The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is a Protestant group that has been active in Georgia since the early nineteenth century. Several of its adherents, known as Disciples, have played prominent roles in the history of the state, and today the church thrives in Georgia with approximately 20,000 members in 69 congregations. Antioch Christian was built in 1886 and stands on the same site as the original meetinghouse known as “Old Republican”. Antioch is the oldest Christian (Disciples of Christ) Church in Georgia and is the Mother Church for all the other Christian congregations in the state.
The following are excerpts from a history written by Mrs. B.O. Miller in 1904 – “The American Revolution not only broke down political sovereignty, but also aroused the spirit of religious liberty and much dissatisfaction arose among the sects on account of iron clad rules and severe exactions concerning the faith and practice of each denomination. Many discussions were held concerning the conferences of the Methodist Church and James O’Kelley and several other preachers in Virginia and North Carolina plead for a different system. This created great agitation and opposition, and on Christmas Day 1793, James O’Kelley and a number of followers seceded from the Methodists at a place called Mannakin Town, North Carolina. Very soon they built a little church near Scull Shoals (noted as the location of a terrible Indian massacre”,) about 16 miles from Athens and about nine miles from Watkinsville. It is claimed that this church was built as early as 1807, though the exact date is not certainly known. It is however, authentically stated that the congregation was re-organized under the name of “Bible Christians” in 1822. They called the church “Old Republican.”
In 1833 Elder Thacker V. Griffin came from Tennessee and during his extended visit he often preached at the little church. He was perhaps the first preacher in Georgia to urge the return of Christian to Apostolic practice and to teach the principles of the Restoration. He met with great opposition, but it is quite interesting to know that he sowed good seed that soon ripened in fruitage, for in 1834, Mr. W. T. Lowe was immersed for remission of sins by Rev. William Pendleton, in Old Rose Creek, near the Old Republican Church. This was the first record in Georgia of a baptism for remission of sin. Thus “Antioch” won for herself the proud distinction of being called the “Mother Church” of the Disciples in Georgia. Out of her grew “Mount Vernon” in Walton County, “Old Union” in Oconee County, “Bethany”, (now Bogart) in Jackson County, and perhaps many others years ago, to Texas, in which there were several preachers, who founded a number of churches in that state, so that the old church has reached out into “The Regions Beyond”, and who shall show the limit of her influence.”
The spirit of “Old Republican” lives on at Antioch. We are grateful for the loving stewardship that will make sure she lives on for generations more.
This is a view from the south side looking north. The steeple was added in 1969 and there is a story that goes with that. The Antioch community was served by a well known school that was named the Goshen School for many years. The school started as a one room log building and over the years developed into a much larger school before succumbing to the fate that eventually fell to all the old schools. However, the bell that tolled for the old Goshen school was rescued from the ruins and placed in the church steeple that was added for that purpose. Long may she ring.
Here we are looking from the entrance to the sanctuary toward the chancel and pulpit. The wide center aisle beckons the congregant in. The the light from the clear glass windows augments that from the large chandaliers creating a bright and welcoming atmosphere within. The walls, door/window frames are plain but the pews are handsome with scrolled armrests and intaglio medallions on the aisle. The most striking decorative element in the sanctuary is the proscenium arch (theater stage curtain shaped) entry to the chancel and pulpit area and its lovely stained glass window. Though not unique, this arch treatment is seldom seen in sanctuary design of the 19th century.
This view from the pulpit confirms the late 19th/early 20th century design at Antioch. The curving pews, wide center aisle with peripheral aisles, plush red carpet, electric chandler lighting, vestibule entry and generous overflow balcony were hallmarks of this era in sanctuary design.
Walter H. Anderson was born in 1848 and served with the 4th Ga State Troops according to the gravestone. That means he was thirteen years old when the war began and seventeen when it ended. We think this is another case of enlisting older men and young boys to serve in the last days of the war as Atlanta fell and Sherman began ravaging the countryside.
We never cease to be amazed by the number of attractive, elegant, unique and occasionally breathtaking memorials/monuments we find in some of the most unlikely places. This is one found in the relatively small Antioch Christian cemetery. It was quite a surprise to find, in a community that was not known for its wealth and prosperity, this magnificent, heavy, cast iron grave enclosure. The stout, highly decorated corner posts are capped by handsome finials. The fencing itself is of complex, elaborate yet delicate design. This was an expensive piece of work and must mark the grave of an important person in this community.
Christian Church (Disciples Of Christ)
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