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Oldest African-American church in Bulloch celebrates milestone

Antioch Missionary commemorates heritage

Oldest African-American church in Bulloch celebrates milestone

Oldest African-American church in Bulloch celebrates milestone

With Deacon Theodore Mobley, chairman...

   A small brick church at the end of a dirt road in Brooklet recently commemorated an event that no other church in Bulloch County can boast of.
    Antioch Missionary Baptist Church traces its roots back to September 1863 and recently celebrated its 150th anniversary.
    “It has been my pleasure and still another blessing from the Almighty God to serve as pastor of the oldest and one of the best churches in Bulloch County,” said the Rev. Richard Lawrence, the pastor of Antioch for 13 years.
    “Longevity” and “family” are two words that seem to arise frequently when discussing Antioch Missionary Baptist Church.
    Sister Willie Mae Cone, 96, the mother of the church and its oldest living member, said Antioch is the only church she’s ever attended and points out that her whole family goes there.
“God’s blessed me,” she said. “God’s blessed me. That’s how I got to be 96.”
    Many members of the church are born into the family, and some marry into it. Margaret Cone was baptized and joined the church in the summer of 1969, just after marrying her husband, Clyde Cone Jr., a longtime member and deacon at Antioch.
“I love Antioch,” Margaret Cone said. “We’re all family.”
    A historical sketch of Antioch Baptist Church written in 1983 cites I.E. Bryant and M. Kempt as the church founders. Speculation says that not everyone in Bulloch County approved of the church.
    One of Antioch’s stories recounts the devastating destruction of Bryant’s horse and buggy, his means for traveling throughout Bulloch and surrounding counties to start churches. Bryant persevered with faith, however, and members have worshiped God faithfully now for 150 years, passing that faith down from generation to generation.
    “Antioch means a lot to me because my entire family are members of the church,” said Jennifer Wiley, a member for 30 years. “My parents, Mr. and Mrs. Freddie Wiley, are buried there, and they instilled the Lord in me at an early age. It is an honor to be a member of a historical part of Bulloch County.”
    Members of the church commemorated the day with a special service, followed by lunch and fellowship time. Bulloch County Commissioner Anthony Simmons, who is the longest-serving commissioner currently, attended the anniversary celebration.
    “I was pleased to present a plaque of recognition to one of the oldest churches in Bulloch County, if not the oldest African-American church in Bulloch County,” he said. “It’s been a staple in Bulloch County, and I don’t think anything lasts that long, except through God.”

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