Posted on : Thursday May 16, 2019

By Sharon Mager

SEVERNA PARK, Md. — Charles Barnes, who served as executive director of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware (BCM/D) from 1993 to 2000, died in his home on May 11, 2019. He was 86.

Laura and Charles Barnes (1963) Courtesy of Severna Park Baptist Church

Born in Stonewall, Mississippi, he enjoyed gardening with his mother and playing high school sports. Before graduating high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves and served briefly during the Korean War. Back home in Mississippi, he met and courted Laura Sue Thompson, and they married in 1953.

Barnes’ daughter, Sue Hannahs, said her grandmother had a significant influence on her dad’s spiritual life. The seventh child, with six sisters, his faith-filled mother prayed like Hannah of the Old Testament, pleading with God for a son, and promising to give him back to the Lord. She spiritually nurtured her children, rocking them to sleep singing hymns.

A pastor of a Baptist church in Stonewall, Mississippi also had a significant influence in Barnes’ life. Sollie Smith, and his wife, Julia, encouraged the young man to dedicate himself completely to the Lord. In an autobiography, The Hand of God is my Story, that he self-published for his family, Barnes wrote that Julia Smith’s encouraging words always stayed with him — “Charles, God has His hand on you, doesn’t He?” The Smiths also encouraged him to pursue college and provided financial help.

Rolling Creek Baptist Church, in Mississippi, called Barnes to his first pastorate, and there he and Laura started their family, welcoming children Sue and David. He attended Mississippi College and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. In 1961, Severna Park Baptist Church, (SPBC) in Maryland, a young mission church, called Barnes as their first full-time pastor. The church grew from 25 to 650 in nine years. It was at SPBC that Barnes found his passion for church education from the cradle to the grave, and for church growth.

Dave Brown, the current senior pastor of SPBC, said Barnes was a visionary. He recognized the Severna Park area as a “triangle of influence,” reaching Annapolis, Washington D.C., and Baltimore. The church’s triangular logo reflects that vision.

In 1970 Barnes began ministering with the BCM/D, serving as director of church programs and services. Barnes led mission trips to Burundi, Rwanda, and Moldova, as part of the BCM/D’s partnership missions emphasis.

“The Africa trip changed everything,” Hannahs said.

Hannahs said her father became painfully aware of the relative wealth of America and how it made him uncomfortable considering the need so many people had for fresh water while his family had an inground swimming pool. The trip lit a fire in him, she said.

Carol Moore, Barnes’ longtime ministry assistant, agreed that the mission trip changed his life. “He said that after he returned from that trip, it was difficult for him to enjoy a full meal. The hungry children that he saw affected him deeply. He gave generously to world hunger and never missed an opportunity to encourage others to do the same. He believed and lived Matthew 25:40, “The King will reply, I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for Me.” (NIV)

Hannahs said Barnes was also heartbroken when the genocide happened in Rwanda in 1994. Many who died were people he knew from his trip.

Charles Barnes (l) with a deacon in front of Severna Park Baptist Church 1963-4 (courtesy of Severna Park Baptist Church)

He became BCM/D executive director in 1993 and enthusiastically continued the emphasis on partnership missions while leading the convention in relocating the BCM/D offices from Lutherville to the current Columbia location. He developed a “futuring” initiative — a strategic restructuring to prepare the convention to move into the new century.

Ellen Udovich, who serves as BCM/D church services consultant, said that Barnes’ restructuring included the BCM/D General Mission Board (GMB). “He understood that the ministry environment and needs of the churches were changing,” Udovich said. “In the last few years before his retirement, he launched a restructuring of the GMB and staff, moving us into teams which worked together. Each team was made up of not just BCM/D staff but also pastors, lay people, associational directors of missions and at least one GMB member. Having this broad range of voices contributing to our teams’ planning, budgeting, and implementation helped us to focus more clearly on how best to serve and collaborate with churches amidst a rapidly changing environment.”

Roy Thomas, who retired in 2014, said Barnes created his position at the convention in the then “Family Ministry” area. “Charles was a visionary in that he launched and facilitated the “futuring” effort that eventually led to a reorganization and the calling of David Lee as his successor. Charles was a good friend and a fellow believer. He will be missed.”

BCM/D Church Ministry Consultant Michael Trammell, who pastored Mt. Airy Church for 26 years, shared, “I remember Charles Barnes for visiting pastors on their church fields. He was in many ways a loyal friend to pastors.”

Many people mentioned  Barnes’ warmth and wit. Udovich said, “Mr. Barnes had a good sense of humor and a great memory. He knew many of the pastors, and whenever one of them retired, Mr. Barnes would be invited to the event. Instead of the usual glowing words and platitudes toward the guest of honor, Mr. Barnes would “roast” the pastor, bringing up all kinds of stories from the past and mixing them in with zippy one-liners.”

Moore said he was joyful. “He didn’t want to be one of those Christians that had been ‘baptized in dill pickle juice.’”

Charles Barnes shares at Severna Park Baptist Church’s 50th-anniversary celebration in 2010.

David Lee, who succeeded Barnes as the executive director, said, “Charles Barnes loved Jesus. He was passionate about the world coming to faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord. He loved Maryland/Delaware Baptists and he served us faithfully. I will always remember his strength of conviction, his courage, and his generosity toward those in need. I will always be indebted to our Lord for the opportunity to serve alongside Charles, to learn from him, and to build upon the foundation that he laid through the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware.”

After retiring, Barnes provided pulpit supply and served as an interim to a variety of churches, and he was a minister to seniors at Heritage Baptist Church in Annapolis, where he and his family were longtime members.

He loved his family and enjoyed spending time with them. An avid woodworker, he would often be found with his favorite tools building treehouses, sheds or birdhouses for his family and friends. He loved to go to baseball games and movies, but he was just as happy spending time on his porch swing where he would call the birds for his grandchildren.

Charles was preceded in death by his first wife, Laura Sue Barnes. He is survived by his wife Evelyn Barnes, his daughter, Sue Hannahs, and her husband Jeff Hannahs, and his son, David Barnes. He is also survived by many grandchildren: Andrew Villwock; Leslie Richards, and her husband Nick Richards (parents to Charles’ great-granddaughters, Tess and Elle, and great-grandson, Royce); Jessica Phillips, and her husband Alex Phillips; Katie Barnes, and Allison Hannahs.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. on June 8 at Huber Memorial Church, 5700 Loch Raven Blvd, Baltimore, with Barnes’ close friend, The Rev. P.M. Smith, presiding.