Friendship Baptist

Thomas County
Org 1848
Photography by Steve Robinson

The local history tells us that Friendship Baptist is the first and the oldest Baptist church in Thomas County.  It was located in the southern part of the county, about two or three miles south of the present town of Metcalfe, off Roddenberry Road on what is now Friendship Church Road.  The first church, constructed of logs, was replaced after a few years with a frame structure.  A cemetery was also laid out beside the church.

With the completion of the railroad to the little village of Metcalfe in 1888, the congregation determined that a new church building should be erected in the town and, in 1889, James S. Lilly gave land for the new building. The location of the church, on the east side of the railroad, was on the opposite side from the Methodist church, which was being constructed almost simultaneously. It was said that the Friendship Baptist church members “gave liberally of their substance” for the building, according to a Times Enterprise article of the day.  The construction chief chosen was Mr. W. J. E. Hinson, a local builder who had constructed several homes in the area and also was in the process of building the Methodist Church.

Although the congregation was moving into the town of Metcalfe, the old Friendship church cemetery remained the burial ground for the original members of that church as well as other rural Metcalfe residents.  Families continued their worship in the rural church until the Metcalfe building was completed, with Rev. T. W. White, “the devoted pastor” whose “eloquence for his Master, and his zeal for the welfare of his congregation bears abundant fruit”  (same article).  By 1900, in its new location in the village of Metcalfe, the church had grown to 510 members – 250 males and 260 females.

The aforementioned history is typical of what is usually recorded regarding the origins of the church.  However, we are fortunate that some minutes of the church (as early as 1881) have been preserved and they reveal a much deeper aspect of these early parishioners and the life they led.  A cursory look at the minutes here will show the role of the church in maintaining the community standards of acceptable behavior and more importantly, determining unacceptable behavior.  Sinful conduct would be reported to the church elders, who would appoint a committee to look into it, and guilty congregants were then given several chances to cease said behavior.  Failure to do so would result in excommunication and social banishment.  Common forms of sin in the latter part of the 19th century would be the usual…..adultery, drinking spirits and unspecified examples of “unchristian behavior”.  However, even at this late date, the sin that seemed to illicit the most severe response was that of ……..dancing.  Thanks to Andy Rudd for making these minutes available.

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