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Greater Friendship Baptist Church-Daytona Beach, Florida feeds the hungry. It clothes the naked. It provides quality learning in it\'s new 1.3 Million Dollar Child Care Learning Center.
It is among many Daytona Beach-area black churches that provide more than a place for their congregations to praise God and study the Bible.
Historically African-American churches have reached out into the community to provide support, strength, stability and a place to socialize as well as advocated for social change.
\"The church is a major artery, if not the heart, of the black community,\" says it\'s pastor the Rev. Dr. L. Ronald Durham senior pastor of Greater Friendship Baptist at 539 George W. Engram Blvd. It\'s website is: www.GreaterFriendship.net
\"It was the pulpit that provided the voice for the least of these and the left out. The black church has a mandate to stand up and hold people in power accountable. We exist to empower the community around us.\" Greater Friendship Baptist, which will celebrate its 109th anniversary in October, prides itself on being one of the oldest black churches in Daytona Beach, FL.
In addition to providing food, clothing Greater Friendship Baptist offers affordable child care, in it\'s brand new 8,000 square foot facility Friendship Academy across the street from the main campus of the church at 404 North Charles Street. The school has a current enrollment of 110 students in it\'s daytime program ages 1 to 5 years old. In it\'s evening after school program students are from grades kindergarden to 6th grade. They also are open Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. until 12 Midnight. More information can be obtained from the school website: www.FriendshipAcademy.net
Began in days of slavery The importance of the black church goes back to the days of slavery. Then religion was the one institution over which blacks could exert some control, said Dr. Samuel K. Roberts, professor of theology and ethics at Union Theological Seminary and Presbyterian School of Christian Education in North Richmond.
The black church continues today as a social center, a place for fellowship and a place where the civil rights movement was nurtured.
\"After bending over in the fields picking cotton and tobacco, the church was the one place where we were somebody. Black American leaders today will tell you they got their start in the church,\" says Dr. Durham.
\"I believe that was the first civil rights movement. [The slaves] walked out of white churches, never to cross that threshold again. It was not an issue of theology or doctrine. It was a social issue on which the traditional Black church was founded. It was started to give persons of African descent the opportunity to fulfill their need for personhood and dignity.\"
Thus the African-American church grew to respond to the ills of its community, Durham added.
\"It\'s not enough for me to preach you happy on Sunday when you don\'t receive proper health care on Monday. The gospel that Jesus Christ preached and lived was not just a Sunday morning worship experience. It was every day in the week,\" he said.