COLUMN: Friendship MBC pays tribute to unsung heroes | Lifestyles

Friendship Missionary Baptist Church recently recognized two members who have helped the congregation continue to worship during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stacy Davenport and Deacon Samuel “Sammy” James received plaques celebrating them as unsung heroes for helping the 117-year-old church continue its tradition of weathering life’s storms.

Friendship MBC was organized in 1905 in Tignan, Georgia under the leadership of Reverend Lonzo Holmes with less than 20 baptized believers. Throughout history, the legacy of many black churches had its first humble beginnings under an arbor of brushwood. These were difficult times for our ancestors. Black wages were meager and almost non-existent. They were a proud people who celebrated and praised God despite the conditions in which they lived.

Through prayer and hard work, the church was able to move to a structure on Northeast Fourth Street in Moultrie, Georgia.

Between the years 1923-1938, the church continued to prosper and increase in membership. Over time it was moved to its current location at Fifth Street and Sixth Avenue Northwest, Moultrie, Ga. During this time the church suffered structural devastation. At one point it was destroyed by fire and once it was knocked down in a storm. Fortunately, it was rebuilt each time.

In 1945, the structure was transformed from a wooden building to a concrete block building. Going forward, in 1976, members transformed the church into a beautiful red brick building that still stands.

In 2019, the brick building with beautiful stained glass windows and cushioned seating had to close due to a different type of storm. The coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak has turned into a pandemic of devastation and death. Unfortunately, we have lost family members, friends and church members. The pandemic was scary, and it overwhelmed us. We were lost in this way of life.

At the start of the pandemic, we were scared and full of worry. Many of us felt helpless and were drowning in the storm of life. As a people of faith, we were to continue to trust in God’s presence in our lives every day, believing that he would never leave us or forsake us.

We could no longer worship and fellowship together as a church family, no hugs or that “I’m so glad to see you” handshake. The best we could do was elbow and punch. Life as we knew it had changed. We had never seen anything like it. We needed a solution to keep our congregation together.

One member, Sister Janie Anderson, said she visited a church in the community that was holding a worship service in its parking lot while attendees sat in their cars. After prayerful consideration, the Acting Pastor, Reverend Moses Jordan, and the congregation agreed to try it.

Another member, Ms. Stacy Davenport, suggested an idea to the above plan. She offered to film the services to make them available to our locked down members and on the global web. The deacon board, trustees, along with Reverend Jordan, worked tirelessly to get the parking lot church started. A platform and a podium have been installed; Brother Johnny Collins led the project.

Members came out in droves and stayed in their cars. At a time when the spirit of the Lord was high, we honked our cars as an “Amen”. The church is certainly in our hearts and not within the four walls. Praise is not limited to a place. As we listened to the word of God, the song service of Sister Vera Moses, and the melodious voices of the choir, I could imagine our ancestors smiling at us as we praised God “under the brushwood arbor.” We had the church!

Many of our programs were celebrated in the church parking lot: Advent, Youth Program, High School Graduation Program, WF Johnson Scholarship Award. Periodically, Deacon Frankie Peterson, concerned about the health and welfare of the members, would call a meeting with the deacons in the parking lot. The administrators would also meet.

During this time of instability and turmoil, we never stopped praying. There has never been a better opportunity for members to be resilient. When circumstances permitted, we continued to engage in our regular programs. Our dedicated ministry team has remained faithful by delivering God’s word in person and virtually. Wednesday noon prayer and Wednesday evening Bible study were delivered virtually. Our Adult and Youth Sunday School was communicated via teleconference. We also observed the holy season of Lent and Easter.

Eventually the virus subsided and we were able to return inside the church with the necessary precautions. Brother Johnny Collins keeps sanitized spaces in the church marked for social distancing. Deacon Samuel James and Brother Gerald Heidelberg watch over the attendees as we enter the sanctuary.

Our community outreach includes the senior mission which distributes care packages to several nursing homes, volunteers at the food bank, participates in the Angel Tree Christmas program, the United Way campaign and Relay for Life. The youngsters competed and won second place in the ML King, Jr. Parade.

The Christian Education Committee has incorporated ‘connection activities’. We enjoyed our first donuts with Deacons Day and treats for Trustees. We observed Black History, National Wear Red Day and honored our new members and unsung heroes.

However, currently we are without a full-time pastor. We search in prayer and ask God to lead the search. The search will end on April 30. As always, we are determined to keep the faith and to persevere through the love of God.

From our humble beginnings in 1905 until today, we have been blessed with several remarkable and exceptional pastors. Each has advanced the church in growth and spiritually. The doctrine of friendship is based on the Bible and teaches only the word of our true and living God.

We are a beacon of light and hope in the community. We pledge to continue praising God through all situations. We are located at 421 Sixth Ave. NW. and can be reached at 229-891-2955.

We salute our unsung heroes of 2022, who were recognized at our Black History Celebration: Stacy Davenport is a teacher at WJ Williams Middle School and Deacon Samuel (Sammy) James, retired from National Beef and is currently employee at Southview Mortuary. They were chosen for their dedicated and tireless service to the church.

The entire history of the church is in the church library.

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