Written by: Sister Ashley Dunn

The beginning of 2020 brought changes that affected the world. The introduction of the coronavirus COVID-19 (respiratory virus) in January started a chain reaction across the globe. By March, its subsequent spread and resulting infection rate prompted the World Health Organization(WHO) to officially declare COVID-19 a global pandemic.

Countries began to enact laws and health ordinances to curve the spread which resulted in closure of almost everything that was not deemed essential.
Public places where people gathered were looked at as prime situations for the virus to spread. By April, GA governor Brian Kemp issued an executive order to shelter in place. Due to this and the desire to not add to the growing infection rate Friendly Church of God in Christ closed its doors after March 22nd service.
Life as most knew it came to an abrupt halt. With the school system, businesses and even the churches closed until further notice nothing was normal about everyday life.

The Center for Disease Control(CDC) and public health departments across the United States urged for limited contact and introduced terms that would become a motto throughout the following months- quarantine and social distancing.

What does social distancing look like in a church? At a time when everything is at a distance it is so important for the church to proclaim that Jesus is near. So Friendly

C.O.G.I.C. went virtual. What if you cannot grab your pew neighbor’s hand for prayer in church? You and your neighbor can call in via phone conference to pray. If you cannot come to church? Then you view church services online.

Social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube became the main vehicles to reach the congregation. Sunday services were available to view on YouTube every Sunday in the beginning months of quarantine. Later, when national and state restrictions were eased, Sunday service was streamed live from the sanctuary with limited church staff through Facebook. This gave members an opportunity to respond and comment online during praise & worship as well as the sermon. Tuesday night bible study was also streamed with Facebook and YouTube. Sunday school was formatted to be interactive by conference call every Sunday morning.
Friendly offered opportunities to pray as well. In addition to the pre-COVID19 Tuesday and Thursday morning Friendly prayer line, Pastor and Lady Boyd added a call-in prayer in August for every second Wednesday of the month.Many of the traditional and annual events for the national Church of God in Christ, jurisdiction and local church were canceled. Events and services that were not canceled were held virtually using internet video conference, social media live streams, or phone conference calls.

On April 25th several members along with the Missions Department and the Y.W.C.C.(PBJ & Jesus campaign) masked and gloved up to do community food outreach. They repeated this event on August 29th in conjunction with the annual School Supply Giveaway.
Friendly hosted several annual services virtually and started new ones. Pastor’s Anniversary, Church Anniversary and the Youth Revival were all streamed through Friendly’s Facebook page. In July, a virtual video Financial Planning series was started to relay beneficial finance information to help members. The series has been a monthly presentation.

During July church leadership, using CDC and health department guidelines, prepared the church for reentry. In early August, Sunday service converted to a drive-in style. Members were able to maintain distance by staying in their vehicles as service was held in the parking lot. Then on August 30th church reopened for Sunday services and bible study (moved from fellowship hall to sanctuary) with social distancing and sanitizing protocols in place. However, in late October, due to a rise in the infection rate numbers, Friendly closed again for the remainder of 2020.

As fall came events were still happening. On October 9th, the Women’s Dept. hosted Hour of Prayer via conference call. Closing out the month, on Oct 30th Kid’s Hallelujah Night provided a way for Friendly youth to tune in through virtual video.

Social distancing has shown what a gift it was to walk through the doors every Sunday, hold hands in prayer, greet each other with a hug, and “tell your neighbor” during the sermon. This year proved that the church isnot just the building and it must be able to thrive outside the four walls. Though the building may be closed, the church is still open.

If you have been a member of Friendly Church of God in Christ for any length of time, you’re sure to notice several things. Of these things you probably recognize that Friendly COGIC has several moving parts. Friendly, as a church, is continuously active. There are departments, auxiliaries, and missions of service to and outside of the church. Behind all this activity are people- the members, who serve in Friendly’s vineyard.

