Welcome to St. Barnabas Episcopal Church. We are claiming our identity as a radically welcoming community, embracing differences as we seek to Love God, Love our Neighbors and Change the World in Jesus’ name. As Episcopalians we seek to know God’s will through Scripture, tradition and reason. Often that leads different individuals to different understandings of what God wants us to do in a particular situation. We do not expect to have all the answers, but we invite all the questions. We can disagree without being disagreeable. The Episcopal Church is part of the Anglican Communion and we claim as Episcopalians Thurgood Marshall, Colin Powell, Eleanor Roosevelt, John Steinbeck, Madeline L’Engle, Bono, Sam Waterston. William Faulkner and Tennessee Williams.
Our congregation is joyful and loving. You are encouraged to participate however you are comfortable. Christians, including children, from any denomination are welcome to receive communion. If you prefer not to receive communion, that is also appropriate. If there is something you would like to do, let us know. Don’t wait to be invited. If you are invited to do something that you really do not want to do, it is OK to say so. If each of us uses our gifts in the way we find most life-giving we will thrive as the Body of Christ in this place.
Please click the link below to watch a short video about the St. Barnabas community.
Reflections about healing after the election from Rev. Sarah Shofstall:
Ten years ago, while on sabbatical at Eastern Mennonite University’s Summer Peace Building Institute, I had the privilege of taking a class from Hizkias Assefa. Hizkias is a peace negotiator for the United Nations and was one of the negotiators sent into Rwanda before the civil war began, part of the team that thought they had reached an agreement that would avert a civil war. In telling that story, he talked about how happy he was to be able to go home to his family after having spent three years getting leaders from all the factions together to get that agreement. He then said, “Within the next year, everyone I knew in Rwanda was dead and the genocide had begun. So I had to pack up and go back to Rwanda to work for the next twelve years to get another agreement.” When asked how he could bring himself to go back after the horror of the civil war, he answered in a very matter-of-fact way. “I am a Christian. For Christians, hopelessness is not an option. I often wish I could change the behaviors of others. I can only change my own and the first behavior of mine that I have to change in order to bring about change in the world is to decide that I will not give in to hopelessness.”
At this stressful and unsettled time it is easy to think about what others should do. It is more helpful to think about what each of us can do to heal wounds and bridge the divide that has been left by the rancorous election tactics.
I grew up in Kearney, Nebraska. To find Kearney, you can go out to the Ohio Turnpike, drive 980 miles west and take a right. There is a branch of the University of Nebraska there and a major medical center. While I was growing up, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Kearney was a wonderful mix of people from around the world, with divergent experiences and political opinions. Whether you were a Republican, a Democrat, conservative, moderate or liberal, we all did the dishes together after church dinners. We all visited in each others’ homes, celebrated each others’ joys and mourned each others’ losses. When I was practicing law in Kearney, I was serving on the board of Nebraskans for Peace and another member of the parish was a retired Army Colonel. We were often asked to square off and debate the use of military power and foreign policy at meetings and Diocesan conventions. One day I was on campus to speak to a class and ran into a political science professor I knew from peace circles when my friend, the colonel, walked up and joined our conversation. The professor I had been talking with, jokingly said to me, “Don’t pay any attention to him. He has nothing worthwhile to say.” I immediately responded, “I may not always agree with him. But I always learn from listening to him.” The professor looked surprised and said, “Why are you two such good friends?” and then immediately said, “Oh, I know. You both go to St. Luke’s.”
When we stay in genuine relationships with those who think differently we learn from each other, our thinking improves. When we avoid real conversations, except with those who think the way we think, we promote polarization that fractures society. It is so easy to demonize people we don’t know—and we no longer get close enough to the “others” to know their grace and kindness.
A colleague of mine (and a former member of St. Luke’s) has consulted in many church conflicts. She is fond of saying that “Church is where people bring their best intentions and worst behaviors,” because people care so passionately about their church, they show no restraint in advocating what they think is best for the church. The same can be said for ALL Americans. For love of our country we passionately advocate for what we think is best and are quick to assume that anyone who disagrees with us is evil, or does not love our country. And fear of losing what we hold dear about our country drives bad behaviors on all sides.
Jesus understood all of that when he called his disciples together. He knew that most of the disciples were terrified of the Roman soldiers who occupied their country and massacred entire towns if they believed an insurrection was brewing. He knew how much they hated tax collectors who were Jews who collected taxes from them to give money to the Roman Emperor, to hire the soldiers who came into their country and murder their loved ones. But he called Mathew anyway. And he told the others they had to love him. And he knew it was not easy for any of them.
Followers working together with people they don’t like or agree with—even those they have reason to hate—was Jesus’ plan. It still is. We are not called to be articulate advocates. We are called to love each other—even those we don’t like or agree with.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “We must learn to live together as brothers, or die together as fools.” He did not say “brothers or sisters.” Often in his writings he used gender language that is considered politically incorrect today. Should we discount his wisdom and leadership? Elisabeth Cady Stanton, one of the founders of the Women’s Rights Movement in the Nineteenth Century worked tirelessly to give women the right to vote and for the abolition of slavery. But she was a woman of education and privilege and her writings reflect an understanding of race that would be completely unacceptable today. Most of our heroes had unseemly sides. Can we recognize and honor the grace in others, even if we do not respect everything they do?
St. Barnabas got the Apostles to accept Paul after Paul had been killing Christians. That wasn’t an easy sell. But Barnabas loved God, loved his neighbor, Paul and changed the world.
Jesus continues to call us to love each other. To do that we have to know each other, build bridges, strengthen relationship. Pay attention to your own feelings first. Work on letting go of anger, fear. Re-connect with friends you have been avoiding and listen below the sound bites to find the core values that you share. Be a safe person to talk to.
Claim your identity as a loving person. Believe in the power of prayer. Believe in the power of love. Perfect love casts out all fear.
We are Christians. For Christians, hopelessness is not an option.