Members of Trinity Presbyterian Church describe their senior pastor of 42 years with such words as hospitable, hard-working, and mission-driven. Those descriptors are of Reverend Roland Barnes, who retires this spring after decades of serving at Trinity. Members of the church will celebrate Barnes and his service with a retirement celebration on Saturday, March 25.
Emily Kochetta is a long-time member of the church and alumna of Georgia Southern University. She will help throw the pastor's retirement celebration and was very helpful in helping Grice Connect share Rev. Barnes's legacy and some of the things that made his 42 years with the church so special.
Rev. Barnes is hospitable to many inside and outside of church
As with most pastors, scriptures dictate how the Rev. Barnes does his best to live his life. One such scripture gives an example of this.
Hebrews 13:1-2 in the Bible reads, “Let love of the brethren continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
The pastor, who uses this verse in one of his pamphlets at the church, said the Greek for hospitality translates as “love of strangers.”
One example of this, Pastor Barnes said, “We [his wife, Peaches, and his children] have had somebody over for Sunday dinner almost every Sunday for 42 years. You become less austere. You become more of a real person when you are sitting around sharing a meal."
Doing the math, the Rev. Barnes and Peaches, doing the cooking, have fed approximately 10,000 people those 42 years.
The pastor said the meals would not have happened without Peaches, adding, “I would like to think that I laid the bricks, but she provided the mortar.”
Emily shared, “Peaches is a very outgoing person…Others can attest to her persistence in getting visitors to come eat on Sundays.”
Emily says others have emulated the example of the pastor and his wife, evidence of his wider influence on the community. She joined Trinity because of a hospitable couple in her apartment complex who were members there. Then, the hospitality continued.
“After I joined the church in January of 1984, I rented a room from a couple (members Charlie and Jan Davis). I got a front row seat to how they also had members and strangers into their home week after week, something I've tried to model myself.”
Building the church from just one room
The Central Georgia Presbytery first called the Rev. Barnes to start the local Presbyterian Church as a mission church. He said that initial church started with just five families in addition to his own.
Pastor Barnes said, “I came to Statesboro in April 1981. For the first six months or so, we met in a room at Georgia Southern University on the second floor of the Williams Center. We also met at homes.”
Emily, who was originally a member of First Baptist Church in Griffin and later of First Baptist in Statesboro, eventually transferred to Trinity Presbyterian after attending conferences at the church mission. There was a somewhat quirky location for the church at that time.
“For a while, we also moved into a minute mart, a Time Saver, from December 1981 to December of 1983 in the Grove Lakes area," Rev. Barnes shared.
Half of the building was a TimeSaver, he explained, and the other half had not been built out yet. They put in a sanctuary and bathrooms there.
Following the years in the TimeSaver, the church moved on to another, more traditional building. From 1983-1991, they were renting an old church building on the corner of Zetterower Ave. and Savannah Ave., where they also started a school in 1984. At that time, it had just 10 students. It was during that era that the church was officially organized in February 1984.
Pastor Barnes said, “The first teachers were Mrs. Helen Davis and Mrs. Linda McDonald, both of whom volunteered their labors, free of charge."
"I was a teacher the second year of operation after Mrs. Davis left," Emily added.
“That church building (where the school started) does not exist anymore. We were there for seven years. While we were there, our church was organized. We were not a mission anymore,” Pastor Barnes explained.
In December of 1991, the pastor and the church families moved to the current location of Trinity Presbyterian Church, down East Main Street near Mill Creek Park. The church continued its own school, Trinity Christian School, there, which has been in operation for 39 years.
Pastor Barnes has been mission-driven in Statesboro and beyond
Throughout his career, Pastor Barnes has overseen mission trips throughout central and South America. The mission trips were typically composed of teams of 10-12 church members, adults and youth, doing a mission project, construction, and/or Vacation Bible School. Sometimes, though, he would even travel alone.
“I just completed my 26th mission trip to Peru over about 20 years. I was doing it twice a year for a while,” he said.
The church most recently raised money for food for Peru during the COVID-19 pandemic when the country was in severe lockdown. Pastor Barnes also started a regional counseling ministry, Choices of the Heart, for young pregnant girls, and helped start additional, new churches.
The Rev. Barnes was not alone in his good works
While his 42 years of commitment are certainly worthy of praise, Pastor Barnes emphasized that God through others carried forth the work.
“People should not look at these things and say, ‘Look what he did,’" he said. "I am just one player. I played many roles to make things what they are today. But others helped me accomplish things I could not have done on my own."
Congratulations, Reverend Barnes, on your retirement. Thank you for your continuous good works for the people of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Statesboro, and beyond.