"Antioch Church In Area Where Evictions Ordered: The Federal Court last Tuesday issued orders for the nearly 300 families living in the area bounded by E. 22nd St., Central and Cedar Ave. and E. 30th, to move by the 15th of October. While the judge said when to move, he didn't say where. The big problem therefore, facing the people, many of whom are on charity, is where they can move."
So reported the Cleveland Call and Post on September 15, 1934. Originally located at East 24th Street and Central Avenue, Antioch Baptist Church found itself in the same predicament as 300 nearby households--in the precarious position of needing to relocate in one month's time in order to make way for the Cedar Homes Public Housing Project. After finalizing the purchase of the property at East 89th Street and Cedar Avenue, Antioch moved to the area that would later come to known as the Fairfax neighborhood. As African Americans migrated to northern cities in the 1920s and 1930s in search of industrial jobs, they flooded into Cleveland's Cedar-Central neighborhood, adding to the congregational numbers of neighborhood churches including Antioch. Under the guidance of Rev. Wade Hampton McKinney, Antioch Baptist Church assumed a leadership role in Cedar-Central, establishing a credit union in 1947 to aid returning African American veterans as well as local residents in securing loans.
The Antioch Credit Union became wildly successful and this success along with growing congregational numbers created financial stability for the church, allowing Antioch to add a youth center to the church property as well as partner with the Cleveland Clinic to build the Antioch Towers for elderly residents in 1974. As more housing options opened up to African Americans on the periphery of the city in the 1970s, many black residents moved to the suburbs with neighborhood churches following their congregations out from the central city. Antioch remained committed to the Fairfax area, however, and chose to stay in Fairfax, buying up available property in an attempt to prevent undesirable businesses from exploiting the area.
With the ever-present threat of urban decay and possibility of the Cleveland Clinic expanding into the Fairfax area looming large over the neighborhood, Antioch continued to support cleanup efforts within the community as well as to once again partner with the Cleveland Clinic to establish the Antioch Development Corporation. The corporation began its Agape Program in 1999 to provide HIV testing, prevention education, case management, treatment referrals, as well as spiritual counseling to the community and continues to produce a positive impact on the Fairfax neighborhood.
While Antioch's decision to stay at its East 89th Street location demonstrated its commitment to the Fairfax neighborhood, more telling perhaps, is the decision of many of its congregational members who relocated to the suburbs to continue to return for services, illustrating Antioch's importance not only to the Fairfax neighborhood but to the entire Greater Cleveland African American community.