drew people from every segment of the community, young and old, learned and unlearned. In 1947, Pastor Wilson led the church into a building remodeling program at a cost of $65,000. The Lord continued to do great things and lives were transformed, bodies were healed, and many men were called into the ministry who went on to pastor major congregations across this great nation.
Pastor Wilson led Antioch for 17 years. Then on august 17, 1952, God put in His providential goodness, put a group of people from Antioch in the path of a young man named John Joseph Rector, who had only surrendered to preach in January 1950. He was to be called to the Antioch church at the age of 22 years, the youngest of his time to be called to a major church. In less than 1.5 years, a mortgage of $16,000 was liquidated and the church took on immense growth.
In May 1968, the church sponsored a housing development at a cost of 1.25 million dollars, named Antioch Village, which was rated by HUD as one of the most outstanding operations in the city. Also, $100,000 in properties was added to the church’s estate. Then in 1971, the church negotiated the largest loan for an African American congregation in the state for over a half million dollars to construct a new sanctuary. The project was completed in 1974 and this beautiful sanctuary is where Antioch worships today. Somewhat akin to the church at Corinth in the scriptures, Rufus Wilson planted, J.J. Rector watered, but God gave the increase. To God be the glory!
Pastor Rector provided 40 years of mystical ministry under the direction of the Holy Spirit. As his health failed, he had the foresight to bring on a young vibrant seminarian as Youth Minister, the Rev. E. Thurman Walker, who quickly became endeared to Pastor Rector, the Antioch family, and the San Antonio community. The Lord took Pastor Rector home in March 1993, at which time, his then Co-pastor, Rev. E. Thurman Walker became the pastor of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church. This was a move ordained by the Holy Spirit that resulted in a seamless transition in leadership. Rev. Walker’s first official Sunday as pastor was March 27, 1993.
In the years which passed, Antioch continued to progress and be blessed under the leadership of a God-sent Shepherd. These blessings included a record year in 1993 of a one-half million dollar budget, the establishment of the Antioch Christian Academy in 1995, which seeks to educate the total child: mind, body, and spirit, the establishment of the Antioch Community Transformation Network (ACTN) in 2000, a community development corporation with 501c3 status. As the new millennium arrived, Antioch took on a 7.5 million dollar Family Life Education Complex & Community Center under the watchful eye of ACTN. Phase I of this project was the construction of a 4 million dollar, 21,212 sq. ft., Sports Complex which opened in May 2005. Plans have begun on Phase II of this building project, the Family Life and Education Center, which is on track to break ground in 2011.
The Lord took Pastor Walker to his eternal home on October 26, 2009. In 16 short years, Pastor E. Thurman Walker, M. Div, D. Min., opened the door for many ministry opportunities in the life of Antioch. He truly lived his days in a manner to leave a legacy for tomorrow. Antioch and San Antonio is better, because Pastor Walker allowed himself to be used by God in a special way.
Like Pastor Rector before him, Pastor Walker had the foresight to bring on an associate who served as his Assistant Pastor, Rev. Dr. Kenneth R. Kemp. In September 2009, Rev. Kemp became Co-pastor of Antioch, and upon the demise of Pastor Walker in October 2009, Rev. Kemp became pastor of Antioch. He was installed on February 21, 2010. In the first year of Rev. Kemp’s pastorate, each month new souls were added to Antioch, attendance increased, and God blessed our budget to exceed 2 million dollars. As Rev. Kemp approaches his fifth year as pastor of Antioch, the Lord continues to bless our church in an unusual way. Pastor Kemp has maintained focus on spreading the message of Jesus Christ to the community and the world. Under his leadership, Antioch has initiated a contemporary worship called the Recharge Zone, enhanced ministry to youth and young adults, emphasized evangelism and disciple-making of the neighborhood, provided vital community services to a traditionally underserved sector of our city, and collaborated with the Board of Directors to establish a new middle school for boys named for the late Pastor E. Thurman Walker. As the Lord gives direction and affirmation, we will break ground on the Antioch Education Center while maintaining sound fiscal responsibility. The Antioch family, strong and blessed with the favor of God, now moves forward in 2014 resolved to “Boldly Build for the Kingdom.”