Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Friendship Is First Church

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Friendship Is First Church

Article excerpt

According to Pastor Brian Wilson and the Sarasota County Historical Commission, Friendship Baptist Church was the first church established in Sarasota County.

Organized by John Hendry in July, 1875, the quaint, white country church with the cross atop the steeple began as a humble log cabin on borrowed land.

Parishioners sold 100 barrels of lime -- made from burning oyster shells -- to pay for the land and the cemetery. The site was designated as "a place of public worship, school and burying ground."

In 1953 the church building was moved to the current location, 5700 Palmer Blvd, and replaced by a new building to accommodate growth. The church was dedicated in 1985 by the Sarasota Historical Commission.

Friendship Baptist, Wilson said, was originally served by "circuit riding preachers. It was the church and the school -- which eventually became Fruitville Elementary," he said.

Wilson hails from Missouri. He has pastored the flock at Friendship for the past nine years.

He and his wife, Elizabeth reared five children, who all live in the Sarasota area now.

His path to preaching was not smooth.

"I took a career placement test and it said either state patrol or preacher," Wilson said. "I had no desire to be a preacher, so I just went to work, but I always felt like God was saying 'Surrender to ministry.'"

Wilson ignored the Lord for several years; when he finally yielded, "It was like a weight off my shoulders," he said. He attended seminary and began preaching at churches in Wyoming, Texas and Missouri.

The call to Friendship Baptist Church was from God, Wilson said.

"When the elders took the vote on me, I said 'I won't come unless 95 percent of you want me.' They said that it was the first time they had voted on anything and gotten 100 percent," Wilson said, laughing.

Deacon Roy Smith works closely with Wilson.

"Brian is fabulous," Smith said. …

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