If you look over Friendly’s landscape of laborers, you will find several members with their hands to the plow. It is easy to see the ‘whole body’ move, but how often do you notice the ‘members’ that are behind the movement. You don’t have to look far. You may only need to look in the mirror or down the pew. Every member of Friendly can contribute to Friendly’s vineyard in some way. Some members have embraced this idea wholeheartedly.

In an effort to recognize and encourage the continued dedication of those members, Pastor Willie Boyd Sr. created the Friendly COGIC Servant Leadership Award. The purpose of the award is to recognize those members who define the role of a ‘servant leader’. The foundation of a servant leader starts firstly with the desire to be of service to others. A servant leader considers the needs of those around them and takes action to reach and meet that need. This individual is additionally
a leader by problem solving, engaging others in meaningful tasks, and displaying professional behavior in their duties.

In 2019, these characteristics stood out in Dr. Calvin Jackson and Deacon Phillip Clemons. During the award presentation at Watch Night Service, Pastor Boyd highlighted the outstanding service of each man.

Dr. Jackson serves “as a mentor in the CSRA and Friendly Brotherhood president. He is a blessing to the congregation, a man of faith who is dedicated to ministry and supporting the church.”

Deacon Clemons in addition to serving within Friendly’s brotherhood also manages the church’s “equipment setup, mentors young men, serves on the mission team, and was selected to train as a deacon due to his commitment” to the church.

Both recipients work in various capacities throughout Friendly showing their willingness to support the ministry. Dr. Jackson’s and Dea. Clemon’s commitment to work inside and outside the church walls prove they are faithful servants and kingdom leaders – servant leaders.

The Women’s Department Annual Winter Revival was held January 23 – 25, 2019. The theme this year was “ Anointed & Empowered by God to Walk through the Open Door”. Supporting scriptures were I Corinthians 16: 8 – 9, 2 Corinthians 10: 3 – 9, and Ephesians 6: 10 – 18.

On Wednesday night, three speakers started the revival with “Tools needed to be spiritually prepared for the challenges that await us”. Missionary Annette Moore was the presider and music was rendered by the Combined Women’s Choir. Old Time Way Praise Team lead the congregation in praise and worship while Mason Chapel choir gave a sermonic solo. Aspiring Missionary Melinda McGraw of Old Time Way spoke on prayer. Missionary Joyceland McCaster of Mason Chapel spoke on God’s Word. Evangelist Missionary Annie Blair of Friendly spoke on the Holy Ghost and ended with the altar call. The atmosphere was set for revival.

The revivalist for Thursday and Friday nights was Evangelist Brandie Coppett, the Elect lady  of Cathedral of Praise in Augusta, Georgia. On Thursday night, the theme was “How to use your battle tools” from Ephesians 6:10 -18. Missionary Latonya Fortune was the presider and the Gospel Mass Choir rendered music for the service. On Friday night, the theme was 

“It’s War Time!” from 1 Corinthians 16:8 – 9. Sister Melody Thomas was the presider. Music was rendered by the Combined Youth Choirs. Each night the sermonic solo was by the Cathedral of Praise Inspirational Team. Lady Coppett’s favorite scripture is Matthew 6:33 – “But seek you first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you”. Through her messages, seeking God first was put as a priority. Praising God was embraced as a tool to defeat the Devil. Man was created to praise God and as David said God inhabits the praise of his people. The congregation was encouraged and through her messages Friendly was revived. This was the way to begin a new year    in the fullness of praise.

This year, the Youth Department sponsored a trip to the Martin Luther King, Jr National Historic Site in Atlanta, Georgia. Two vans and several cars made the trip on January 24, 2019. There were a total of 30 people traveling – 19 adults and 11 youth. This National Historic Site was established in 1980 to preserve the places where Martin Luther King was born, lived, worked, worshipped and is buried

The group visited several sites during the tour of the grounds. The weather was a beautiful winter day and afforded the group pleasant weather for touring. The places visited were the Heritage Sanctuary, the King Birth home and the Visitor Center/Museum. The Ebenezer Baptist Church Sanctuary was the center of spiritual and community life for the Williams – King family. The church was built in 1914 – 22. For nearly 80 years, Dr. King’s maternal grandfather , Rev. Adam Williams and father, Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr. served as pastors. The King Birth Home was where Dr. Kiang was born and spent his first 12 years until the family moved to Boulevard. The Visitor Center/Museum was located behind the Ebenezer Baptist Church Horizon Sanctuary where services are now held.

