From a handful of traditionalist Anglicans meeting in a living room to one of the largest parishes in the Joint Anglican Synods Churches, with more than 600 members—that, in a nutshell, is the story the first 40 years of St. Barnabas Church, Dunwoody, Georgia.
The lively, diverse suburban Atlanta parish celebrated the ruby anniversary of its founding on June 23. The Rt. Rev. Chandler Holder Jones, St. Barnabas’ current rector, celebrated a solemn Eucharist, followed by a joyous luncheon.
St. Barnabas’ had its beginnings in June 1979, when a group of 13 traditional Anglicans who began meeting for Sunday morning worship services in a living room in Atlanta. Gradually, they began meeting in each other’s homes on a rotating basis, and a fellowship developed that formed the nucleus for a small parish. The name St. Barnabas was chosen because the first meeting took place near the saint’s feast day, June 11.
Soon the need for a priest to provide more fully the small group’s spiritual needs became evident, and in August, the Rev. Robert C. Harvey, then serving a Continuing Anglican parish in Charleston, South Carolina, offered his services.
Father Harvey celebrated a Sunday afternoon Eucharist once a month, with a layreader leading Morning Prayer on the other Sundays. After Father Harvey was elected a bishop in 1980, the Rev. Carroll E. Simcox, retired editor of The Living Church, filled the breach. Twice a month for eleven years, Father Simcox flew down from his retirement home in western North Carolina to celebrate the Eucharist.
During this time, St. Barnabas’ began meeting in a community room of a bank in the Toco Hills section of Atlanta. According to a parish history, “Because of a large Coke machine, which spewed out distracting noises, we called our location the ‘Coca Cola Church.’” Subsequent moves took the parish to a hotel, a woman’s club and finally to its present home in Dunwoody, a suburb just north of Atlanta.
In 1990, the Rev. William R. Weston was named priest-in-charge and was called to be rector following Father Simcox’s permanent retirement the following year. Two years later, the Rev. Robert F. Burgreen became assistant rector, and following the loss of his wife, Bishop Harvey married founding member Marguerite Pendleton in 1995 and returned to Atlanta to join the clergy staff. The Rt. Rev. Peter Brewer was received into the Anglican Province of America in 1998 and served as the fourth member of the clergy staff before becoming rector of another APA parish in North Carolina.
In September 2007, in response to St. Barnabas’ continued growth, the Rev. Canon Chandler Holder Jones, formerly sub-dean of St. Alban’s Cathedral, Oviedo (Orlando), Florida, became a curate and succeeded now-Canon Weston as rector upon his retirement in March 2009. Shortly afterward, Father Burgreen retired. In 2010, Canon Jones was elected and consecrated Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese of the Eastern United States but continues to serve as rector of St. Barnabas.
Curates who have come and gone include the Rev. Paul A. Rivard, who served from 2010 until 2012, when he was called to be rector of St. George the Martyr, Simpsonville (Greenville), South Carolina, and the Rev. Matthew Harlow, who succeeded Father Rivard as curate until he became rector of Christ the Redeemer, Warner Robins, Georgia, in 2015. Also in 2015, St. Barnabas welcomed the Rt. Rev. Daren Williams, retired Bishop Ordinary of the Diocese of the West, to be organist and choirmaster, and the Rev. Canon Robert Bader, retired rector of the Church of the Advent (Diocese of the Holy Cross), Greenwich, Connecticut, became assisting priest. Completing St. Barnabas’ present clergy staff are the Rev. Deacons Richard Hitchcock and William Johnson.
Sadly, St. Barnabas lost two beloved clergymen within 18 months of each other. Bishop Harvey died on March 9, 2014, and Canon Weston followed him on Oct. 24, 2015.
Of the 13 founding members, three are still living: Marguerite Pendleton Harvey, DiAnn Wheeler, and Blakeslee Chase.
From small beginnings, St. Barnabas’ is today a thriving community of evangelical, Catholic, sacramental, traditional and liturgical Christians that is actively involved in its community and lending support to numerous outreach programs. Its current building complex, acquired in 1991, was dramatically expanded to include a new narthex, nave and sanctuary in 2006. The vision of the original founders, that St. Barnabas provide a faithful witness to the world, continues.