The Antioch African Methodist Episcopal Church was founded in 1868 by former slaves in Decatur, Georgia. They chose the name “Antioch” in honor of the city where Paul’s disciples were first called Christians (Acts 11:26 KJV). Antioch A.M.E. Church was the first black religious institution in the city’s history. The congregation held services in the home of Ms. Louise Bracher for over six (6) years. The members built the first church, a one-room edifice, in the heart of downtown Decatur on Marshall Street in 1874, very close to the end of the Reconstruction era. During this era, many autonomous black churches were founded and continued to they play a central role in black communal life.
Antioch A.M.E. Church was more than a religious institution for the community of former slaves. It housed the community school, social events, political gatherings, and benevolent and fraternal societies. More importantly, Antioch was a central component in the formation of the black community’s conception of freedom. Antioch A.M.E. Church remained a one-roomed edifice until the 1930’s.
Antioch A.M.E. Church’s first pastor was Reverend D.W. Wiggs. Prior to his appointment as pastor, Antioch was served by a “circuit rider,” an itinerant preacher that served a number of churches in one geographical area. Reverend Wiggs came to Antioch in the shadow of the great depression of the 1930’s. Reverend Wiggs facilitated the reorganization of the church as well as laid plans for building the new structure. He never built the new church he envisioned, but went on to become a Presiding Elder within the A.M.E. Denomination.
It took additional thirty-years (30) to build the new church structure. During that period, the following Itinerant Elders pastored at Antioch:
- Reverend Larry Hudson
- Reverend Frank Maddox
- Reverend Eugene Adams
- Reverend L.J. Jones
- Reverend Benjamin Gay
- Reverend Few*
- Reverend Wilkerson*
- Reverend Hardiman*
In 1965, Reverend T.J. Flanagan and the membership made the decision to purchase the land to build a new church on Atlanta Avenue, which was renamed to Hibernia Avenue. The church remained at that location until 1995.
On September 24, 1995, under the leadership of Rev. Dr. Stafford, J. Wicker, Antioch’s current pastor, the congregation move from Decatur, Georgia to its current location on South Hairston Road, in Stone Mountain, Georgia. From her humble beginnings, Antioch African Methodist Episcopal Church has grown to become one of the largest congregations in the Sixth Episcopal District. Yet, many parts of her story and rich history have been lost. The purpose of the proposed project is to facilitate the necessary research and document the finding so that future generations will know the rich history of this great church.