After the tour, the group traveled to Conyers, Georgia where they fellowshipped at Applebee’s. Sister Ann Jones is quoted as saying 

I truly enjoyed the trip with the youth. The questions they asked and believe me, they asked some question. The responses that came from Elder and Sister Moore were amazing. They answered every question and left no one put. These two are truly amazing. I had gone on this tour several time, but this was the very first time I was able to actually go into the house the Dr. King was raised in. It was a long line, but it was worth it. The entire trip was  awesome. I am waiting to see what they have planned next.

We are all looking forward to activities in 2020.

The Friendly Hospitality sponsored a program on March 28, 2019  that was a little different from most programs. Spearheaded by Missionary Rosa Sharpe, the president of the Hospitality Unit, the church was invited to a Spaghetti Dinner program. Decorated in black and yellow, the fellowship hall was inviting to everyone. The theme was Christian Hospitality supported by Romans 12:13 and Hebrews 13:2.  

Sister Melaine Thomas was the presider for the night and encouraged the audience to participate in a quiz on the back of the program, “How well can you set this table?” There was a place for the informal setting and the formal setting. The items for the settings were at the bottom of the program. The answers were to be given after the service. After prayer, scripture, and welcome, a spaghetti dinner was served.  Though the dinner was delicious, the word of God was shared by Missionary Vanessa Wilson of Old Time Way of Augusta, Georgia. She was dynamic in her invitation to be hospitable. At the end of the service, thank you notes gave the correct setting for formal and informal dinner.

This was different from the regular Thursday night service. Everyone enjoyed the food and the Word. Everyone will also be looking forward to this program again next year.

Kudos to Ariana Stacy. Ariana joined the Robotics Team at Cross Creek High School in Hephzibah, Georgia. Their first competition this year was in FIRST Robotics Competitions in Dalton, Georgia March 7 – 9, 2019. The team won the Rookie Inspiration Award and the members of the team received medallions. The team went on to compete in Columbus Georgia  March 21 – 23, 2019. Congratulations to Araiana for accepting the challenge. 

We will be praying for the success of the team. 

Congratulations to Jayla Jackson for being invited to the African American Scholar Recognition Program. The program was held on February 28, 2019 at the Maxwell Performing Arts Theater on Augusta University campus. This award is given to the top senior and top two junior African American students in the surrounding high schools for their outstanding academic achievements. Students from over 50 schools were recognized. A desert reception followed the program.

The speaker for this program was Dr. Lester Pretlow, the Dean of the College of Allied Health Sciences at Augusta University. His discourse was directed to the juniors and seniors. His secret shared was “you only have to make a few good choices to set your life up forever”. Of the many nuggets he shared, one word of advice was to get an understanding in whatever you do. He emphasized understanding the value of choices and stressed honesty, love and faithfulness in their work. He ended with a word from Solomon. “The end of a matter is better than the beginning” – meaning hard work will pay off.

Kudos to Jayla for her hard work. She is a senior at Lakeside High School and is the daughter of Dr. and Sister Calvin Jackson. 

Our prayers are that  will bless her in her endeavors.

This year, Northern Georgia Second (NG2) hosted the International Youth Department (IYD) Southeast Conference. Elder Bruce Howard, NG2 Jurisdictional Youth President was the conference coordinator with Sister Raven Jackson, the Jurisdictional Chairlady. The two day conference, March 1 – 2, 2019, was  hosted by House of God in Thomson, Georgia where Bishop Mark Walden is the pastor. Elder Derrick Hutchins, II is the IYD vice-president and the Southeast Regional President. In his cabinet are Elder Ryan Keyes, Regional Administrator, Elder Andre V. Castro, Regional Coordinator and Dr. Demetria Williams, Presidents Commission Coordinator.

