On the seventh of June in1935, the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church was planted on the corners of Hayes and Gevers Streets in San Antonio, Texas. There were approximately fifty-three persons present in the organization, with hardly a high school diploma among them. Despite this, their experience with Christ had set them apart as a peculiar people, a Holy nation, determined to fervently show forth the praise of Him who had brought them out of darkness into the marvelous light. They stood together in calling people to repentance and to 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 of faith, who dared the impossible. His motto was “God is able.” 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 Sister Fredia Keith discovered the present site, an abandoned dairy, with an old house facing Nolan at Walters Street. After being renovated for worship, this abandoned dairy became the home of Antioch.
Then Antioch took on the character of its historical counterpart. 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 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, 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. Antioch called Rev. Rector to be pastor when he was just 22, the youngest of his time to be called to a major church. Under Pastor Rector’s leadership, Antioch liquidated a mortgage of $16,000 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. At the time, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) rated Antioch Village to be one of the most outstanding operations in the city. In addition, the church purchased $100,000 in properties to add 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. After several years of delays and the discovery of an underground stream in the construction site, the project was completed in 1974. 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 move, ordained by the Holy Spirit, resulted in a seamless transition in leadership. Rev. Walker’s first official Sunday as pastor was March 27, 1993. In the ensuing years, Antioch continued to progress under the leadership of a God-sent Shepherd. These blessings include a record year in 1993 of a one-half million-dollar budget, the addition of the Antioch Christian Academy in 1995 where Antioch educated the total child: mind, body, and spirit, and the establishment of the Antioch Community Transformation Network 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, and, Community Complex Center under the watchful eye of ACTN. Phase I, the construction of a 4 million-dollar, 21,212 square foot Sports Complex, opened in May 2005. Upon completion of Phase I, Antioch immediately began plans for Phase II of this building project, which comprises the future Antioch Education Center.
The Antioch Christian Academy was in continuous operation for 20 years and resulted in the tremendous education of hundreds of young people, many of whom have gone on to obtain college and graduate degrees. In 2018, ACTN was re-named as the Eastpoint Community Transformation Network to reflect the changes occurring in the surrounding neighborhood. While ECTN is in hiatus currently, we continue to be committed to the transformation of our neighborhood spiritually, socially, educationally, and culturally.
Pastor Walker went on to earn the Doctor of Ministry degree from Union Theological Seminary while maintaining his pastoral duties at Antioch. In addition to ACTN and the Antioch Christian Academy, he founded the Community of Churches for Social Action and the Antioch Rites of Passage Program, among many other initiatives. The Lord took Pastor Walker home in October 2009. In 16 short years, Pastor E. Thurman Walker, M. Div., D. Min., did more than most pastors would do in 50 years or more. He truly lived his days to leave a legacy for tomorrow. Antioch, San Antonio, and the entire nation are better because of what Pastor Walker did as God’s servant and the leader of the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church.
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. Rev. Dr. Kemp is a medical doctor who surrendered to God’s call to preach the gospel under Pastor John J. Rector, Sr. in 1991. Pastor Walker and Rev. Dr. Kemp developed a close professional and personal relationship over the years. Then as Pastor Walker’s health began to fail after a diagnosis of a rare form of cancer, Rev. Dr. Kemp took on increasing responsibility in leadership at Antioch. On September 27, 2009, Antioch called Rev. Dr. Kemp to be the Co-pastor of Antioch, upon the recommendation of Pastor Walker. Then upon the transition of Pastor Walker to glory in October 2009, Rev. Kemp became senior pastor of Antioch. His first official Sunday as senior pastor of was November 1, 2009, and his installation was on February 21, 2010. In the first year of Rev. Dr. Kemp’s pastorate, each month new souls were added to Antioch, attendance increased, and God blessed our budget to exceed 2 million dollars. Now in the 13th year of Pastor Kemp’s pastorate, the Lord continues to bless Antioch 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 initiated a contemporary worship called the Recharge Zone, enhanced ministry to youth and young adults, emphasized evangelism and disciple-making of the neighborhood, hired a minister of adults, discipleship, and evangelism as well as a full-time business manager, and provided vital community services to a traditionally underserved sector of our city. In 2014, Antioch also initiated an endowed scholarship at the Interdenominational Theological Center/Morehouse School of Religion in Pastor E. Thurman Walker’s honor. In 2018 and 2019, a full-time Minister of Children, Youth, and Young Adults, as well as a Music Director were added to the church staff. Also in February 2019, Antioch hosted the Mid-Winter Board of the National Baptist Convention of America, International, Incorporated.
Like all churches of the world, Antioch faced the tremendous challenge of maintaining worship during the COVID-19 global pandemic of 2020. Despite these challenges, we have never missed a Sunday of worship. Even during the major winter storm of February 2021, we worshiped virtually despite the fact that an unusually heavy snow in South Texas grounded the entire city. Furthermore, the members of Antioch have continually supported the church spiritually, communally, and financially. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we pivoted during the pandemic with hybrid worship services containing both in-person and virtual fellowship, drive-through rallies and support services, and on-line giving. Over 87 years, including more than two years of a global pandemic, Antioch has thrived as a blessed community. Despite the crisis of COVID-19, souls have been added to the church, meaningful ministry continues in the community, and lives are perpetually transformed. Now as we approach a bright future, we look to “Move Higher in Service and Praise!”