Saturday afternoon I had the privilege of sharing words of gratitude honoring twenty-seven years of Charlie Barker’s service in ministry at Pasadena Covenant Church. Charlie was the pastor who, through meeting my sister and brother-in-law and hearing the story of our community here in South Central, led his church in embracing a partnership with us to plant Church of the Redeemer.
A lot of people talk about how suburban and urban churches can and should partner together, and many are critical of if and how this can be done well. I know of no finer example than the way Pasadena Covenant Church has done this for the last five years with an unequaled generosity, authenticity, and humility. And Pastor Charlie’s vision and leadership are at the center of this.
As I shared on Sunday, I could never have done my job as the chairperson for our fledgling church those first three years without Charlie’s steady availability, his generous wisdom, and his compassionate prayers. I was in over my head most days, and to have someone of his ministry stature give his time and care to us made all of the difference in our small team surviving those rocky years.
On a more personal note, I still have the blue swirled glass vase that held flowers from Kate and Charlie, brought to my bedside by Pastor Charlie when I was in the hospital following an emergency appendectomy while pregnant with Mercy. Doug and I were terrified at the possibility of losing our baby as a result of the abdominal surgery, and we were there in the hospital waiting: waiting for me to heal and to see if our little one would live. Charlie sat by my bed, read scripture, held my hand, and prayed. His availability and presence that day were so significant for us. He was not officially “our pastor” and yet he did not hesitate to rush to our side in our time of fear and need.
And I can still remember his wife, Kate’s, phone call to me after I was assaulted our first year here. Her kindness and care were so tangible, and while I am too old to be her daughter, she was like a mother to me that day. And she had practical help to offer as well: recommendations for counselors I could talk to to process the horrible events of that night.
I am pretty sure that it is rare for a pastor of Charlieâ€™s giftedness and position to make himself so available to the needs and hurts and challenges of others in other ministries and churches: in the extended family so to speak. Churches tend to be pretty territorial in terms of their money and staff, yet the opposite has been true for Pasadena Covenant Church and for Charlie, their pastor. For me, Charlie’s generous love for us as individuals and as a team is symbolic of that broader generosity Pasadena Covenant continues to show toward us in so many ways.
One of my favorite passages of scripture found in Isaiah 49:4 speaks of a mentality of abundance versus one of scarcity in terms of stewarding Godâ€™s work.
â€œIt is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light to the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.â€
There are always the very good and necessary and beautiful things that God is doing at home, in our individual churches and communities. And yet Godâ€™s mission always presses us to be a part of the big things He is doing â€œoutside of our walls.â€
Charlie and Kate Barker are unique in the ways they have demonstrated with their whole life witness what being â€œoutside of our wallsâ€ people looks like. They have led Pasadena Covenant well in embracing that same kind of partnership with God’s mission that has taken that church well beyond their walls and their community, and deep into the heart of South Los Angeles and into our hearts as well.
Unique. Rare. Precious. These two will be greatly missed.