The conference theme, Ignite 2019, was the focus for the Friday night service. The IYD President, Dr. Benjamin Stephens was a guest in the service. He gave encouraging remarks to the youth and invited all to 2019 AIM for more service and sessions. After service, a repass was given in his honor where the youth had an opportunity to chat with him and ask questions. The main speaker for the night was Elder Hutchins, the IYD Southeast President.

On Saturday, there were training session before the noon service.  The sessions with facilitators were:

Fighting for Your Faith in an Age of Tolerance: Elder Donte Jones and Elder Gary Lee; Sister Talk: Chairlady Antwanique Edwards and Chairlady Tarsha Jefferson; A Conversation with my Brother: President Kevin Hamphires and Vice President M Watson; Leadership 101: Dr. Demetria Williams and Elder Andre Castro; and Children’s Ministry: Missionary Stephanie Smith. The noon day speaker was the dynamic speaker, Elder Mark Moore of Atlanta, Georgia.  We look forward to the 2020 IYD Southeast Region Conference.

Members, far and near, along with friends and visitors all made their way to the Friendly Church of God in Christ 66th Church Anniversary celebration. It could be considered a homecoming, and everyone came home to fellowship together and mark 66 years of ‘doors that hang on friendly hinges’. Friendly members all clad in anniversary theme t-shirts, designed by Bro. Brandon Hackney, for the service helped to signify that it was a special occasion. As the sanctuary filled, members greeted one another with hugs and smiles.

The service, themed “The Vision Continues” based on Habakkuk 2:2-3, took place on October 21st at 3 o’clock in the evening. Elder Anthony Roper served as presider and started the celebration off as His Own opened with a melody of praise. Just in case visitors didn’t feel welcome to join in the festivities, District Missionary Jaqueline Millender rolled out a verbal welcome mat. She provided the occasion and eloquently proclaimed Friendly COGIC a spiritual landmark that serves as a notable point within COGIC history. 

Friendly’s Combined Choir rendered selections throughout the service that added to the atmosphere of praise. One selection, “God Said It” led by Missionary Tara Wheat, ministered to the congregation and was a crowd favorite prompting several to stand and join in with the choir as they declared “God said it and I believe it.”

Friendly COGIC has a rich history and many people have labored in the ministry over the years. Recognition was given to individuals who have been Friendly COGIC members for over 50 years for their faithfulness to the ministry. Some members were called from labor to rest over the years. Time was also taken to recognize the members that have gone to be with the Lord for their efforts and contribution to Friendly’s legacy.  

After the singing and reflections comes the main part of any service – the message. Bishop Mark Walden, Northern Georgia Second Jurisdiction Prelate and Pastor of House of God COGIC, given his long history with Friendly COGIC was a familiar face as speaker for the occasion. Under the subject title “A Successful Church” with scripture references from Ephesians 5: 25-27, Bishop Walden detailed attributes and characteristics that a Godly church should possess. Of these he concentrated on a church’s focus on the community and caring for ‘the least of these’ as referenced in the bible.

History shows that the leadership of Friendly has been focused on expanding the body of Christ and making room for all that would want to fellowship within its walls. With a motto of “Win One For Christ”, Friendly is indeed mindful of growing the kingdom of God. As the congregation grows the walls must expand. In 2001, under the leadership of Superintendent Emeritus Leroy James, the Lord provided Friendly the opportunity to purchase 26.43 acres of land off Dyess Parkway to prepare for growth.

