This year, Friendship Baptist Church celebrates its 150th anniversary, and the anniversary committee has been hard at work on sesquicentennial plans, including helping church members pronounce the word that means “150th anniversary.”
The church has come far since its humble beginnings in 1862, when congregants met in a boxcar because they did not have funds to buy land. Both Morehouse and Spelman Colleges held their first classes at Friendship. And Atlanta’s first African-American mayor, Maynard H. Jackson, Jr., was not only raised in the church; his father was one of only six pastors who have served the community in its history.
Many of the church elders remember all of the pastors except the very first, Reverend Frank Quareles, who served until 1881. One important event for the anniversary committee will be the dedication of new tombstones for Reverend Quarles and his wife, whose unmarked graves were discovered at Atlanta’s historic Oakland Cemetery.
The anniversary committee is also collecting oral histories of the church, and Vanessa Brown, a member of the Anniversary Committee, invited church elders to record their memories of Friendship Baptist Church and its leaders with StoryCorps Atlanta.
Clyde Sutton remembers Reverend E.R. Carter who served as pastor for over 60 years and during Clyde’s childhood. Clyde told fellow deacon board member, Charles Hawk, of how he and another Boy Scout would remember Reverend Carter, sitting in his chair in the the pulpit. While Charles never met Reverend Carter, he served as principal of E.R. Carter Elementary School.
Florence Harris and Samuel Bacote shared memories of each of the pastors they remembered. Samuel summed up his experiences in the church by saying, “I look forward to coming to church every Sunday. I feel I belong here.”
Henrietta Antoinin has fond memories of the third pastor, Reverend Maynard H. Jackson and she shared them with his youngest daughter, Carol Ann Jackson Miller. Henrietta remembers seeing Carol Ann’s parents hugging at a church picnic. As a child, she found the pastor’s public display of affection a fascinating example of how loving a husband should be towards his wife.
Check out an excerpt of Henrietta Antoinin and Carol Ann Jackson Miller conversation here. The segment was edited by Atlanta’s WABE and broadcast during Morning Edition and City Cafe.