Bishop Leslie Barnes is a man of God chosen by the Lord for kingdom ministry in such a time as this. The Lord has enabled him to execute the call placed upon him through love, faith, diligence, zeal and longsuffering and today we make room to honor this man of God for what the Lord has done through him. Alongside him, and equally deserving of honor, is his loving wife, Mother Etta Barnes.
Bishop Leslie J. Barnes was born in Westmoreland, Jamaica, West Indies, and had his early education at the Culloden and Green Island Elementary schools. As a child Bishop Barnes was always exposed to church but he was not saved until 1954 when at a young age he answered the Lord’s call on his life. He served faithfully in the local Apostolic Church in Culloden and was very active in the Sunday School and Brotherhood departments.
In 1961 Bishop Barnes, like many others at the time, migrated to the United Kingdom to take advantage of the opportunities there. He went to Wellington, England, and played a significant role in organizing a local Apostolic Church for the saints in the area. He was first appointed a Deacon, then Minister, and shortly after the Pastor died, Bishop Barnes was appointed Pastor of the church and ordained an Elder. The church continued to grow under his leadership but another call was placed on him when Bishop Dunn asked him to go to New York City to establish a church for the saints there.
On October 10, 1974, Bishop Barnes arrived in New York City having left his wife and young family behind so he could prepare the way for their arrival. On his arrival he received help from saints already here including Bishop Saunders, Sr. who was instrumental in orchestrating his migration to the United States.
Bishop Barnes then began the task of organizing a church with the saints and on November 29, 1974 the first worship service was held at 722 Nostrand Avenue, Brooklyn, NY. Bishop Barnes found the early years of the Church were challenging in many respects but he was committed to the call placed on him and pressed his way forward. In October 1977, the Lord made it possible for the young church – with modest resources, but having a pastor with a vision – to buy a building at 868 Winthrop Street. The building was the physical presence Bishop Barnes was seeking to allow him, under God’s direction, to expand the ministry and realize the growth he had envisioned.
Bishop Barnes’ love for people and the church was very evident as he continued to put the ministry ahead of himself and his family. He always displayed a warm, friendly smile and made everyone feel important because he was never too busy to listen. He had also established himself as a “worshipper” and you could always expect an upbeat service whenever he was present.
As the Church grew, so did Bishop Barnes. He was elevated from Elder to Overseer and in 1992 he was ordained a Bishop and became a member of the Board of Bishops of the United Churches of Jesus Christ (Apostolic), Inc. In his zeal for God’s work, Bishop Barnes saw the need to establish a work in Bronx, New York. Starting with members of the church living in the Bronx, Bishop Barnes and the late Elder Malcolm began holding prayer meetings in that area. Soon space was rented on White Plains Road and today there is a thriving church in the Bronx. Other churches were also started or enhanced under Bishop Barnes’ ministry, many of which are in the Northern District where he is the Diocesan Bishop. Some of those churches include ministries in Queens, New York; Long Island, New York; Somerset, New Jersey; Evanston, Illinois; Kissimmee, Florida, and Palm Bay, Florida. He has also assisted church ministries in other countries such as Jamaica, Nevis, India and Liberia. His outreach to these countries entailed not only sacrificial donations of finances and necessary goods, but also the sponsoring of children – ensuring their education. Many special fund raising services have been held at 868 Winthrop Street – notably “Liberian Nights” – when Bishop Barnes would dress in his African outfit and lead the saints in worship.
In 1997 and after twenty-three years of kingdom ministry in Brooklyn, Bishop Barnes decided it was time to move the saints to a bigger and better building. Over the years he had organized the church on a “budgetary system” and saved the funds to undertake a task of this magnitude – the construction of a multi-million-dollar building. At the time he did not see the full extent of the road ahead, for perhaps he may have hesitated; but after four arduous years of project work, the fruits of his labor can be reaped and enjoyed by all. His commitment to the project was evident in his almost-daily trips to the building site, thus making himself available to answer questions and make prompt decisions. This truly is a humble servant of God who has sacrificed and labored all his life for the work and ministry of the Lord. He is now in position to do even more for the Lord and has many goals; of which establishing an “assisted-living” program for the elderly and helping the community are high on his list.
Throughout this journey, Bishop Barnes has been blessed by the presence of his dear wife – Mother Etta Barnes. She is a special woman of God with a quiet and unselfish approach to life and the people of God. Mother Barnes was also saved in her early teens in Jamaica and, like Bishop Barnes, migrated to the United Kingdom. She attended Bethel United Church, pastored by Bishop Dunn, where she served on the choir, as Sunday School teacher and in the Youth Department until she was married to Bishop Barnes in 1962. In the Wellington Church she continued to serve on the choir and as church secretary before coming to the United States.
Mother Barnes has been a tremendous source of strength to Bishop Barnes and has given unfailing support to him in the ministry. She is always pleasant, positive and working to help others. Mother Barnes loves children and, through the years, has always taken the time to teach the pre-schoolers and kindergartners in Sunday School. They love her dearly. Mother Barnes is a nurse by profession and worked in the field for many years until her recent retirement. She now has more time to work for the Lord and is currently the President for the Missionary Department. One of her goals is the building and strengthening of Retreat Ministries in the church and this is already being done through her regular retreats.
Bishop and Mother Barnes are the proud parents of three children, Marveen, Sharon and Levern who have been a key part of the church over the years. Another integral part of the Barnes household is Mother Shaw, Bishop Barnes’ mother, whose dedication to prayer is well known. We are honored to have Bishop and Mother Barnes leading us and with the Lord’s help, our prayers and support, they will continue to accomplish much more for the kingdom of God.