The 66th Anniversary Service was especially noteworthy because it not only served as a celebration for the church’s anniversary but also a mortgage burning service for the Dyess Parkway property. A special ceremony was held within the anniversary service to mark the accomplishment and blessing of paying in full the remaining balance of the property. Pastor Willie Boyd Sr., along with Minister Reginald James (who stood in his father’s stead- Pastor Emeritus James), the Friendly COGIC trustees, and Bishop Walden all gathered in front of the standing congregation as Pastor Boyd led a responsive reading praising God for the great blessing of providing the church the ability to conquer a financial giant. At the conclusion of the reading the mortgage was placed in a black pail and burned. The burning paper represented the debt no longer owed and a visual of God’s fulfilled promise to Friendly. The choir capped off the ceremony by singing “Amen” as the congregation lifted thanksgiving to God.

The service concluded with remarks for Mother Bertha Fitts, Elect Lady Patricia Boyd, Pastor Boyd, and dismissal by Bishop Walden. All in attendance exited the sanctuary toward the fellowship hall for the reception as the choir sang “It Shall Come To Pass”. It could be viewed as a prophetic selection. From the founding of Friendly COGIC on Gomers Lane to its continued growth at 1123 Carrie Street on to 1115 Carrie Street and now as Friendly prepares to transition to Dyess Parkway it is evident that Friendly COGIC is making room for more. Expanding the walls for more souls, more ministry, and more outreach. For these reasons and many more members and guests attended the celebration of another year Friendly has kept its doors opened.

David put it best in Psalms 122:1 when he penned “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD.” October 21, 2018 served as a day for remembrance. To thank God for one house of the Lord, Friendly COGIC, and the 66 years its doors have been opened for anyone to gladly walk through.

Each year, Friendly recognizes members who have made outstanding contributions to the church. This award, the Service Leadership Award, was given to three people this year – Missionary Ann Blair, Brother Brandon Hackney and Minister Leron James.

Missionary Blair is an active member of the Missionary Circle and president of the YWCC. She is the past president of the PEC (Progressive Education Committee). The PEC recognizes youth for their outstanding achievements in school and gives special recognition to the graduating seniors in a June Dinner.  In 2018, Missionary Blair worked with the SWOT Analysis which is part of Friendly’s 5-Year Strategic Plan.

Brother Hackney is the president of the Gospel Mass Choir and is a member of His Own. He created the church Logo which is placed on cups for gifts and which will be part of the design for church lapel pins. He also designed the Leadership certificates and the tee shirts for the 66th Church Anniversary in 2018.    

Minister James is the minister of music at Friendly and is also a member of His Own. During the Back to School Event in August, he gave free haircuts to the youth going back to school. As part of the Pastoral Staff, he was available at the Soup Kitchen, Thanksgiving and Christmas Dinners to play music and preach the word of God. 

Kudos to them for their excellent work in the ministry! 

This year, the Purity Class was invited to the Robotics Showcase by the 100 Scholars Robotics Alliance which was held on December 15, 2018 at the Lonnie Johnson STEM  Activity Center on 275 Decatur Street, Atlanta, GA. Two EV3 robots and the In Orbit Robot game were donated to participate. This amounted to almost $2000.00 in Lego equipment. With the help of the Youth Department, Puritans were able to go and spend the night to participate in the FIRST Lego League Regional Tournament on December 15, 2018.

Lego teams from around Georgia competed in the Robotic Game using Lego Mindstorms, presented the research relating to Into Orbit and presented their ideas on Core Values. Puritans were among 25 teams in the competition. Dr. Lonnie Johnson encouraged the youth to strive for excellence in STEM.  The quote for the day was “ Don’t miss the opportunity of a lifetime during the life of the opportunity.” 

Puritans on the team were Bryson McGhee – captain, Ahmod Gilbert, Ahmarion Gilbert, Nadia Ragland and Arianna Stacy. Bryson, Ahmod, and Ahmarion spearheaded the robot game. Ariana was responsible for the research and Nadia was in charge of the Core Value presentation. This was the first competition for the team and we are planning for the competition in AIM, Tampa, Florida.  Special thanks to the parents who made it possible for the young people to go to Atlanta:   Brother McGhee, Brother and Sister Franklin, and Deacon and  Sister Stacy. Please visit the Puritan Facebook page for more pictures of the event.