About four years ago, St. Barnabas, Montgomery, began an intentional transformation process that included a search for a new rector. Our founding rector, George A. Hill III, retired in 2012. In 2014, a Self-Study and Discernment Task Force identified the Rev. Nancy Turner Jones as our selection for St. Barnabas’ Priest in Charge. This year, she was named rector of St. Barnabas.

During this process the task force determined that we should move from being a pastoral-sized (ASA 50-150) church to a program-sized (ASA 150-350) church. We developed our Ministry Council that supports 11 specific internal and external ministries. Pastor Nancy has focused considerable energies on our youth and children’s ministries, as well as on new membership.

To support these new families, we have incorporated Godly Play, a curriculum written by Episcopal priest, author, and teacher Jerome Berryman, into our church school curriculum. Based on Montessori principles, the Godly Play approach helps children to explore their faith through story, gain religious language and enhance their spiritual experience though wonder and play. Leaders respond to a child’s request to “help me do it by myself.” This way, rather than being told whom God is, the children begin to discover God for themselves.

In addition to our strong youth education programs, we also have a Youth Choir. The choir teaches our youth to sing confidently and share their collective voices during various worship services throughout the year. We welcome and encourage school age youth who enjoy music and like to sing. Last month our youth performed a musical The Story of Paul’s Shipwreck during our Children’s Sabbath event.

Each June, we hold an Art Camp for kids going into preschool through 5th grade. Children learn art techniques, movement and music while learning stories from the Bible. We had approximately 50 children attend in 2017.

Through these energies, we have attracted over 20 young families with children in the past two years. This represents an increase of 18% in our membership, bringing new vitality to our parish. We are thankful to our church members for their prayers and support in helping us to make St. Barnabas more than just a place but a welcoming (and growing) community of encouragement.

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John Byrne serves as Senior Warden at St. Barnabas, Montgomery.