WASHINGTON — Robeson County’s Antioch Baptist Church is celebrating its 200th anniversary this year, and Congressman Robert Pittenger took to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday to spread the word and pay homage to the church’s legacy.
“This year, Antioch Baptist celebrates their 200th anniversary. What an incredible testimony of faithfully spreading God’s word and ministering to the community,” said Pittenger, a Republican whose 9th District includes Robeson County. “In 1817, the church was founded in the swamps of Robeson County as Burnt Island Baptist, with meetings under a brush arbor on the same spot where the church meets today. In 1842, the church was renamed Antioch, after the city from which the Apostle Paul launched his three missionary journeys. The name was chosen to signify the church’s commitment to missions.
“More recently, Antioch Baptist took on the mission of providing a solid education alternative for the people of Robeson County by opening Antioch Christian Academy. Later this year, I look forward to joining Pastor Mark Meadows and the congregation of Antioch Baptist Church to celebrate their 200th anniversary. God bless them.”
The church that would become Antioch Baptist originally was named Burnt Islands Church for the community it served. The new church continued the Baptist tradition its founders had embraced at other churches in the county. The Burnt Island area, which is located southeast of Lumberton, was said to be full of marshes, bays and high sand ridges, but people lived and farmed successfully there, according to a history of the church written by longtime church member Sam West. Small, self-sustaining farms populated the area.
The first structure, a log building, was built in 1827 and stood as the church until around 1852, when a new church was constructed. The congregation moved into a new sanctuary in 1902 — a building that still stands. A new building was built in 1993 and a new sanctuary was built in 2001.
The earliest members came from Lennon’s Cross Roads Baptist Church, which had been established 20 years prior by members of Saddletree Baptist Church.
In 1842, the church reorganized and changed its name to Antioch Baptist.
The 200th anniversary will be a yearlong observance. Services on the first Sunday of each month will feature special guests who are a part of the church’s history, such as former pastors, former staff members, and musicians who have had a significant role in the life of the church.