Friendship Baptist Church 1840-2016

Friendship church through the years

On Friday, February 28, 1840, a Presbytery consisting of Rev. L J. Hudson and Rev. F M Hawkins (ministers) and Merady Scrugs and James Bramblett (deacons) met and "read letters of dismission for eleven members which we examined the principles of the gospel and finding them to be orthodox in the faith, we proceeded to constitute them into a church under the name of the Friendship Church..." The eleven persons were Tolliver Reid, Reuben Roper, Little Berry Edwards, James Haygood, Deliah Haygood, Susannah Compton, Cinthia Roper, Nelly Edwards, Martha Sharpton, Mary Reid, and Mahala Scruggs. The first conference was held on Saturday, February 29, 1840. Tolliver Reid was elected as the first clerk of the church. The church called L J Hudson and F M Hawkins to preach until a pastor was elected. On September 5, 1840, Frederick Marshall (F M) Hawkins was elected to be the first pastor of Friendship. Zachariah Haygood suggested the name of the church.

According to July 23, 1842, minutes, Friendship Church members chose to build the first church of logs and that its dimensions were to be 32 feet by 26 feet on land lot 881. Prior to the building of the first church, we believe that members met in different homes. We are not sure when this first building was constructed. We do have a picture of our present church building in 1874. At that time, the church was facing the east (toward our current outdoor baptismal pool). In 1919, the church building was remodeled with the front facing the south. The steeple was added. The pulpit was placed in the back where the current choir loft is located and two anterooms were added with one at each front door. In 1958, oak floors were placed in the church and the walls were sheet rocked. Sunday School rooms were added in the back of the church a couple of years later. In 1964, the members voted to brick the church and to add memorial stain-glassed windows in the sanctuary. In July 1969, the church voted to install air conditioning in the church. In 1980, additional Sunday School rooms and a fellowship building were built at the rear and to the left of the church and was connected to the church by a hallway. An outdoor pavilion was built in 1984. In 1992-93, a larger fellowship building was constructed and ten additional Sunday School rooms were added. In 1999, the church itself was remodeled adding an indoor baptismal pool, more choir loft area, and more sanctuary seating. The Sunday School rooms adjacent to the sanctuary were removed to allow for the expansion of the sanctuary. Currently, the church sanctuary seats approximately three hundred persons with about a forty-person choir loft area. There are three offices, fourteen Sunday School rooms, and two fellowship buildings at Friendship. A playground was added behind the smaller fellowship building a few years ago.

The church membership started with eleven persons in 1840. Records show a membership of 500 in 1927; 570 in 1940; 607 in 1950; 668 in 1960; 723 in 1970; 770 in 1980; and 840 in 1989. The church membership records show 632 members in 2002. (Records were updated in early 1990's as some persons had taken membership in other faiths without contacting Friendship.) While reviewing the historical book, Friendship Is Reaching Out, compiled by Reatha McConnell, it appears that there were 159 persons who joined Friendship in 1900. Rev. H T Ingram was pastor in 1900. We have been told that during camp meeting days people would come from miles around and even other states. Those that were saved at camp meeting often were baptized at the camp meeting, but then joined their own church back home. 1879 was another big year for adding new members as 61 members were received by experience of grace at the August 1879 Camp Meeting. In 1995, Friendship had another unique revival. There were persons who just stopped by the church to "get saved" because they saw revival was going on. There were three services held without any preaching because the Spirit was so alive during that revival. Rev. Bud Sutton was the pastor and Rev. Ricky Byrd and Rev Gerald Blackburn were the guest evangelists that year. Fifteen persons were baptized in July 1995.

There have been special celebrations from time to time at Friendship including Old Timers' Days, new building dedications, etc. Records show a 100th Anniversary all day celebration in March 1940. The program included a devotional by L D Martin, history of the church by Rev. G W Forrist, sermon by T P Tribble, dinner on the ground, devotional by Emmett Cole, special music by J O Mealor and Margarett Tribble, recognition of outstanding pastors by P W Tribble, talks about a great church by Rev. Jesse Henderson and W H Warren, and unveiling of the marker at the church by Rev. T P Tribble and L H Tribble.

