Antioch Baptist Church to commemorate its 130th anniversary with historic walk, block party

Antioch Baptist Church in the Fairfax neighborhood, Cleveland’s second-oldest Black congregation (Shiloh Baptist Church is the oldest), will celebrate its 130th anniversary this Saturday, Aug. 19 with a two-mile walk from the site of its former home—an 1893 church in the Central neighborhood—to its current church at East 89th Street and Cedar Avenue.

Then next weekend, on Friday, Aug. 25, Saturday, Aug. 26, and Sunday, Aug. 27

The historic walk marks the steps taken in 1934 by more than 1,000 Antioch members from their former church to its new location.

By the middle of the 20th Century, Antioch Baptist Church was Cleveland’s largest Black church with nearly 3,000 members—who paid off the church’s $25,000 mortgage in just six years—equal to nearly $1 million in 2023

Lifelong church member Angelia Gooden Vannoy says Antioch is a legacy in the Cleveland community, 89 years after that walk.

“I am humbled and grateful to the families who prayerfully paved the journey for us and made this very walk to our church building,” she says. “This walk honors the faith and courage our Antioch family has had since its beginning.”

The Antioch congregation leaves Sunday worship service from its new building, circa 1960The Antioch congregation leaves Sunday worship service from its new building, circa 1960Today, Antioch Baptist Church is home to more than 600 members throughout northeast Ohio, led by Rev. Dr. Napoleon J. Harris V, a Cleveland native who was welcomed as the church’s new senior pastor one year ago.

The church has paved the way with innovative programs in everything from HIV/AIDS to women pastors and deacons and has an extensive outreach ministry to address hunger, poverty, and social justice issues.

“Antioch is a cornerstone in Cleveland’s Fairfax community and has had a long and rich history of groundbreaking, transformative ministry,” says Harris. “As we celebrate our 130th anniversary, we celebrate our ancestors, current church members, and the generations ahead of us. I am honored and humbled to be leading this legendary church.”

Saturday’s walk takes place from the old church near E. 31st and concludes at the current building on East 89th Street and Cedar—the same walk that took place in 1934.

Participants will meet at Antioch Church parking lot, 8869 Cedar Ave., at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 19 and will be bussed to the East 31st Street location, where the walk will begin.

The celebration begins next weekend. On Friday, Aug. 25 at the church for a special 130th Anniversary Homecoming Weekend that includes a gallery walk of archival footage at 5:45 p.m. and a Showcase of Talent at 7 p.m. on Friday; a Summer Block Party on Saturday, Aug. 26 from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the church parking lot; and an outdoor community reception immediately following Sunday worship at 11 a.m. All events are family-friendly, free and open to the public.

In honor of Antioch’s legacy of community outreach, the church will host a free clothing giveaway of new and like-new clothing for men, women, and children during the Summer Block Party.

The church has also launched a shoe collection drive to raise money for its ongoing community outreach work; gently worn, used, or new shoes can be donated at the church until October 5, 2023.

For more information about the 130th celebration, visit Antioch’s home page or call (216) 421-1516.