In 1900, Vienna, VA was a typical rural community. Dirt streets. Little-to-no modern conveniences. But it was not remote. Ten miles to the east, by way of Chain Bridge Road, was the District of Columbia. At the time, local farming residents met at the old Beulah Methodist Protestant Church (located a quarter of a mile north of Antioch's current location).
In 1902, however, a division arose within the congregation, and a group, led by C.C. Dyer and G.W. Bryant, withdrew from the church. Tragically, shortly after the division, the church was struck by lightning and burned completely, but thankfully no one was hurt. Those who withdrew from the church began a Sunday School at Clark's School House (located on Clark's Crossing Road) and identified themselves as "only Christians," with no denominational ties.
Joel Grayson, a member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), began attending the newly formed Sunday School. After inquiring about the group's affiliation, the people told Grayson that they "were Christians only," to which he responded: "Why I have belonged to that group of people all my life!" He then told them of a body of frontier Christians who discarded all human-formed creeds as tests of fellowship. (This is commonly known as the outworking of the Stone-Campbell Movement, which flourished from the late 18th and early 19th centuries). Grayson described these Christians as taking only the Bible as their guide and basis of faith and fellowship. The only "creed" they held was Peter's confession of Jesus as "the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:16).
The people at Clark's School House now wanted a full-time pastor. In August 1903, Grayson attended the Shenandoah Valley Convention of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and petitioned for a pastor. Joseph T. Watson, a young man and recent graduate of Milligan College, answered the call. Around the same time, C.C. Dyer donated a significant portion of land for a new church site. On November 26, 1903, at 11:00 am, the cornerstone was laid for the new building. Construction of the church was performed almost entirely by volunteers, and the entire project was completed and dedicated on June 12, 1904. Total cost: about $300.
The members of the newly formed Antioch Christian Church agreed "to stand together to spread the word of God as laid down in the Bible." They also proclaimed: "We know no other creed but what is taught in the Bible." This statement of dedication was then signed by the forty-one members of the church, including Rev. Joseph T. Watson and his wife, Annie Burner Watson.
Since those early days, the members of Antioch have continued to honor the pledge of its founders. Descendants of the founding families were joined by others who brought about growth and prosperity to the Vienna community as well as the congregation. Even though Antioch is no longer affiliated with the Disciples of Christ, it has changed very little over the years. The spirit of Christian fellowship and allegiance to the teachings of the Bible that gave birth to Antioch continues today, as does the traditional form of worship—a style that has inspired this community of faith for more than a century.
We would love for you to become a part of the Antioch family, to add your story to ours, and to help build a lasting legacy for those who come after us.