Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Houston

Photo of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Houston, Texas
Photograph © Wayne Lorentz

Antioch Missionary Baptist Church

500 Clay Street, Houston, Texas, Downtown 77002
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This is perhaps Houston's most historic church. The congregation was founded by two white Baptist ministers and nine former slaves in 1865 upon hearing that they had been emancipated. It was Houston's first black church. The original sanctuary was built a year later, but not on this site. The current building dates from 1875, but was much smaller than the structure you see today. Just 16 years later, it had to be enlarged. By 1936, it was once again in need of expansion, and as part of that project it gained height, ornamentation, and the trademark "Jesus Saves" sign. But the original marble cornerstone remains, cemented neatly in place below the sandstone one that followed it. Antioch Missionary Baptist Church is often thought to be the oldest church in Houston. It is not.

Quick Facts
    >2001 - Antioch Baptist Church is seen on television by millions around the world as its ironic "Jesus Saves" sign shares airspace with the headquarters of the collapsed Enron corporation next door.
    >July, 1994 - The church becomes a Texas Historic Landmark.
    >May, 1991 - Britain's Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II visit the church.
    >1986 - Highly-publicized internal strife rocks the church. The Reverend Michael Patrick Williams is removed from his post when parishioners fear he is planning to move the congregation to a new location. Real estate companies have tried for decades to get their hands on the church's property. The land is worth millions.
    "It is here that the Lord, our God, has delivered us. Little did (the founders) have any idea this church would be in the center of one of the largest cities in the United States. It was God's divine plan that we would be the center."
    Ruth Pryor
    Houston Chronicle, 18 July, 1994
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