Antioch United Methodist Church
Service times: 11 a.m. Sundays
Location: 2922 Antioch Church Road, Gainesville
Phone number: 770-536-7351
This series introduces one minister from every church and faith-based organization in the community each month.
Decorating the walls of the Rev. Michelle Rawdin’s office are framed posters and maps of holy places throughout the world.
But Rawdin tends a flock closer to home as pastor of Antioch United Methodist Church in Gainesville.
The Griffin, Georgia, native is in her third year as pastor of Antioch, after seven years in the Lovejoy-Mount Carmel Charge in Hampton, Georgia. Rawdin attended Piedmont College from 1996-2000, during which time she felt called by God to attend seminary.
After graduation, she moved to Wilmore, Kentucky, to attend Asbury Theological Seminary, graduating in December 2003 with a Master’s of Divinity.
Now with more than a decade of pastoral work under her belt, Rawdin is settling into Gainesville and the missionary work Antioch is best known for in the community.
What is your favorite thing about being pastor of your church?
“I get to be a part of people’s lives. And I’m a people person, so I love doing that. It’s going to soccer games, to being at weddings, funerals, baptisms — pivotal moments in people’s lives. I like doing that kind of thing, and I know some clergy don’t like to do visitation, don’t like going to hospitals, to people’s homes, but I enjoy that kind of stuff.
“Antioch has a big heart for missions, and I love serving here because they have such a passion for community and for trying to help meet needs.”
What is a strength of this community?
“That heart for missions. We do a youth camp two weeks in the summer called GAP — Gainesville Aid Project. This year was our 37th year. We have 200 kids come, 100 kids per week, and they are fed here at the church, they sleep at Antioch Campground, which is just around the corner. They sleep out there and then in the daytime, they do service projects. So they build wheelchair ramps, they do home repair, they pressure wash homes and take care of grass, weeds, that sort of stuff. They do that Wednesday through Sunday.
“One of our church members finds the work sites, or finds the need, if you will. They go through the community center and reach all these people that we can continue to minister to that are too old to do the work themselves or are not physically or financially able to do what needs to be done.
“And there are other things the church does outside the summertime. They get connected to the schools that are right here, meeting the needs the schools have.”
What’s an area that needs improvement or growth?
“I know just from the nearby elementary school (Sardis Enrichment School), we have a lot of poor families right here around us. A lot of the homes in this area are rental homes, and that doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but it can lead to a lot of transition and some low-income.
“At the elementary school, they have a lot of kids that need mentors through Center Point, which helps pair mentors with kids that have needs at home and at school. It’s not a tutoring thing, it’s about being someone who can help shine a light into a life. The school has a lot of need for that. It could be that there’s not a lot of income at home, or it’s a single parent home and the mom or dad is working two jobs to try to provide for the family. So then the kids aren’t being mistreated, but they’re not getting the attention they need for success in school.”
“Sometimes, home is so hard and everyone is trying the best they can to pull everything together, that they need someone else to come alongside them. I know there’s a lot of that in this community.”
What is your hope for Antioch?
“My hope would be for us to continue to grow, just in folks that are actively participating here week to week, which is every pastor’s dream, no matter your church size. But Antioch could double in size and not feel it in the physical space that much. We’re pretty small on Sunday morning attendance, Bible study and the number of children we have here.
“That’s one of the reasons I want to connect with our schools so much. Kids aren’t here, but they’re there. So maybe we can connect with them at school and shine a light there and be a source of hope there.”