The little red church in the pines that you see above is unique in many ways, and is one of the most charming we have discovered in rural Georgia. The church was organized in 1844, and the consensus seems to be that this is the third structure on the site…although it may only be the second according to some sources. We think the present church was built in the mid 1890’s. Reverend Irvin Roberts Booth (1822 – 1896), who moved to Clinch County in 1840 from South Carolina, is credited with the organization of the church and the raising of the first structure. He then served as pastor for fifty years, and the history tells us that he conducted the Sunday School class on the Sunday before his death in 1896 at the age of 84.
It would be difficult to overstate the appeal of the little church or that of its setting. The United Methodist History of the South Georgia Conference said it best in 1982. “In Clinch County near the edge of the Okefenokee Swamp among tall pines, is a small one-room, high-arched-roof building, painted red with white trim. There is no electricity or modern comforts and there is silence all about. This is Antioch.” Part of Antioch’s appeal is in the architectural proportions…part of it is the red paint and white trim…and part the cedar shake roof. This is one of the smallest rural churches we have seen. Most have either four or five standard windows on the side…..some have six. Antioch has but two. Even the little chimney has a unique charm, being hand made of local clay with uneven coloring.
The setting is elegant, in a stand of tall Georgia pines and the church beckons to come inside. When you enter the church, the visual images are just stunning, as you will see in the following photos. It is very apparent that this church has a very small but loving congregation that has maintained it over the years in pristine fashion with a proper sense of historical stewardship. The pastor’s name is Lori Howell, and she also works for the Waycross regional library. She is a gracious hostess and we are so thankful that the little red church in the pines has been so well preserved, and will honor Georgia rural history for generations to come. We are told that the church closed at some point in the first half of the 20th century, but in 1944 or ’45 it reopened. Regardless of having only four regularly attending members, services are still held each second and fourth Sunday at 9 AM. Services are conducted by Pastor Lori Howell. All are welcome to attend. Be prepared for a visual treat.
Be sure to click and scroll the gallery photos below for more information on Antioch.
Here we are looking from just behind the hand-made heart pine pulpit. As the exterior of the church is very plain and contains no architectural embellishment, so is its spartan interior seen here. Both reflect the “no ostentation, keep it simple” tenets of the United Methodists in this wild wiregrass country section of Georgia in that era… clean, white, long leaf pine board walls, ceiling, window and door frames. It is not known why the congregation choose to paint the pews and pulpit red, but the result is a sanctuary that is cheerful, welcome and inviting.
This is a close up of the raised chancel, communion table, pulpit and apse area. We see that the floor of the sanctuary is made of three or four inch tongue and groove pine boards. Since such lumber was not available in this area until the late 19th or early 20th century, we feel comfortable that the construction date for Antioch was in the late 1800’s.To the right of the pulpit we see the Amen Corner pews and to its left is the ubiquitous upright piano found in almost all of the rural churches of that period. This chancel configuration is typical except for the absence of a communion rail usually found in these old Methodist churches. Perhaps there was one originally that was removed.
The piano sits on the corner of the chancel. The choir section pews (not seen) are placed to the left in this photo giving us a chance to focus on the eight large, twelve paned, clear glass paned windows at Antioch. Note the smattering of rare decorative elements on the lid. There are two windows like the ones seen here on each of the building’s four walls. Since the windows have fixed panes , a style only becoming available in the 20th century, we feel that they must have been installed relatively recently. No matter what, these windows certainly allow a great deal of ambient light to flow into the sanctuary.
The communion table, pulpit, officiant’s bench and the “Amen Corner’s” pews are seen in this photo. All are made from long leaf pine lumber and very heavy. Please note that the communion table’s rear legs have been shortened allowing the table to be pushed back flush with the pulpit; this insures its stability and gives a bit more room for circulation of preachers and congregants, clever.
All of the pews at Antioch were hand crafted of long leaf pine lumber. We are not sure if the pews throughout the church are original or some that were made during one of Antioch’s restoration efforts. They are all of the same design and lend an appearance of authenticity within this old church. Above these pews, we find another trace of decorative elements within this old small sanctuary. To the left, we see a painting of the exterior of the present building. To the right is a framed bible text. Throughout the sanctuary, we have seen evidence in each photo that the congregation is active and diligently working hard at this point to maintain this church they love so much. We discovered that Antioch had been closed at some point in the mid-20th century. Happily, near the renaissance that began with the close of WW2, around 1944 or 1945, it was reopened. Regardless of having only four regularly attending members, services are still held each fourth Sunday by Pastor Lori Howell. All are welcome to attend.
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My wife and I visited the church yesterday, 2-19-22. The big pines on the church ground are now all gone. It appears many were broken by high wind and all were removed. The wooden shake roof has been replaced by modern green architectural shingles. Apparently to accommodate the new roof, the external chimney was knocked off to just below the roof line. The chain link fence around the cemetery was heavily damaged on the side near the church. Thankfully the church was not destroyed and appears to be still carrying on its original mission.
Thanks for the Antioch update Paul. These things are do precious but also so fragile.
I plan to visit this church soon. Would you know who to contact to open the church
The pastor’s name is Lori Howell. Here is her email address [email protected]. Good luck, she is a beauty.
Looking forward to visiting this church this year.
Our new year’s resolution was that we will make a visit Monthly to historic rural churches this year