In 1990, Friendship celebrated its 150th Anniversary with an all day celebration. One of the highlights of the celebration was the publication of Friendship Is Reaching Out, which is a history book of the first 150 years of Friendship compiled by Reatha McConnell. Reatha, Elvira McBrayer, Kate Bramblett, and Janice Tallant were appointed by Rev. Sutton to serve on the celebration committee. One of the highlights of the day was that the church was completely full with people standing around the walls, extra chairs filled, and many people in the Sunday School rooms. Rev. Jeff Hawkins, great great great grandson of our first pastor, F M Hawkins, brought the message. The Senior Song Singers sang shaped notes of "A Beautiful Life" as in olden times led by Toy Tallant. All the other choirs sang as well. Special speakers were the Reverends Leonard King, James McGehee, Ben Hatfield, Joe Hudlow, James Holloway, Bud Boles, and Tommy Henderson. Former charter members' families and former pastors' families were recognized. Dinner was held on the ground. Rev Bud Sutton served as pastor during this time and worked very hard on the program. C W Cox Jr. unveiled a new granite marker on the front lawn of the church. Glenn Tribble read names of past officers, preachers, deacons, and committee persons who were deceased. Balloons were then released in the cemetery by Sunday School members in remembrance of loved ones who have passed on. Everyone worked really hard preparing for the celebration including: Glenn Tribble and E W McConnell cleaning the old baptizing pool and old spring; E W and Reatha McConnell marking off the lots in the cemetery; James and Carolyn Gunter and Toy and Janice Tallant printing the programs; Joan Day and Judy Westray setting up registration; Kenneth Ingram directing youth ushers; and Myra Reid and Nell Elzey setting up the historical display rooms. Local businesses also donated items for the celebration. The Forsyth County News wrote an article about the church and the history book.

In early 1875, we find minutes about the building of an arbor and then the minutes begin talking about camp meetings that were held around the fourth "Sabbath" in August or September. The camp meetings were not mentioned in the minutes after July 1894. The camp meetings often started on a Friday and would continue about ten days to two weeks. There were four services held daily: 8 a.m., 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and end with a candlelight service at night. Penitents would go to the anxious seat (later called mourner's bench). According to a story written by F M Hawkins' grandson, Clayton Hawkins, when someone got stirred and warmed during one of the camp meeting services, the services might last all day and into the night. Mr. Hawkins also shared this story about one time when Rev. Thad Pickett was preaching and everything seemed cold. Some of the brethren told him to just preach a short sermon the next morning and close the meeting. Rev. Pickett started preaching at the 8 a.m. service and did not stop preaching until 11:20 a.m., three hours later. At the close of the camp meeting, fifty persons were baptized. The camp meetings were stopped some time in the late 1890's and the church started holding "protracted meetings" in the church building.

Minutes of June 1875 state that a meeting was held to organize a Sabbath School. The minutes of May 1889 and September 1894 mention that they were meeting to organize a Sabbath School. (I did not find exact record of when the Sunday School was started, but delegates were appointed to a Sunday School Convention in July 1895.) In March 1898, there was a motion agreed to organize a Sunday School and Preston Tribble was elected as Superintendent and J H Taylor as Assistant Superintendent.

The minutes of August 1875 note that a committee was appointed to secure a deed for land for a graveyard. Later minutes note different times when members would meet to clean off the graveyard. In the Friendship Is Reaching Out book, Reatha McConnell has a list of all the known cemetery lots and who are buried at these locations up until about 1990.

Through the years, Friendship has done various mission work. Some of the missions that Friendship has supported through the last several years are: Lottie Moon Christmas offering; Annie Armstrong Easter offering; Cooperative Program offerings each month; Jamaican Missionaries; church building missions in Ohio; Georgia Baptist Children Homes; Georgia Baptist Hospital; Celebrant Singers world missions; St Jude Children's Research Hospital; Save the Children child in Honduras; Franklin Graham's Operation Christmas Child; and hurricane relief items for different states at different times. There are also several local missions of the church that include food, clothing, and utility payments for the needy; Christmas gifts for foster children and Hands Across Forsyth needs; fruit baskets and Christmas dinner for elders, sick, widowed, or shut-ins; Christmas party for adult group home; gifts for nursing home residents. Friendship did meet every Thanksgiving with Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church and Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church, but has recently discontinued this service. At those meetings, food staples were brought in and donations were made to help those in need in the community. A representative from each church served on a committee to distribute food and pay bills of those in need in the three churches area.

