Friendship Missionary Baptist Church had its beginning in in the year 1912 when a group of people who formerly had been members of St. John Missionary Baptist met and formed this local congregation under the leadership of the Reverend Frank Anthony who served as pastor from 1912 to 1915. The first place of worship was two three-room houses joined together. These houses were located on Orange street. The first Deacons ordained to serve this new church were: John Sams, Sr., who served as chairman; Richard Washington, John Taylor, William Pittman, and W.L. Bealyer. The Sunday school was organized with Mrs. Anthony, wife of the pastor as superintendent. Also, the B.Y.P.U. was organized with Mrs. Evelyn Sams serving as its director. Mrs. Sams served as the first musician of the new church. Others who served during this period were: Mrs. Ludie Stephens, Mrs. Ocie Porter, Mrs. Angeline Lockley, Miss Flora Hamilton, and Mrs. Ruth Felder.

The Reverend T.C. Collier

The Reverend T.C. Collier succeeded Reverend Anthony and served as pastor of Friendship Church from 1915 to 1921. Reverend Collier was an outstanding evangelist. His vigorous, soul-searching sermons stirred the hearts of many to realize their need for God. Many people were converted to the Christian faith and added to the membership of the church. George Bailey and Noah Lockley were ordained as Deacons. The cornerstone of Friendship Church was laid commemorating the founding of the church.During Rev. Collier’s six year tenure, J. Ferrel was added  to the Deacon’s Board,George Wilson served as Sunday School Superintendent, George Clark was church secretary, Evelyn Sams served as B.Y.P.U. president and Ludie Stevens was the church’s pianist.

The Reverend D.M. Brooks

Upon Reverend Collier’s departure to serve as pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church, Orlando,Florida, the Reverend D.M. Brooks served the church from 1921 to 1924. He is to be remembered as an oustanding evangelist and as one of the pastors who gave dedicated leadership and loyalty to the Christian cause. Under his leadership the  church building was remodeled. As well, the Sunday school and B.Y.P.U. experienced vigorous growth.

The Reverend J.H. Murphy

In 1924 the church elected the Reverend J.H. Murphy as pastor. He served the church until 1930. During this period the church was quite active and progressive. The music program was excellent. Warm fellowship was established among the churches and Friendship Church experienced “revival fire.” Stewardship was much improved and funds were made available for missions and church building improvement. Solomon Porter and Carl Morrison were added to the Deacon’s Board, Armenus Walker was Sunday School Superintendent, and Ocie Porter served as the Sunday School pianist.

The Reverend Eli Hamilton

Towards the end of Reverend Murphy’s tenure as pastor, Eli Hamilton, who had joined the church under the leadership of Reverend Collier and “licensed to preach” by Reverend F.R. Wright, became assistant pastor to Reverend Murphy. He was ordained by a presbytery consisting of the Reverends Murphy, Caldwell, J.M. Tolen, and W.M. Davis. Upon Reverend Murphy’s departure in 1930, the Reverend Eli Hamilton was selected to become pastor of this now historic congregation.

Under Pastor Hamilton’s leadership the church structure was expanded and a seven room frame parsonage was built directly behind the church building. The congregation eventually outgrew its facility and the effort began to raise funds to relocate. Many members of the congregation committed to this venture and fundraising began. Over a period of many years the church purchased a site on the corner of Palm Avenue and Kerney Street. After much difficulty and struggle, on the second Sunday,  November, 1950 the congregation was led by its pastor, the Reverend Hamilton, into the newly erected building. The ribbon cutting was done by Mrs. Evelyn Sams Canady. Three days after the formal dedication of the church building the church was host to the First South Florida Baptist Association.

Church officers during Reverend Hamilton’s pastorate included Deacons: Hubert Ashley, Charlie Davis, Armeneus Walker, Sidney Brown, John Blalock, Pete Ware and Willie Smith. Trustees: W.L. Beayler, Tom Chester, Henry Ryan, and Frank Lamar. Church Clerk: Armeneus Walker. Financial Secretaries: Evelyn Sams-Canady and Mary Moore-Smith. Church Pianist and Organists: Ludie Stevens-Price, Ocie Porter, Angeline Woodson-Shelton, Ruth Jennings, and Flora Hamilton-Roberts. A second choir was also organized.

