Preacher Profile: J.D. Barnes

Published 8:53 pm Friday, April 29, 2011

Where are you originally from? I am originally from Gadsden, Alabama. I have lived in several cities around Alabama though: Tuscaloosa, Fort Payne, Huntsville, and now, Demopolis. I also lived near Atlanta, Georgia, for a co-op job during college and in Texas for seminary.

Where did you go to school? I received a Bachelor of Science from the New College of the University of Alabama and a Master of Divinity from the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest in Austin, Texas.

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What do you find to be the greatest challenge of modern evangelism? I believe the greatest challenge of modern evangelism is what it has always been: trying to convince a world that wants everything to be self-centered to be instead Christ-centered. We all want to make life all about what we want, but we have to fight that urge and strive to make it what God wants for us.

What do you feel is the most important thing a congregation can do to help its preacher? Probably the most important thing a congregation can do is to go through a well-defined/diligent process of calling its minister in the first place. The congregation needs to look for a person whose skill-set matches the goals they have in ministry – because everybody is different. It is also helpful for a congregation to not expect their minister to be a “mind reader” or to remember anything they don’t write down in their appointment book.

When and where was your first sermon and what was the topic? It was Wednesday, February 27, 2002, at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church in Fort Payne, AL. It was the feast day of a man named George Herbert, who was known for being a priest in the rural areas of England in the 1600s. Essentially, the sermon was about leaving behind one life and beginning another. I was in the process of moving from a career in information systems – something at which I was fairly accomplished – to attending seminary – something altogether new. In the end, I hoped to convey the point that everyone needed to discover their ministry, whatever it may be, and do it to the best of their ability. (By the way, I still have that sermon on my flash drive!)

Aside from your faith, what do you get excited about? What are some of your personal interests or passions? I really love to travel. I enjoy planning family vacations – where we are going, how we are going to get there – and I like finding quirky things off the beaten path, as well as visiting popular sites. I have been a fan of Crimson Tide athletics since the age of 5. I also like “weather watching.” A couple of years ago, I splurged on a fancy electronic gadget which gives all manner of weather readings – i.e. a wireless weather station. All the information is automatically sent via the Internet to various weather websites.

What is a typical work day for you? If there is a typical work day, I haven’t found it yet. There are constant surprises that turn up in life as a priest. I suppose there is a general pattern to the whole week though. Some days involve Christian education and worship services. Other days are spent dealing with the practical matters of maintaining a church which has been around for over 177 years. I try to spend time in the office each week just to be available to people who might want to talk. I work with the hospital auxiliary one afternoon each week because it’s an excellent way to give something back to the community. There are always parishioners who might need to be visited or called, and of course, there’s a sermon that needs to be written.

Who has been most influential on your personal faith? Definitely my wife and her family. They showed me what it was like for a family to all be involved in church life, and to actually enjoy it.

What advice would you give to the Christian trying to balance a faithful personal walk with life in the secular world? I would tell them to quit trying to balance their faith life with life in the secular world. The last thing we need to do in our secular lives is to leave our faith behind when it seems convenient. As Christians, we are meant to carry our faith out into the world – even though this may put us at odds with the world. When we accept the call of Christ, we take on the responsibility of living out our faith in example to a world that desperately needs some good role models.

What is life like for you outside of ministry? Family? Hobbies? I’ve been married for almost 15 years to Amanda. We have two boys: Joseph, who is 9, and Samuel, who is 4, and I’m very proud of them both. Otherwise, my life isn’t too exciting, and I’m fine with that. I’m a confirmed “homebody.” I like to work around the house, planting things and doing some handyman chores. One other fact about me which may prove interesting is that I’m a vegetarian. I discovered that I had gout a few years ago, and I’ve learned that it can be controlled by not eating meat. Recently, I also began working out at the hospital’s Wellness Center. I’ll be honest, I don’t enjoy exercising very much, but the staff there is so nice that it helps – and I know that it’s good for me.