The Antioch Baptist Church was conceived in the hearts of former slaves in 1868. During this period in history, racism existed in ways that most of us have only read about. It was at that time God called some brave men from Paulina and surrounding area plantations to join and form a burial society which they named the Anti-Yoke Society. Located in Paulina, the society was the equivalent of what we know as burial insurance today. Charging nickels and dimes, members paid dues and in the event of death, the society was responsible for their funeral expenses.
Yoke, by definition, means: “A bar or frame of wood by which two draft animals (as oxen) are joined at the neck.” Emerging from the shackles of slavery, the group took on the name Anti-Yoke suggestive of their newfound freedom. Anti-Yoke means not tied to anyone. In the context of the day, the name Anti-Yoke conveyed the idea of being neither owned nor shackled in slavery. The former slaves were unbound and free for the first time in their lives.
Under the leadership of Anthony Gloster, the group purchased two tracks of land from Michel Martin in September of 1870 for four hundred dollars. The former church sat on one track, and the church’s former schools sat on the other. As shown by the deed found in the St. James Parish courthouse, few of the members could either read or write. A witnessed “X” is beside each member’s signature. Despite their apparent lack of education, the group sought to improve the spiritual lives of the area’s black citizens.
The society’s building was used for church services. The Congregation of the Anti-Yoke, an offshoot of the Anti-Yoke Society, began holding regular church services in the shack-like structure. The building’s size grew inadequate to accommodate the growing number of members. This, after all, was the only black congregation or church for miles on the east bank of the Mississippi River.
Many of the last names on the Congregation of the Anti-Yokes’ roll is still found in the church’s current membership. They are Anthony Gloster, Augustus Davis, Rev. John Lewis, John Gibson, J. Kitt, G. Butler, L.W. Barney, and Rev. Thomas Allen.
Much of the church’s history is muddied by time and lost due to few written records. However, what is known is that Rev. Thomas Allen was the first pastor. Little is known about Allen, except that he was a former slave. During Allen’s tenure, the congregation of the Anti-Yoke was absorbed into the Anti-Yoke Baptist Church. Later in 1890, the church was renamed Antioch Baptist Church, thus becoming the first black church in the area. Rev. Thomas Allen served as pastor for forty-eight years.
In March 1973, Rev. Ferdinand Gaines, Jr. became the sixth pastor of the Antioch Baptist Church. Rev. Gaines was faced with the task of developing the people spiritually and educating them on the true concept of Christianity. He sought to accomplish this by laboring in the word, teaching Sunday School, Bible Class, “Development in the Word” class on Saturdays, Christian Education Foundation taught on Saturdays at St. James Parish Library, and through leadership programs. His main theme is love, forgiveness, long-suffering, and patience with others.
This approach was honored and blessed by God to the extent that the membership again exceeded the building capacity; hence it became necessary to develop a new complex. The church then purchased 3.5 acres of land on LA Highway 3125, where the new complex now sits.
Along with a new complex came a new name, First Community Antioch Baptist Church. The new name is reflective of the fact that we are a community church, a resource for both spiritual and human needs.
The first phase of our new construction was completed and dedicated on August 15, 1999. Phase one included the main sanctuary, eight classrooms, Pastor’s study, a business office, a secretary office, a Christian Education office, a ladies lounge, and a childcare room.
The second phase was completed and dedicated on December 12, 2005. This phase included four classrooms, a chapel, library, computer lab, Family Life Center/gymnasium, and office space for the Sunday school, youth, and music ministries. In July 2006, the church purchased an additional 2.7 acres of land adjacent to Highway 3125 across from our present location.
During Rev. Gaines’ tenure, the congregational growth was phenomenal. Under his leadership, the church grew to over 1200 members and over 22 ministries, including foreign missions in 2011, Rev. Gaines led the church’s first group of missionaries on a mission trip to the country of Belize. Locally, the church provides missions to our surrounding community through financial assistance and other programs. We met the needs of our congregation and the community through the following ministries:
Adult Bible Class
Sunday School classes for 12 age groups
New Member Orientation
Married Couple’s Ministry
Nursing Home Ministry
Pastor’s Prayer Ministry
Media Resource Ministry
Drug Rehabilitation Program
Summer Enrichment program
After-School tutorial program
Emergency and medical assistance program
In February of 2020, we lost our beloved pastor, Rev. Gaines, after a brief illness. It was also the month the Coronavirus global pandemic hit the world. For the first time in our church’s history, we were without a leader, and to add fuel to the fire, we were amid a pandemic eliminating all gatherings, including worship services. Rev. Gaines’ teaching positioned us to handle these current challenges, and we did not let a global pandemic get in the way of serving God. We quickly moved to virtual Discipleship Hour, Bible Study, and Worship service.
On October 24, 2021, the FCABC Church body elected Dr. Steven Dale Beckham as the next spiritual leader of First Community Antioch Baptist Church. Dr. Beckham was officially installed as the new pastor on Sunday, November 21, 2021.
The historical pastorage of Antioch Baptist Church is as follows:
1868 – 1916
Rev. Thomas Allen, Founding Minister
September 1916 – July 20, 1937
Rev. John B. Lewis
March 20, 1938 – 1942
Rev. Archie Kennard
August 23, 1942 – 1963
Rev. Felix Russell
1964 – 1972
Rev. Jesse Clay
March 1973 – February 29, 2020
November 21, 2021 – Current
Rev. Ferdinand Gaines, Jr.
Dr. Steven D. Beckham