The Reverend Eli Hamilton resigned in 1959, having given Friendship Church twenty-nine (29) years of safe, progressive leadership, to assume the pastorate of the St. John Baptist Church, Arcadia, Florida.

The church was without a pastoral leader from 1959 to 1962.

The Reverend Isadore Edwards, Jr.

In 1961, the Reverend Isadore Edwards, Jr., an assistant to the pastor at Bethel Baptist Institutional Church, Jacksonville, Florida, was elected to lead the congregation. He was accompanied by his wife, Mrs. Elizabeth Edwards. He was educated at Florida Memorial College. Reverend Edwards proved to be an influential preacher and community leader. He was instrumental in improving conditions of existence for Black citizens of Lee County and was fearlessly aggressive in pressing for racial equality. He served as president of the NAACP and served as spokesman general for the Black community in dealing with governmental officials.

Under his leadership, Friendship Church grew in unprecedented ways. The lower auditorium was converted to classrooms by the installation of folding partitions. Many improvements were made to the sanctuary including installation of a baptismal pool, air conditioning, lighting, ceiling tiles, lighting, carpeting, and renovation of the choir stands. A church parsonage was purchased for the comfort of the pastor and his family. In 1969, the church was host to the annual session of the Progressive Baptist State Sunday School and Baptist Training Convention.

During Reverend Edward’s tenure the following men were ordained as deacons: James Silas, Joe Curry, Hubert Toney Sr., Clifton Ruggs, John Ledbetter, Howard Woodberry, and Ernest Bennett. Deacon Bennett was later licensed to preach and served as associate to Reverend Edwards. Trustees were: Thomas McCauley, James Bea, Pat McCutcheon, Mr. Chambers, and Constance Jennings. The Church Clerk was Effie Smith, and the Church Treasurer was Lester Smith.Church Secretaries were: Christine Battles and Betty Toney.

In 1972, having distinguished himself as a community leader, and an able preacher of the Gospel message, Reverend Edwards resigned as pastoral leader of Friendship Church to assume leadership of the New Rising Star Baptist Church, Fort Worth, Texas.

The church was without pastoral leadership from November 1972 to January 1974.

Pastor James A. Bing

James A. Bing was selected to become servant-leader of our congregation in November 1973 and began his ministry service here in January 1974. He was officially installed as Pastor January 20, 1974 by Rev. J.L. Stephens and the St. John First Baptist Church,  assisted by the Rev. A.V. Ward and the Mt. Hermon Primitive Baptist Church.

Under his leadership Friendship Church has continued to grow and prosper. Many improvements and upgrades have been made to the present church facility and have been ongoing. The church records have been updated and we have a completely computerized church office. Most recently (May, 2009)a computer lab with ten workstations have been installed for use by members for educational and spiritual purposes. The church has purchased most of the land around its present edifice for expansion, recreation and parking. Financial stewardship is greatly increased and the church is solvent. Under his leadership the church parsonage purchased during a former pastor’s tenure has been renovated and the mortgage long retired.

Pastor Bing is a capable preacher and teacher of the Bible and teaches a Sunday Adult Bible class and a weeknight Bible class for men. Evangelism is high on his list of priorities. He is well known for home and hospital visitation. He supports and encourages all youths he makes contact with and visits and participates in the school life of the young people. He attends athletic and school events for the purpose of connection and encouragement.

Friendship Church is also a primary supporter of a mission ministry in the Cameroons: “The Open Door” that provides medical/surgical treatment, dental care, pharmaceuticals, and eyeglasses to Christians, Muslims, and the unsaved alike in an environment of evangelism. Our Missionaries to the Motherland are: Dr. John and Omelda Hibbert.

