FRIENDSHIP BAPTIST CHURCH
Friendship Baptist Church was organized on January 17, 1858, by "...the scattered members of the Baptist denomination holding letters from the different churches."
Those who met to constitute the new church were John Dickey, James Truss, Hezekiah Moor, Henry Inzer, and P. S. Montgomery, clerk. These men found the body of believers to be orthodox and constituted a church with the following charter members: Samuel B. Crow and wife Sarah, John George and wife Adeline, Belinda Smith, Adeline Donahoo, Belinda Pruitt, and Marion Gro gan. They named their church Friendship and adopted the Articles of Faith and Rules of Decorum. Samuel C row and John George were the first deacons.
A tragic note concerning Hezekiah Moor is that he was shot and killed in St. Clair County "...as he rode the public highway on horseback, by a bushwacker" in the Kelley's Creek area. Rev. P. S. Montgomery wrote of Moor's murder: "Having returned home [from the Civil War] on furlough, he found that much mischief was being done by robbers in this county [St. Clair]..., and it seemed would ruin the country. Bro. M. gathered a company of men and was indeed successful in catching them. But alas! about the middle of May 1863, as he was returning home alone, a wretch secreted himself by the way, and committed the awful deed and fled."
Revival meetings have always been a part of rural life, for the community revolved around the church. Friendship church held its first protracted meeting in July, 1858, and "received James Rowen and wife Sarah Rowe n, Coll Coc kran and John Daral, all by experience. Also received A. B. Bowma n and wife Elizabeth Bowman by letter."
These meetings were a yearly occurrence, for no church year was ever complete without them. An especially effective protracted meeting, lasting for nine days, was held in August 1873. During this revival, twenty-six persons were added to the church. Ten of these were by "experience and baptism." That is, they experienced salvation, were baptized and joined the church as a result of the meetings.
Rev. I. W. Inzer is remembered as a preacher who held excellent revival services. C. J. Donahoo, Jr., recalls that Bro. Inzer's revivals "usually resulted in souls saved and lives rededicated. He was a firm believer of the Bible and that there is a Heaven and a Hell, and he preached it in all sincerity."
Another well-known revivalist was Rev. J. S. E. Robinson. An outstanding Baptist preacher in St. Clair County, he knew the Scriptures so well that when giving his text he rarely looked at the Bible. He often pastored four churches, preaching once a month at each. Once, after an especially noteworthy revival at Friendship, he was asked if it were true that he had converted sixty souls during the revival. His answer rang out, "I never done it, sir! The Lord done it!" Such was the preacher Robinson.
As in other communities, the Friendship church building was used for community purposes as well as a house of worship. An interesting item appears in the April 1886 minutes. "It was adopted that ther shal not be any more public politick meating helt in the house at friendship of any kind." No particular reason was given for this action.
C. J. Donahoo, who attended this church in the 1930s, remembered the old building as being large enough to hold 300 or more. The ceiling was quite high and ceiled with beaded lumber. Oil lamps hung from the ceiling, and on the wall were lamps with reflectors which intensified the light and shielded the wood from the heat. In the corner was the organ box where the pump organ could be stored. The benches were made of several long planks flexible planks that could pinch when someone shifted positions; therefore, worshipers had to be on guard about this danger. The house was heated by a large pot-bellied stove that sat toward the front. On the rostrum were three lecterns, one was the pulpit and the smaller ones of each side were decorative. Sometimes they held a glass of water for the preacher. At the foot of the rostrum was the mourners' bench. Many were the souls that found salvation and comfort there at that bench at Friendship Church.
As is typical all over the South, Memorial Day is a well-established tradition at Friendship. A single notation on page 58 of a Church Record book states that the first memorial at Friendship was in May 1892. These services usually began at 9:30 a.m. with a song and proceeded at a steady pace throughout the day. Decoration of the graves was at 11:00 a.m., with "dinner on the grounds" at 12:00. The day usually ended around 4:30 in the afternoon.
The cemetery at Friendship has from the beginning been used by both black and white families of the community, although the races observed different memorial days. A May 10, 1900, entry in the Southern Aegis reads, "A large crowd of colored citizens attended the colored memorial exercises at Friendship last Saturday."
In the 1950s when the church decided to build a new sanctuary, Carl Layman was hired to "tear down the old church and build the new church at a wage agreed upon by the building committee and Bro. Layman." A wood-frame church was built. Some years later it was bricked, and other additions and remodeling have been carried out at various times.
As the community grew and attendance at Friendship increased, the church realized that in not too many years they would need a larger sanctuary. So, with that in mind, the building fund was started. Gradually the fund increased to $150,000. A Building Committee was appointed consisting of Jim Baker, Tim Seals, Don Walker, Frank Morris, Donald Ray Walker, Ron McGaha, Mike Chappell, and Sue Washington, secretary. Although Ray Rogers was not on the building committee, we must salute him for his enthusiasm and faithfulness to the building project.
