Favorite Memories: Celebrate Friendship Baptist Church’s 53 Years on Sept. 9
More than 50 years ago, five men, their wives and young families put their faith to the test when they felt led by God to begin a new church in North Raleigh. With the blessing from their pastor and home church in Rolesville, these believers began their search for a new pastor and a building a little closer to home.
As they met in their homes every two weeks to plan, the name Friendship Baptist Church was born. Although, as recorded by charter members, the name “Country Baptist Church” was a contender – much has changed considering today’s busy four-lane traffic on Falls of Neuse Road located in the heart of Raleigh!
The First Year
Their first meeting place in May 1965 was a restaurant on Old Wake Forest Road, near where the current Red Lobster sits, due to the kindness of local Christian business owner Bryant Rowe. The 28 charter members of Friendship set Sept. 5 as their target date to officially organize the church.
“This task has not been an easy one,” wrote the late Julius Layton, a charter member who served FBC for 50 years and who kept extensive notes during the church’s formation. “There has been a lot of work put into this; a lot of time has been sacrificed. Sometimes it has been mighty discouraging because the Devil has not been too happy about this work, and he has been really busy, but when you look around you and see the joy on new faces that have come into our church, it makes you stop and think and bow your head and say, ‘Thank you Lord for leading this way.’”
In July 1965, Friendship’s first pastor, Terry Herman, was called. Only eight months after the church’s official charter, the members voted to buy the building in which they were meeting. While they were willing to mortgage their own homes for the purchase, the owner graciously provided the building free of cost for several months, and the members eventually financed the property with no interest. They were then able to renovate the building to suit their needs.
Within the first year, the church was able to support three missionaries and the membership numbers grew to 100.
Expanding – Buying Land and Building by Faith
In March 1968, the church voted to buy 5.5 acres of land for $25,000 on Falls of Neuse Road. “The church didn’t have it,” wrote Layton of the funds, “but God provided it.” And on Sept. 5, 1968, the church celebrated a groundbreaking service for its new sanctuary and classroom building.
By the fall of 1970, the church added a day care and kindergarten ministry, which began with 10 students. Earlier that year, Rev. Eddie Peterson was hired on as assistant pastor and wore many hats with the youth and music ministries, as well as school administrator. His wife, Linda Gail, taught the first kindergarten class.
The church continued its growth in members and building projects. By 1972, the school grew to 130 students in grades K3-fifth grade. The gym was built in 1980 – with no debt accumulated, they only continued building as the money came in. The first graduating class walked across the stage in 1980 – which included nine seniors and two kindergarteners.
As the congregation continued to grow, the need for a new sanctuary was evident. Groundbreaking for the current sanctuary took place in June 2002, a welcome vision of many charter members that came to fruition in January 2004.
Continued Growth to Share God’s Truth in Love
Over the last 53 years, Friendship Baptist Church has continued its commitment to solid teaching, sincere devotion to God’s Word and reaching souls with the hope of Jesus Christ…all from the faith of five families and a powerful God.
Missions, children’s and family ministries, an active youth ministry, solid music that spans all generations, a thriving Hispanic congregation, senior adult activities, Bible studies, Friendship Christian School, and discipleship are all hallmarks of Friendship.
“The past has been glorious, and we look to the future with keen anticipation. We serve a great God, and therefore, we expect Him to continue to bless in a great way,” said Earl Burnette, one of the five original men and charter members, when the church reached its fifth decade of existence.
In the church’s 53 years, only four men have served in the head pastoral position – which is a testament to the church members and the pastors who have shepherded this flock. In addition to Rev. Terry Herman’s two years at the pulpit, Rev. Al Price (1967-71), Dr. R. Gene Payne (1971-2000) and Dr. Robert Vradenburgh (2001-present) have led the congregation.
“I hope that you will gain a new appreciation for the unique ministry that God has raised up here on what was once a cow pasture,” wrote FBC Pastor Vradenburgh in the 50 th anniversary tribute book. “He has provided faithful shepherds after His own heart to lead and feed the flock…behind them all is a great God Who has been building His church one soul at a time. To God be the glory!”
Join the 53rd Anniversary Celebration
You’re invited to join Friendship Baptist Church this Sunday (Sept. 9) for a look back on a legacy of its faithful charter members and in thanksgiving to an ever-faithful God for his work in and through FBC over the past 53 years.
When: Sunday, September 9, 2018, 10:30 a.m. (no Sunday school or evening services) Dinner on the grounds will follow immediately after the service. Grilled Chicken, BBQ pork, rolls, and drinks will be provided. Members, please bring your favorite dish/side and dessert (enough for your family and one other family) to the gym before 10:15 a.m.
Note: Children ages 5 years old through 4 th grade will begin in the main service and will be dismissed at 11 a.m. for junior church. They will be met by workers in the welcome center to head to the library.
Where: Friendship Baptist Church, 5510 Falls of Neuse, Raleigh, NC
written by: Erica Baldwin, church member