NEW ANTIOCH — Membership in the country church here reaches back to 1816 and even came before the village itself.
To recall and to mark the 200-year milestone, a bicentennial celebration service will be held 10 a.m. this Sunday, Aug. 21 at the New Antioch Church of Christ. The public is invited to the anniversary, where the editor of the Restoration Herald monthly magazine will be guest speaker.
Magazine editor Lee Mason said his presentation will center upon the church as found in the Bible. The topic is no surprise, as both the publication and the church in New Antioch look upon themselves as part of the Restoration Movement which desires to restore the church as pictured in the New Testament.
The church in New Antioch was first organized in 1816 as a New Light or Bible Christian Church, according to a book based on research by Louis Vandervort Lieurance and published in 2012 by Susan Gregory Henry as “The Golden Years of New Antioch”.
Samuel Rogers, who would write an autobiography, is indirectly responsible for the village becoming known as New Antioch. He named the New Light group’s first house of worship “Antioch” — after the place where, according to the book of Acts in the New Testament, disciples were first named Christians.
A post office was established in the settlement in 1845 and the village was named New Antioch.
Most New Light members stayed put when the Antioch congregation in the 1820s became part of the Restoration Movement, Lieurance stated in “The Golden Years of New Antioch”.
It was about 1850 that Paul H. Vandervort announced in the church at New Antioch that all who wanted to form a Sunday school for the study of scripture should meet. The meeting was soon held and a Sunday school was started.
There’s a section in “The Golden Years” that deals with amateur baseball games in the community that in the 1890s began to take place on Sundays. The book quotes U. Chase James, a New Antioch Sunday school teacher, that he thought every church member in good standing was opposed to Sunday baseball.
The book also includes lists of elders and deacons from the church’s earlier years. Among the last names are Vandervort, Marble, Bashore, Starbuck, Arnold, Miller, Haynie, Utter, James, Stackhouse and Pond.
Two longstanding current members are Doris Reynolds, who started attending in 1955, and Charilyn Prickett, who has gone there since 1958.
Reynolds said she can remember when attendance was 200. Now it averages about 25 to 32 on a Sunday, they said. The church has a youth group.
Baptisms formerly were conducted in a creek that runs near the church. A baptistry was installed and first used in April 1957.
A Fellowship Hall was added to the church facility in 1984.
Following the bicentennial celebration service Sunday, a meal will be provided and live music from “Back in Time Express” will be presented.
The church building is located on Antioch Road, a little southeast of Wilmington in Green Township.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768 or on Twitter @GHuffenberger.