Ministries of Friendship Church over the years have been many and include Sunday School most of the church's 163 years. There were Baptist Training Union meetings in the late 1940's. Various youth groups have met at different times for the last twenty-five years. Wednesday evening youth activities started around 1980 for children of choir members. Janice Tallant organized Friendship Kids that later grew to Friendship Girls and Boys with the boys led by Rev. William Worley, Jerry Elzey, and Sam Cole. In the early 1990's, the children groups started to be sponsored by W M U and were divided up into Mission Friends, Girls in Action, Royal Ambassadors, and Acteens. Women's Missionary Union (WMU) or Baptist Women started on January 11, 1984 with twelve ladies. Evelyn Stewart Green was the first president. One of its ongoing greatest contributions to our church is the meals ministries for those who are sick and bereaved. The WMU has sponsored various other activities in the church including Pastor Appreciation Days, Christmas dinner for senior citizens, fundraisers to stock the kitchen, decorate rooms of the church, support the youth groups, and for many other financial needs of Friendship. The Brotherhood was started at Friendship on March 20, 1994, with Kenneth Ingram as the first director. Some of the contributions of the Brotherhood are sponsoring breakfasts for special occasions; doing repair work and yard work for those who need it in the community; sponsoring senior citizen trips; and also organized the church bus funds project.

Vacation Bible Schools have been held at Friendship almost every year since 1960. Children and adults enjoy this special time to study the Holy Bible, make crafts, sing, and fellowship together. There have also been a few Backyard Bible Schools over the years at people's homes. There has been Wednesday evening Bible study for at least twenty years. Some of these Bible studies received endorsement from the Georgia Baptist Education division and were taught by Rev. Bud Sutton, Rev. Ronnie McCormick, and Rev. Lee Gaddis. There were also several Thursday evening Bible Study courses taught by Georgia Baptist Extension teachers such as Rev. Ben Hatfield, Rev. Walter McMillan, Rev. Minor Martin, and Rev John Lummus. More recently, there has been Sunday afternoon Bible Study using Beth Moore series and led by Kenneth and Deborah Ingram.

Friendship has also been having church camps for the last twenty or thirty years. The church camps have been held at Georgia Baptist Assembly in Toccoa, Georgia and several other places including Laguna Beach, Florida recently. A tape ministry was started at Friendship several years ago and continues today. A church newspaper, The Messenger, was started in 1981, and now there have been 179 issues printed and mailed to members throughout the United States and the world spreading God's Word and telling of the events at Friendship. Janice and Toy Tallant started the small monthly paper. Janice has continued to publish the church paper and now it is printed more on a quarterly basis with around 30 pages that have highlights of church services, revival services, birthdays, special anniversaries, tributes to deceased members, and many other special activities.

Singing has been a major part of worship at Friendship for at least one hundred years. Minutes show several singing schools at Friendship over the last century. Hazel McConnell Floyd started an Adult Choir around 1975. Wanda Harris led the choir in 1981. Toy Tallant became Choir Director in 1982 and continued until 2001. Michelle Pirkle has led the adult choir since 2001. There have also been Nursery Choirs, Junior Choirs, Youth Choirs, and Senior Choirs led by several members of the church. Dana Anderson is the current Junior Choir Director. The Youth Choir Director is now Kasey McPherson Chester. The Preschool Choir is directed by Ronnie Grizzle. There have been many cantatas for special occasions over the years including Christmas plays, Easter plays, Old Timer's Day programs; and many other special programs at Friendship and other places in the community such as Chick-Filet, county fair, June singings, associational evangelistic services, etc. The Forsyth Singing Class started meeting at Friendship in the early 1950's and met for a few years before moving to Piedmont Community House. There has been an annual April singing at Friendship for about 130 years.

About five years ago, Friendship started providing a meeting place for the Frederick M Hawkins Theological Seminary classes. Several area ministers have been attending these classes at Friendship, including some of our own home preachers. Friendship Sunday School Classes have held a few Bible Knowledge Bowl contests over the last few years that have been a great incentive for Sunday School members to study God's Word.

