The GAs: Girls in Action
Only a year later, In July 1950, twelve feet (and a steeple) were added to the front of the auditorium, and in October, the church purchased 2 2/3 acres of land across the street for use a cemetery from Duke Power Company. In ’51, Friendship organized their children’s ministries; the GA’s, RA’s, and Sunbeams, and bought a pastorium.
The 'new' brick church
The Fellowship Building was built in February of 1954, thirty by sixty feet with a full kitchen. By June 1960, membership had increased to 335, and work began on a new brick auditorium, 107 by 50 feet, with Sunday school rooms, electric heat, and air conditioning. It was completed one year later, and on June 4, 1961, we used our new auditorium. Our membership was now three hundred seventy-seven strong.
Originally, sometime after World War II, Rankin Lake Baptist Church of Dallas, North Carolina held prayer meetings in homes in the New Hope Community of Gaston County, North Carolina. On Sundays, the families would ride farm trucks or the church bus up old Route 1 (the current day New Hope Rd) to Rankin Lake Baptist, 11 miles distant. Realizing what a hardship it was for people to attend his church from ’way down in Belmont, Rankin Lake started a mission church that would be local to the people. Y.E. Springfield donated an acre of his property to be the site of the New Hope Baptist Mission on April 6, 1948, and the first building was constructed, a 30’x 48’ one-room auditorium. The pews in the building were slab cut tree trunks--no one went to sleep or got too comfortable for fear of falling off! The only service in the Mission was Sunday School until May 2, 1949; in June the church was organized with 57 members and called Rev. A.P. Millen to be the pastor. After some discussion a name was chosen for the new church—“Friendship.” The first baptismal service was July 17, 1949: seven people were baptized in the South Fork River. The same month, the building was expanded to include a basement and Sunday School rooms, as the Mission had outgrown its days of drawing curtains together to separate the classes.
On July 6, 1966, the church bought two acres adjacent to the cemetery from Duke Power to use as a parsonage. In December of 1968, the old pastorium was given to Rev. and Mrs. Millen, and one year later, work on the new parsonage was begun. (The former pastorium still exists as a private residence down the street at number 4825, and has been recently restored and remodeled.) On March 20, 1970, Rev. Millen resigned effective the first Sunday in June. He had served us faithfully for twenty-one years. Membership at that time was four hundred forty-nine. God had truly blessed us.
In 1971, the Fellowship Building was remodeled. In April 1972, Crescent Land and Timber agreed to lease five acres of land behind the cemetery to Friendship for use as a ballfield—a lease we held until 2017, when Crescent decided to use the land to build a housing subdivision. On November 20, 1977, the church adopted plans for an education building consisting of approximately 7,200 square feet on two levels with a basement. On October 22, 1978, the church purchased 3.9 acres of land adding to the previous purchased property and the original land donated by Mr. Springfield.
There have been fat times and lean in the intervening years. The church survived a scandal and split in the early 1970s, (and as a result the official church records have mysteriously "gone missing" for several years around that time.) There have been great pastors who served for decades, and not-so-great ones who fizzled out after a few months. Membership has waxed and waned. Our ballfield had been buzzing with leagues and games, and lain fallow for years. But through it all, Friendship's core purpose, to be a place for God's people to learn and grow, has remained constant.
In the twenty-first century, Friendship is a growing, dedicated congregation with a deep and abiding love for each other and for God. Our vision, along with our current pastor, Jan Deans, is to reach out to our neighbors old and new and grow with the same fervency and sense of service that Rankin Lake did for us 'way back in 1948.
The "Little White Church" with its Sunday School expansion.