St. Barnabas has had a colorful history with lots of ups and downs. On June 11, 1872, the cornerstone of the original St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, “Sand Hills” (as the neighborhood was then known) was laid. The first few years showed a spectacular level of activity (given the small population of the area) under the leadership of Rev William B. Bolmer, Missionary 1874-1880. In subsequent years, we had brief periods of commitment by priests (who usually covered other nearby rural mission churches as well) but survived due to dedicated lay leadership by people like Alban W. Cooper and Thayer Bolmer. The church was closed from 1935-1939, and again from January 1 – November 20, 1949, but it did not become “extinct” (closed forever) due both from the determination of local residents and Diocesan Mission strategy and cooperation with other churches, an appropriate and critical combination.
From 1949-1955 St. Barnabas was served by the Rev. Robert N. Smyth (who also was Vicar of Trinity Church, Rocky Hill, and a school teacher) and from 1955-1960 by the Rev. William A. Eddy, Jr. part-time while he was Episcopal Chaplain at Princeton University. The Rev. Frank K. Jago served as Seminarian-in-charge 1961-63, Vicar 1963-75 and Rector 1975-76. Under his leadership, the congregation left the old church and worshipped in Greenbrook Elementary School 1965-70 until the current church was built. For the first time, St. Barnabas became a full, independent Parish of the Diocese (1975-81) after generations of outside financial help. The move from the old church (which has a capacity of 138 on a 7/10 acre lot with very little parking) was controversial with many long-time members. The old church (located on Major Rd. near what is now Burger King) subsequently burned down; our stained glass window was salvaged from it and installed behind the altar (and then later installed into the new church built in 2001).
The Rev. John H. McLeester served as Rector 1976-81 during a time of great liturgical change in the church; under his leadership the 1979 Book of Common Prayer and the practice of celebrating the Holy Eucharist every Sunday was introduced. Membership declined, however, and upon his retirement, the parish decided it could no longer afford a full-time priest. The Rev. Richard Lewis served (part-time) as Priest-in-charge from 1981-84, followed by 7 months of supply clergy and Lay Readers until Father Francis A. Hubbard was called as our priest in September, 1984. This was made possible in part by Diocesan financial aid (1984-1992).
Thanks to the strength and guidance of the Holy Spirit, the leadership of Father Hubbard, and a succession of strong leadership teams, we enjoyed growth in attendance, financial support from members, and in educational, fellowship and outreach activities. Our vision became deeper and broader, our congregation became more diverse, and we had the happy situation of needing to build a bigger worship space to accomodate all who wanted to worship, learn and enjoy each others’ company in it.
In 2001, a new church building was completed thanks to generous donations of time and money from parishioners. In 2006, renovations to the “old” church were completed, again thanks to generous donations of time and money from parishioners. The renovations involved making new classrooms with walls, allowing noise to no longer be a problem during Sunday School. Once we had “room”, we were able to focus on welcoming new members and reaching out to the community and world while maintaining the warmth and friendliness that has always characterized our church.
In June, 2009, after serving us for nearly 25 years, Father Hubbard retired from St. Barnabas which caused a slight decline in attendance. However, we were blessed by a wonderful interim rector, Mother Sheelagh A. Clarke, for the next two years and the parish continued to thrive. One of her many contributions was starting up our annual youth mission trip, which has greatly enriched the lives of our teenagers.
After the discernment period, the parish called Rev. Valerie L. Balling as its new rector during the summer of 2011. The longer Rev. Valerie is with us, the more convinced we are that the Holy Spirit led her to St. Barnabas and the more excited we become about the future and the opportunities it presents for spiritual growth and outreach to the community and world. We invite others to join us on this wonderful journey together.