"Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together" (Hebrews 10:25) - Paul's words are woven into the history of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church of Pensacola, Florida. During the late 1800s white and black people worshipped together in what is now known as the First Baptist Church of Pensacola, 500 North Palafox Street. Later, John the Baptist Church was designated for black people on the east side of Pensacola. There was still a need for a black church on the west side of town; so Antioch, as one of the pioneer black churches in Pensacola, was organized on May 10, 1886. A charter was issued, and the church was erected on the corner of "C" and Brainerd Streets.
Unfortunately, no records exist to indicate the founding pastor, but some of the early pastors were Rev. "Father" Henry Aaron, Rev. D. W. Williamson, Rev. D. H. Brooks, Rev. A. G. Robinson, Rev. Sampson, and Rev. F. L. Daniels. Under the direction of Rev. A. G. Robinson, the church was dedicated on October 24, 1915. However, in 1917, misfortune struck Antioch after flourishing for 31 years. During the pastorate of Rev. F. L. Daniels, the structure was demolished by a severe wind and rainstorm. Setbacks and failures come to one and all, but as the psalmist wrote: "I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved" (Psalm 16:8).
Undefeated, the congregation held services in the Baptist Academy, on the corner of "H" and Brainerd Streets, until 1919 when a new church was built at 615 North "D" Street. Still under the leadership of Rev. Daniels, there was a merger of the Bethel and Antioch Baptist Churches. Pastors who followed Rev. Daniels were: Rev. AP Lee, Rev. Carlton, Rev.Johnson, Rev. Mallett, Rev. Cotton, and Rev. C. Fitchew, Rev. C. R. Burrage, Rev. Williams, Rev. Shields. Antioch continued to grow, and under the pastorate of Rev. T. J. Davis, the church was reconstructed in 1946.
On May 4, 1947, the cornerstone was laid by the Eureka Lodge #6 F & AM, John Clark, Worshipful Master. On January 6, 1957, Rev. Dr. Nathaniel Smith became pastor of Antioch, bringing with him the inspiration, vision, and leadership that enabled Antioch to prosper. Under Rev. Smith’s pastoral guidance a new sanctuary, presently located on the corner of "D" and Gadsden Streets, 625 North "D" Street was dedicated on October 30, 1966.
The cornerstone was laid by King David Lodge #55 AF&AM, February 5, 1967 — R. Lee, Worshipful Master and M. Sheffield, Secretary. Not satisfied with resting on past accomplishments, Antioch continues to grow spiritually and physically. Acts 2:47 states: "And the Lord added to the church." On December 16, 1996 plans began for building a new sanctuary under the direction of Dr. N. Smith. Original groundbreaking in July 1997 and the new building was erected in the same location of the 1917 structure.
Talk about history repeating itself! Giving thanks and praising the Lord for His many blessings, the congregation moved into the new church, 609 North "D" Street on April 2, 2000. Two years later, on June 30, 2002, the cornerstone was laid by Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. Florida Jurisdiction, Inc. - Alexander H. Smith, Grand Master 33rd degree, Host Lodge Sharon #107. Only five years later on November 11, 2007, Dr. Smith led Antioch in a mortgage-burning ceremony, what a celebration! Pastor Nathaniel Smith continued to be all about growth and sharing a vision for the future, in over a half-century working for the Lord in Antioch Missionary Baptist Church.
Serving since July 19, 2009, Dr. Tyler Hardeman (former Pastor, Lily Baptist Church, Mobile, AL) was officially installed as Co-Pastor on December 12, 2010. Dr. Hardeman grew up in Antioch and was happy to return home. Under this dual pastorate of Smith & Hardeman, Antioch thrived for three years. Pastor Nathaniel Smith and the members of Antioch are continuing to progress taking full advantage of Dr. Smith’s experience as Senior Pastor and officially installed our own Dr. Tyler Hardeman, Sr. as Pastor January 13, 2013.
“Reclaim, Retrain, and Retain!” is now our church motto. The Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, Pensacola, Florida, has experienced its share of growing pains. Yet, the church always moves on with pride and determination thankful for an active, growing membership. Antioch is a vital part of the Pensacola community parenting local churches, namely the Greater Little Rock Baptist Church and Mars Hill Baptist Church. Antioch is still "The Church with a Warm Welcome" expressing the love of Christ in Antioch's past, present, and future.
Documented by Sis. Gloria Jackson McLeod, Historian & Sis. Antoinette Staples. Last revision 2013.