Plans were discussed, drawn up, agreed upon and construction began. Tim Seals acted as construction supervisor. On the announced work days during the building, practically every member of Friendship had some part in the construction of the new building.
Two groups from other areas came and worked with us: Carpenters for Christ, from Leeds, and Campers on Mission, made up of men and their wives from various places in Alabama. Without the dedication of these men, our sanctuary and fellowship hall would not have been completed in so little time. Friendship will forever be grateful to these folk whose love for Christ gave them a part in the ministry and mission of Friendship Baptist Church.
Moody Baptist Church donated benches from their old sanctuary. The finish on these was refurbished and polished, and Dale Sumeral and his crew did the upholstery work. Chairs for the choir loft were covered in the same fabric.
The ten stained glass windows were donated in honor of W. E. Massey and Ray Rogers, and in memory of Carl & Grace Layman, Bert & Lena Layman, James Thompson, Rogers Morris, Wesley Palmer, Braxton Palmer, Cliff & Stella Mashburn, Harvey Hess & Samuel Hess, H. F. & Laura Layman, and H. H. & Maude Thomas. A special donation was also given in memory of B. W. & Blanche Baker.
The sanctuary was ready for the Easter Sunday morning worship service, April 20, 2003; and on that Sunday night the choir presented the musical The Love of Jesus. The fellowship hall was completed in time for Don and Bennie Sue Walker’s 50th Wedding Anniversary on May 18, 2003. The first to be baptized in the new baptistry were Marcus Blankenship, William Howell, David Lawley, David Willis.
The official dedication of the new sanctuary was Sunday morning, June 22, 2003. An open house and reception was held during the afternoon.
On Sunday, January 20, 2008, Friendship celebrated its 150th birthday. Certificates were presented to the church by Dr. Lonette Berg, director of the Alabama Baptist Historical Commission, and Bro. Ben Chandler, Director of Missions for the St. Clair Association. Gov. Bob Riley had sent a certificate which was read and presented to the church. Bro. Billy Hunt brought the morning message. A covered dish lunch was served in the fellowship hall.
The very name, Friendship, has a comforting sound and calls to mind the Scripture which tells us we have a friend who is closer than a brother. We are also reminded that Christ was a friend of sinners, and that we Christians, having friendship with Christ, must reach out to those in sin and bring them to the One Who can save. Friendship church has ever done this and shall continue to do so through the coming years.
To God be the Glory.
List of Pastors of Friendship Baptist
In a Feb. 5, 1913, article in The Southern Aegis, Rev. J. S. E. Robinson listed the pastors from 1859 to 1913 as follows:
1859, Elder John Dickey
1860, Coleman W. Crow
1861, R. H. Ramsey
1862–64, P. S. Montgomery
1865, Gilbert Johnson
1866, Paul Castleberry
1868–70, P. S. Montgomery
1871–72, T. S. Logan
1873–74, R. W. Inzer
1875, Gilbert Johnson
1876, R. H. Ramsey
1877, P. S. Montgomery
1878–1913, J. S. E. Robinson
In The Heritage of St. Clair County, C. J. Donahoo, in his history of Friendship Baptist Church, begins his list of pastors with 1878, giving George Lee as pastor in 1878. He states that the list came from the St. Clair Baptist Association. Mr. Donahoo’s list follows.
1878, George Lee
1879– J. S. E. Robinson (Mr. Donahoo list Bro. Robinson for the years 1879, 1884, 1890, 1895, 1898, 1899, 1904–1906, 1908, and 1912.)
1923, J. W. Perry
1925– I. W. Inzer (Mr. Donahoo list Bro. Inzer for the years 1925, 1927, 1930, 1931, 1933–1936.)
1937–1938, J. A. Mitchell
1939, J. W. Maples
1941, E. C. Glen
1943, Milder Bradshaw
1945, Earl Bartlett
1946, George Williams
1947, Charles Terry
1948, J. T. McClaughlan
1949, E. G. Harrell, Jr.
1950–1951, W. A. Thompson
1952, R. K. Morris
1953–1958, W. E. Massey
1959, Clayton Day
1960, Frank Stout
196–1962, James Presley
1963, P. H. Mabe
1964, A. L. Surles
1965–1966, A. R. Bishop
1967–1975, C. A. Seals
1974–1983, A. D. Prickett
1984–1987, Steve Loggins
1988–1998, Hoyt St.John
1998–2003, Dr. John Faulkner
2003–2007, Brad Moseley
2007–2008, Billy Hunt, Interim Pastor
2008–2013, Cliff Vines
2013–2014, Billy Hunt, Interim Pastor
2014–2017, Dr. Roger White
2018-2019 Darryl Wood, Interim Pastor
2019-Present Nicholas Gandy
This history was researched and written by Joe Whitten.
Updated: 23 January 2014