Upon the steps of the New Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, many men, women and children have come and gone; their lives were made richer and their hearts made to rejoice by sermons and teachings received within its doors.
In the year 1920, a few Christian men united together with faith in God and a determination to build a place of worship. Under the leadership of the late Rev. W. M. Smith, a church was organized and built on Park Street in Atlantic Beach, Florida. The church was made of tin and was called Friendship Baptist Church. The first deacons ordained were Brothers Alberry Bradley, Isaac Lewis, Dan Smith, and Steve Kelling. Rev. Smith served for several years.
The next pastor to serve at Friendship Baptist Church was Rev. Mott Thomas. He was assisted by Rev. George. Rev. Thomas was energetic and served well, he was succeeded as Pastor of the church by Rev. J. F. Mann. Rev. Mann was a great leader who saw great possibilities for a great church. Under his pastorship, a new frame church building was constructed on Church Road in Atlantic Beach in 1929. Four brothers were added to the Deacons board. They were brothers Fred Gilbert, Charlie Brown, Robert Stewart, and J. D. Burnette. Following Rev. Mann, Rev. R. R. Coleman served the church as Pastor for one year. Under his leadership, brother T. B. Brown was ordained as a deacon. Following Rev. Coleman, Rev. Brown served the church for one year.
Reverend J. N. Williams became pastor of Friendship after Rev. Brown. He served faithfully for eight years. During his tenure as Pastor, many members were added to the congregation, and in 1946, the frame church building was moved to a new location on Dudley Street in Atlantic Beach.
On September 7, 1952, the officers and members of the Friendship Baptist Church called Rev. G. W. Curry to pastor the church. Rev. Curry made overwhelming contributions to the growth of the church. A new piano was purchased, Usher Boards 2 and 3 were organized, four choirs were organized, and two districts were added. Rev. Curry instituted Youth Day at the church on February 17, 1963. Rev. Curry ordained two ministers, Rev. W. C. Robinson and Rev. Cleveland Clark. Both ministers served as assistants to Rev. Curry. Rev. Curry also ordained ten deacons. They were brothers Henry Brown, Macio Howell, General Williams, Lake Koonch, Joe Knight, Homer Dillard, Albert Campbell, Charlie Campbell, Frankie Mattox, Walter Campbell, and Willie Dillard. As the membership grew, Rev. Curry and the members saw the need for a larger sanctuary and began the erection of a concrete block structure in 1963. After much prayer and faith in God, the new sanctuary was completed in 1964. Rev. Curry was a loyal servant of the Friendship Baptist Church until 1969.
The next shepherd of the Friendship Baptist Church was Rev. Cleveland Clark. Rev. Clark served faithfully for one year, and due to poor health stepped aside as pastor at Friendship. Rev. Clark was followed by Rev. Whitfield who served faithfully until Rev. O. C. Gorman was called to pastor Friendship in July 1971. During Rev. Gorman's six years as pastor, the church continued to grow. New windows were installed in the church building, the floor was carpeted, the church mortgage was paid off, and new pews and pulpit furniture were purchased. Bro. Herbert Warnton was ordained as a deacon under Rev. Gorman's pastorship. In September 1977, Rev. Gorman resigned as Pastor of the Friendship Baptist Church.
In October 1977, the officers and members of the Friendship family began the search for a new pastor. God answered their prayers and ended the search with Rev. A. Lewis Neal. In December 1977, Rev. Neal was offered the pastorship of the Friendship Baptist Church. On January 3, 1978, Rev. Neal became Friendship's ninth Pastor.
Rev. Neal pastored Friendship for fifteen years. While he was pastor, the name of the church was changed from Friendship Baptist to New Friendship Missionary Baptist Church. The church grew spiritually and physically during his pastorship. Rev. Neal's leadership was also instrumental in the financial growth of the church. While Rev. Neal was Pastor, an intercom and public address system, wheel chair ramps for the elderly, and a central heat and air system were installed. During his tenure, the piano note was paid off, two organs were purchased, book racks for the pews were purchased, the sanctuary was remodeled and re-carpeted, two choir stands were added and enlarged, new lights were installed, the corner property was purchased for parking, and construction was begun on the fellowship hall adjacent to the church. Rev. Neal also organized the Young Adult Choir, the Matron's Missionary Society, the Sanctuary Choir, four missionary auxiliaries, the Brotherhood, a church newsletter, and several outreach ministries, including a radio broadcast.
Rev. Neal ordained ten brothers as deacons over his fifteen years. They were Forest Thomas, Willie Davis, Robbie Wright, Callice Cleveland, George Williams, James Stackhouse, Robert Collins, Kelvin Brooks, Patrick Dowdell, and Ray Wortherly. He also licensed fifteen Ministers. They were John Blow, James Wilkins, Robert Brown, David Middlebrooks, Bernard Watson, Thurman Arnold, Nathan Zeigler, Willie Johnson, Wayne Downey, Willie Davis, Richard Jackson, Gilbert Owens, Glen Newsom, Hampton Matthews, and John Spann. Rev. Neal ordained Rev. Willie Davis and Rev. Wayne Downey.
After serving faithfully for fifteen years, Rev. Neal resigned as pastor of the New Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in October 1993. In November 1993, the officers and members of the church began to pray and wait for a new pastor.
For ten months, the Lord kept the New Friendship family together under the faithful leadership of the church's deacons. During this time, new members continued to be added to the family, many repairs were made to the church building, two new air conditioning units were installed in the fellowship hall, and a new sign was added to the front of the church.
While the deacons served well during this time, the church was still in need of a Pastor. Therefore, in September 1994, the church extended the call to Rev. Bernard C. Wright, Sr. to pastor the New Friendship Missionary Baptist Church. During the first year of Rev. Wright's leadership, the church completed work on the interior of the annex and organized the Benevolence Ministry to help feed and clothe the needy. This ministry has been a tremendous blessing to the community of Atlantic Beach. Additionally, the church received its charter as a non-profit corporation on March 2, 1995 becoming New Friendship Missionary Baptist Church of Atlantic Beach, Inc. The church body continued to grow spiritually and in numbers. During Rev. Wright's tenure as pastor, plans were made to renovate the church building and add additional space to the sanctuary and fellowship hall. Additional property was purchased, and two lots on Church Road were donated to the church. Rev. Wright licensed three ministers, Minister Ansen Goyens, Minister Steven Downey and Minister John Pressley. Rev. Wright served as the pastor of New Friendship for two years through December 1996.
In January 1997, the New Friendship family began its search for a new pastor. The Lord kept the New Friendship family together under the faithful leadership of the church's deacons for twenty months. During these months, new members continued to be added to the family. The Sunday School, prayer worship and bible study continued to grow and the Helping Hands Ministry expanded to the point that it began to outgrow the storage available in the fellowship hall. Many families in the Atlantic Beach were helped by this ministry during this time. A great relationship was also established with the Sunrise Community Church that extends to this day. Additionally, many repairs were made to the church facility, including roofing on the main sanctuary, installation of a new steeple, awning on the front of the church, and new lighting inside the church.
While God continued to bless New Friendship for these many months, New Friendship was in need of a pastor. In September 1998, the Lord led the church to invite Reverend Marvin Nash to become its new pastor. Under his leadership, a new church sanctuary was built, and now the church faces Mayport Road. We give thanks to God for the work He has done at New Friendship, for the vision He has given our leader, and for the work He has planned for the ministry at New Friendship Missionary Baptist Church of Atlantic Beach.
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