For many years the church has been blessed to have James and Helen Bea, Effie Smith, Harriet Myers, Gwendolyn Middlebrooks  and Saundra Saldana as Youth Leaders. They have been assisted by Shavon Donnell, Lutricia Smith, Monica Turner, Jeredine Ware… The purpose of youth ministry is to develop young people to participate in and lead in worship, participate in missions,take part in youth summer camps, learn etiquette, Christian charm, and enjoy recreation. The Greek Letter Club was begun in 1997. Saundra Saldana was a key person in developing this ministry. The Club recognizes and rewards the children for their academic achievement.

The Women’s Ministry was reorganized in…under the name Women’s Fellowship Ministry and had as its president, Deaconess Brenda Bacon.

The Men’s Ministry or Brotherhood was also reorganized (1997) with Deacon Lemuel Teal serving as president. The ministry has undergone further reorganization (2007) under the name “Band of Brothers”, with Rev. Nathaniel Bonner as president. The current president is Samuel Craft.

From 1974 to 1991 the following persons were involved in the Music Ministry of the church: Ocie Porter, Herbia Daniels, Peter Woodberry, Walter Pierce, Mamie Taylor, Reginald and Bernadette Billups, and Cheryl Brown. During Walter Pierce’s time of service to the congregation the “Good News Singers,” an outstanding young adult choir was organized. In 1991, Rose Eady Govan became our Music Director. Under her leadership three children choirs were organized (Rosebuds, King’s Kids, and Young Ambassadors); a Sanctuary Choir; the Gospel Chorale (formed in 1997); and the Brotherhood Chorus. These groups not only minister to the Friendship family but to other churches of the community. She has been assisted by Jayrus Bing,  and Shuntavious Smith. In …. Rasheed Golden returned to the city and rejoined the Music Ministry as Assistant Music and Choir Director. The musicians and choirs of Friendship Church are among the finest in the city.

The following persons have or currently serves the Church as Finance/Counting Committee: James Bea (Financial Secretary),Mack “Pat” McCutcheon, (Trustee) William McDowell(Church Treasurer), George Saldana (Financial Secretary), Edna Barnes, Shirley Burns (Church Treasurer), Stephanie Bonner (Financial Secretary), Errol Kirlew, Hubert Toney, Angelo Thomas, Davide Kerr, and James Buchanon.

In 1982 the following men were ordained as Deacons: Errol Kirlew, J.A. Middlebrooks, Jr., Mack “Pat” McCutcheon, Bob Rice, Ed Brown, and Sylvester Taylor. In 1997 the following men were ordained as Deacons: G. Kenneth Burns, Dwayne Donnell, Charles Gavin, Davide Kerr, Sr. Jefferson Padgett, Peter Patterson, and Lemuel Teal, Sr. The following women were consecrated as Deaconesses: Brenda Bacon, Stephanie Bonner, Shirley Burns, Linda Gavin, Ida Kerr, Gwendolyn Middlebrooks, Geraldine Patterson, Saundra Saldana, Marion Redden-Sims, and Susie Teal.

Our Church Clerks and Secretaries: Effie Smith (Church Clerk), Marion Redden-Sims (Secretary), Scarlette Barber (Secretary), and Monica Broughton (Church Clerk).

Community Outreach

Since the mid-1980’s Friendship Church has extended itself to the community and homeless by providing a nutritious meal on the weekends when many of the regular venues are closed. The meals are always prepared and served by church volunteers and underwritten totally by the congregation. Those early outreach experiences were helpful and successful because of the dedication of Eddie Bryan, Jr., Artis White, and Willie White. In the mid-2000’s

the church began serving breakfast. Those committed to the Food Service ministry are: Betty and Hubert Toney, Elzora Jiles, Joslyn Toney, Eddie Bryan, J.A. Middlebrooks, Carl Carvalho, Harriet Myers, Beverly Carvalho, Ann Bursey, Ella, Newton, Annie Harrison, Lutricia Smith, Mary Wiggins, Mary Cooper and Shirley Felton. The Food Service Ministry Team also prepares meals for Church functions and provides full meals for the youth meeting on Wednesdays.