If you’re looking for a new church home for your family, I can’t imagine a more welcoming Christian environment than what I experienced during my first-ever visit to Carmel Friendship Church, which has been located in its own building next to the Wesley Chapel school complex on Wells Rd. since 2011 (although the church didn’t purchase the building until 2014).

I visited Carmel Friendship Church for its 11th anniversary — the church started meeting at the home of Pastors Quincy (Pastor Q) and Jennifer Stratford and their children in 2010 and moved to Benito Middle School in New Tampa on Easter Sunday in 2011 — on Oct. 10 and I have to say that, as a member of the Jewish faith who has attended many Christian churches in years past, I have rarely, if ever, felt the warmth and love I felt from everyone I met at this very special place.

Pastor Quincy Stratford

I walked in a few minutes after the church’s music program had begun and was blown away by the talent of the dancers and choir singers, especially soloists Morgan Mackall, Curlin Beck and Chris Sampson. Many of the dancers appeared to be young teens, but the music, under the direction of Kazi Whitfield, and choreography were impeccable and beautiful to watch and hear.

The inspirational message given by the Stratfords’ friend, visiting Pastor Dr. Johnnie R. Bradley, of Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Dallas, TX, quoted scripture from both the Old and New Testament to illustrate how the Holy Spirit is a Real, Divine and Unique person who provides comfort to all of those who believe. And, Dr. Bradley’s message fit right in with Carmel Friendship Church’s motto of “Real God. Purpose. People.”

Before the blessings and closing messages given at the end of the service by Pastor Q and Pastor Jennifer, another close friend of theirs, cancer survivor Patrice Kissentaner Starks, whose health issues prevented her from being able to visit her friends for several years, told how much the support of the Stratford family and her faith have helped and meant to her. 

The service was followed by a free barbecue meal and a cake to celebrate the church’s anniversary.

Carmel Friendship Church (30081 Wells Rd.) offers both adult and children’s services at 9 a.m. on Sundays and Bible Study on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. For more information, call (813) 991-1300 or visit CFriendship.org. — GN

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