St. Barnabas Church: The Episcopal Parish of Mason County
Serving ~ Sharing ~ Loving ~ Caring
The little church snuggled near the banks of the Illinois River has embarked on a great new adventure the past few months. With the appointment and arrival of their new priest-in-charge after a vacancy of nearly two years, the folks at St. Barnabas are working diligently, through prayer, fellowship, and determination, and with the leadership of Fr. Mike Newago, O.S.F., to become a destination and port of welcome and sanctuary to the residents of Mason County and beyond. Signs of new life, growth, and the power of the Holy Spirit emanate from the little congregation and the community of Havana is taking notice! In just a few short months, the parish has grown from seven faithful souls to an average attendance in the mid-twenties. “This is God’s work, not mine or the parish” says Fr. Mike. “He wants His church in Havana to bear witness to His amazing faithfulness and love”. Fr. Mike believes that mission is the key to being church, being the incarnate Body of Christ in a world racked with brokenness and hurt. “We are called and sent out to make disciples, and that may start by something quite simple….I spend more time listening and being present to many folks at the local Dollar General than I do anywhere else” says Fr. Mike.
St. Barnabas continues its twenty-five year ministry of housing the local Christian Community Daycare in the undercroft at no charge and has recently moved out into the community and taking a leadership role in the Backpack Program which provides a bag of food for the weekend for children in need. “We go as a group and pack, stuff, and help deliver bags of food to the school classrooms of almost one hundred kids” says Fr. Mike. “The need is so great…we are privileged to be part of this program.” The parish has also adopted a unique program inspired by Terri McDowell, the church treasurer, of collecting and distributing personal hygiene products to needy high school students through their guidance counselors. “Terri was passionate about this need, and the parish responded very, very generously…the collection basket is usually full before the end of the week” Fr. Mike states. Many local high school students don’t have the basic essentials to good hygiene due to family poverty and it helps these students develop and maintain good self-esteem. Another unique opportunity for witness evolved this year after the community was heartbroken by the sudden death of a beloved elementary school principal. “It was just days before Thanksgiving, in the midst of the increasing darkness, and we thought, we need to bring some light into this darkness, and we did just that!” Fr. Mike states. The parish covered the entire campus with Christmas lighting…every tree, every bush, anyplace. “The property just glowed thanks to the work of so many amazing people….I asked the parish to turn them on as soon as we got them installed to give the folks of Havana some little bit of hope and joy, and it worked!” smiles Fr. Mike. “Every night the church campus gets so many cars and walk-up visitors, even the other ministers in town came over with some of their parishioners to see it….even if one person’s heart and soul were cheered by this, then it was worth every bit of effort the parish family put into it…..and we’re are still getting ‘thank you’s and ‘we appreciate it so much’ each day from our community; God is faithful and working so graciously” says Fr. Mike.
Fr. Mike attributes all of these developments entirely to God’s actions. “If we pray and wait on God for direction, He never disappoints and always provides for what mission He asks of us.” What’s next? Fr. Mike and the Mission Leadership Team ask this question every month at their meetings. “And God always challenges us, and we seek to respond in faith to His request and ask Him for His assistance and provision and He has yet to let us down” says Fr. Mike. God is faithful!