Pastors who have served at Friendship are: Frederick Marshall Hawkins (September 1840-March 1849; June 1849-February 1855; ?-1874); Kinsey Thomas (March 1849-June 1849); P C Blanton (1854-1855); J H Johnson (February 1855-1856); A B Nuckolls (1874-1876); W J Pirkle (1876-1878); Thaddeus Pickett (1878-1883); A H Sheffield (1883-1888); Samuel L Hayes (1888-1889); J B Blackwell (1889-1891); John William Hill Robertson (1891-1893); H T Ingram (1893-1897, 1897-1901, 1906-1910); Andrew J Henderson (1897); Joseph L Wyatt (1901-1906); Thomas Preston Tribble (January 1910- September 1911); Furman T Williams (1910-1913); G W Forrist (1913-1922); John M Anderson (1922-1926); John R Stone (1926-1928); Robert A Roper (1928-1935); William Henry Warren (1935-1942); Pledger Washington Tribble (1942-1946); Landrum Duffey Martin (1946-1949, 1951-1954); John Samuel Cochran (1949-1951); T W "Tommy" Henderson (1955-1958); J Frank Vaughan (1959-1966); Hoyt Everett Thompson (1966-1969); Paul Thompson (1969-1973); Joshua Tyra "J T" Sewell (1973-1976); Garland Martin (1976-1979); Hiram H "Bud" Boles (1979-1988); James Edward "Bud" Sutton (1988-1997); Ronnie McCormick (1997-2003); Lee Gaddis (2003-2008) and Ricky Byrd (current). Friendship began having church services every Sunday while Rev. Bud Boles was pastor. Prior to that time, Friendship had Sunday School every Sunday, but worship services were the second and fourth Sundays of each month. Conference meetings were also changed from the Saturday before the second Sunday to each first Sunday while Rev. Boles was pastor.

Ministers who have been licensed at Friendship are: Meardy Scruggs (1842); W M League (1846); D J Huggins (?); William J Pirkle (1861); S L Hayes (1867); George W Red (1880); SJ Lindsey (1880); Jasper Sewell (1880); Frederick Hawkins (1883); N A Tribble, Dock Aarons, Ed Wallis, and John Anderson (?); Vell Gazaway and Harrison Monroe Sosebee (1906); A T Haygood (1911); L D Martin and Dr. Pledger W Tribble (1929); William Nelson McConnell (1943); James "Jim" Ingram and Ralph Elzey by letters in 1981; William Worley (1983); Joel Hunt (1984); Carter Payne by letter in 1984; Terry Cowart, David Bagley, Paul Daniel, and Paul Carder in 1986; David Tate and Shannon Elzey in 1987; Rudolph Tribble, Jr (1989), Don Westray in 1993, Paul Goss in 2003, Christopher Bagley in 2009, and Kade Kelley and Heath Westray in 2009. Mark Landrum joined our church in 2009 and is a licensed minister. Howard Garrett and Les Henry joined our church from other churches and or licensed ministers. Caleb Byrd was licensed at Friendship in September 2015. These ministers were also ordained at Friendship: Meardy Scruggs on November 1, 1844; S L Hayes in November 1870; Harrison Monroe Sosebee on September 8, 1911; L D Martin on September 28, 1936; Dr. Pledger W Tribble on July 12, 1930 (who was a great medical doctor in our community); Carter Payne on November 3, 1985; Terry Cowart on October 8, 1988; Don Westray on September 16 1994; Paul Carder in 1996, Christopher Bagley in June 2010, and Rudolph "Rudy" Tribble, Jr on July 29, 2012; W Nelson McConnell felt like his call as a minister was related to Sunday School and served as Sunday School Superintendent from 1940 to 1971.

Current licensed ministers holding membership at Friendship are: Joel Hunt, David Bagley, Shannon Elzey, David Martin, Paul Goss, Kade Kelley, Mark Landrum, Heath Westray, Scott Wilbanks, Howard Garrett, Les Henry, and Caleb Byrd.

Current ordained ministers who are members of Friendship are: Carter Payne, Terry Cowart, Don Westray, Paul Carder, and Christopher Bagley

This history of Friendship Baptist Church was compiled and submitted by Janice McConnell Tallant after being reviewed by Glenn Tribble and Reatha McConnell.

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