Frank Barnes has been a member of St. David’s by-the-Sea Episcopal Church for only the last three years, but his roots go back to his attendance as a child in the 1970s. Though he lives more than an hour’s drive away, the 53-year-old Barnes commutes weekly with his wife to services and was recently named senior warden at the small church in Cocoa Beach. Frank joined us for a brief Q&A about his commitment to St. David’s by-the-Sea and to his faith in general.
Why keep attending St. David’s even when it’s not the most geographically convenient church?
It was 2014, and my wife and I were in Cocoa Beach, and I just happened to notice it was the 40th anniversary of my confirmation at St. David’s. So, I thought it’d be really nice to go and see St. David’s again. It was a Sunday, so we went, and we attended the service, and a lot of it was very close to the way it was back in the ’70s, to a certain extent. And it just had a very homey, welcoming kind of feel, very friendly. And that’s always been something about St. David’s. It’s never been a huge church; it’s always been a couple hundred people, not all of them being at church on any given Sunday. And, it had that very communal feel that really made me feel nostalgic in a lot of ways.
Was there any reluctance from you or anyone in your family when you decided to start attending regularly?
Actually, no. When we went there the first time, it wasn’t with the intention of making it our home parish. It was just nostalgia. It just seemed a fun thing to do. But, after the first time we went to services, my wife and I, we just thought, “Well, let’s go back again,” and after one or two times going, it just became a very natural decision. This is a church we really, really like, and this is the one we’re going to stay with. We also really appreciated Father Scott (Holcombe) quite a bit. We liked his sermon style; we liked a lot of the values he brought to the congregation, so that definitely helped.
What makes St. David’s worth that kind of regular commitment?
I think it’s worth the commitment. One, because you’re truly in a community of faith, so it’s that dedication to faith that it never feels like you’re just going through the motions from a faith perspective. So, that’s very powerful. I think the connection with my youth is a big thing, and that drives a fair amount of it. And, the third point is that every time I go Father Scott just really has some great message, as do the other deacon and pastor—all three of them bring something unique to the mix. And, you always feel like you’ve gained a little bit. You have something to consider in your prayer life and always have something to walk away with in a positive way. It’s rare we ever miss. If we miss, it’s only because of illness.
How did you become a senior warden, and how did you decide to pursue it?
Now, that’s interesting. We started in 2014, and then after that we always wanted to do something to get a little more involved in the church. I feel that being senior warden, I’m very pleased in that (the position) allows me to use my abilities here and any thoughts or insights, any leadership I feel I can bring to a situation to really move the vestry forward.
What role does faith play in your life?
A very central one. I think that when you look at life in general, and this may just be one person’s perception, but you have to decide what’s going to be your center. And your center’s really going to make your moral norms of what’s acceptable and unacceptable behavior.
Interestingly enough, I have an academic background in philosophy, so I thought it was really interesting to see medieval philosophy—that when you’re saying you worship God, you’re basically saying you worship goodness or justice. With a Christian, justice isn’t a man-made concept; it’s an objective fact. And not only is it an objective fact, but it’s a person with intelligence and will. And it’s really that kind of a realization, that when you’re doing the right thing you’re literally infused, or you have God in you. It’s just understanding (the concept of) stepping aside and letting God work through you as opposed to you trying to do something, (which) I think is a very valuable insight. So (after) reading Thomas Aquinas, I very much appreciate my philosophical (background).
And, so, I think it’s very central. I’ve worked in a very high-stress environment, and I do understand for some (people) work is the center of their life. And that decides what they consider acceptable and unacceptable. I don’t mean that by way of criticism, just as an observation. They could go for a week or so without eating lunch, just going from a meeting to another meeting to another meeting to another meeting, and it doesn’t really occur to them that they didn’t really have lunch. And they keep going that way for weeks at a time. So, you’re willing to fast for some secular goal, but you feel that fasting during lunch is going to be problematic?
So, it goes to what’re you really serving here, and who you’re serving and what’s ultimately determining where your moral compass is. And, I think if you can kind of let all that go and just stick to a very simple formula of love God, which is synonymous with saying, “Love justice,” or “Love goodness” and “Love your neighbor,” that’s pretty much straightforward, I think.
I know that’s a very convoluted answer, and it sounds far more self-righteous than it should, but that’s the easiest way I can articulate that.
— Interview conducted by Tim Ritter