Antioch United Methodist Church


The congregation that gathers today at Antioch United Methodist Church in the eastern portion of Lunenburg County has a proven history of worship from its beginnings in 1806 in a meeting house situated on an acre “across the road from John Hite’s outlet” about a half-mile southeast of today’s sanctuary. By 1855, according to the records of the Charge Conference, the Lunenburg Circuit was comprised of ten churches: Antioch, Concord, Courthouse, Fletcher’s Chapel, Olive Branch, Providence, Rehoboth, Smyrna, Spring Hill, and Winn’s.

By March 1857, in the year of the “Great January Blizzard,” the old Antioch meeting house was sold by the church trustees and construction began on what is now the oldest part of the present building. Known then as the Antioch Methodist Episcopal Church, South, the new house of worship was constructed on the former site of Flat Rock Academy, opened in 1840 by the brothers John Chapman Blackwell and Thomas Blackwell, graduates of the old Randolph-Macon College in Boydton. The new church had features typical of some Southern churches in the mid-1800s: a gallery with separate entrance for the Negroes who then attended services in considerable numbers, and a division strip through the middle of the sanctuary with separate entrances for the male and female church members.

By 1866, Antioch had 75 members, although the report for the Lunenburg Charge in June 1861 noted that many members of the Antioch church were away in the army, because of “the circumstances of our country.”

In September 1879, a parsonage for use by the Lunenburg Charge was built on property adjacent to Antioch and is still in use today.  Within the cemetery located behind the church is a fenced-in Wilkinson graveyard with a large holly tree. The earliest grave reads “Agnes M. Wilkinson 11/29/1838 - 5/20/1906.”

The Antioch church stood without alteration for forty or more years after its 1857 construction. Then, a recessed pulpit was added, which necessitated removal of two of the original windows. Later, the ceiling was altered, stained-glass memorial windows were installed, and five classrooms and a vestibule were added, eliminating the gallery. There have been other interior changes and structural additions, but the original pews and division strip have been maintained, as well as the original foundation, flooring, and weatherboarding on two sides. (See 1913 photograph at left.)

            On May 10, 1939, the Methodist Episcopal Church, Methodist Episcopal Church South and the Methodist Protestant Church united to form the Methodist Church. In 1968 the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church united as the United Methodist Church, and thus the current designation as Antioch United Methodist Church. Currently only two churches are on the Lunenburg Circuit -- Antioch and Williams.

Constructed in 1857, the present building is over 150 years old, making Antioch the oldest Methodist Church in continuous use in Lunenburg County, with a congregation dating back over 200 years. Here in the Lochleven District of Lunenburg County, some descendants of early members of the Antioch Methodist Episcopal Church South still hold membership in this church of their ancestors.



Excerpts from A History of Antioch Church, Lunenburg County, Virginia, compiled by June Banks Evans and Brenda McHenry Barnes, Bryn Ffyliaid Publications, New Orleans, LA, 2006.  


Some Lunenburg Circuit Methodist preachers and presiding elders:




Some members of Antioch Methodist Church: