Friendship Baptist Church marks 200 years in existence

Published 5:00 am Monday, September 14, 2009

Psalm 40:8 says, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but theword of our God stands forever.”

And it’s rare sometimes that God allows those who care for Hisword to stand – maybe not forever – but for centuries at atime.

Friendship Baptist Church begins its bicentennial celebrationtoday, kicking off five Sundays of rejoicing over its 200 years inLincoln County with songs, fellowship and special speakers.

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“Two hundred years is such a big deal to us because itdemonstrates God’s faithfulness to his people, specially here atFriendship,” said Pastor Chad Yarborough. “Our theme is ‘All forthe Glory of God,’ and we want to focus on the fact that we’ve beenin existence for 200 because of His faithfulness.”

The speakers who fill the bill for the next five Sundays,Yarborough said, are hand-picked for their ties to the church inwest central Lincoln County. Three of the speakers are formerpastors, and one is the oldest living former pastor from thechurch, Dr. Raymond Parker.

“He’s not 200, but he’s probably in his late 80s,” Yarboroughsaid with a laugh. “But he’ll speak the last day of thecelebration, then Brother Talmadge Smith will present our 200 yearhistoric certificate.”

Smith, the former director of the Lincoln County BaptistAssociation, got his beginnings at Friendship Baptist Church too,Yarborough said.

The Rev. Wiley Reid, the Rev. Jimmy Houston, and Yarbrough willalso be present, bringing the total of Friendship’s pastors tofour. But so many others, like Smith, have gotten their startthere.

The Revs. Howard Smith and Ronnie Robinson were both ordained atFriendship, Yarborough said, and have gone on to pastor their ownchurches. Robinson is currently at the First Baptist Church inWesson, and Smith has retired.

The newest addition to the Friendship preaching family is Bro.Jonathon Sherwin, a former member at Friendship, as well as Reid’sgrandson.

Also speaking throughout the celebration are LCBA MissionsDirector the Rev. Randy Lewman and Mississippi Baptist ConventionDirector Dr. Jim Futral.

“We wanted to just have more than just a one-week type ofcelebration,” Yarborough said. “We want it to be emphasized over alonger period of time and include a number of services so we couldhave more people who could come and be a part of it.”

Each week of the event will emphasize 40 years of the church’shistory, and will feature historical displays from that era. Andeven as the celebration goes on, a new era is beginning atFriendship, with renovations and additions on the sanctuary andeducational space.

“For a number of years we’ve discussed about our need to expandand give our facilities a facelift, so to speak, so last year wereally started working toward our renovations and bringing ourfacilities up to par,” Yarborough said. “It just so happened thatconstruction fell at the time of our 200-year celebration.”

And that’s exciting to church officials, he said. It goes toshow that God’s promises and blessings go on through the years forthose who seek Him.

“I think it says to folks that God is still at work atFriendship, and God is still being faithful to Friendship, but italso says to people that we have a goal to share the light ofChrist with our world,” Yarbrough said.

It is that mission that has blessed the church through all theyears, he explained.

“I think one reason Friendship has been successful and such astrong church through the years is because of the faithfulness ofmany of its members. Friendship has a rich history of people beingfaithful to the Lord and the church and the mission,” he said. “Asgenerations have come and gone, in every generation, there’s beenthose faithful people. Our goal is in this new generation for Godto find us faithful in carrying the light of Christ.”

And the church where “the friendless meet friends and sinnersmeet Christ” is turning a corner, Yarborough said, and stressingthe idea of reaching out to spread God’s love to the world.

“As we look to the future, we’ve brought that mission down tothe fact that we are to be ‘loving Christ and reaching people,’ andthat’s our mission,” he said. “That’s why we exist, and where we’regoing in the next 200 years.”