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Today in the Mission Yearbook

‘Faith gets lived out in the world’


Presbyterian Hunger Program Coordinator the Rev. Rebecca Barnes is a guest on ‘Between 2 Pulpits’

May 24, 2024

The Rev. Rebecca Barnes (Photo by Rich Copley)

In turn, the Rev. Rebecca Barnes attended seminary, became a pastor and, in 2017, was named coordinator of the Presbyterian Hunger Program. Growing up with both parents serving as Presbyterian pastors and engaging and fun community activities including CROP Hunger Walks helped steer her toward the work she’s been doing for the past seven years.

“I always held” to the notion that “faith gets lived out in the world and our religious convictions should lead to a better world around us,” Barnes told the Rev. Dr. John Wilkinson and Katie Snyder during a recent “Between 2 Pulpits” podcast episode, available here.

Wilkinson, director of Ministry Engagement and Support, said much of the work the PHP and other ministry areas put in “is converting those impulses” of direct service into “more long-term” systemic reforms — working on the root causes of hunger even as, for example, a congregation offers a free weekly meal to anyone in the community who needs it.

Barnes cited two ministries that are working to cut away at the root causes of hunger and poverty. Based in Western North Carolina, BeLoved Asheville “does some distribution to make sure people have what they need,” Barnes said. “But they’re also building community and people power, so people learn skills to advocate for polities.” BeLoved Asheville has a food truck it takes to various Asheville neighborhoods. “They create the table around which people gather, break bread and share stories,” Barnes said. “BeLoved Asheville is a partner I get really excited about because they’re putting their hands and feet into the community and embodying the fight for food justice.”


The Rev. Dr. John Wilkinson

Richmonders Involved to Strengthen our Communities uses the Congregation-Based Community Organizing model to uphold the rights of mobile home owners. Barnes said she’s learning the unhelpful impact that zoning laws can have on a community. “In a lot of neighborhoods, you can’t have multi-family units, tiny homes or mobile homes built,” she said. “That really furthers the racial wealth gap and economic inequality.”

PHP is “also walking alongside partners thinking about how environmental damage and climate change affect hunger,” Barnes said. In Yemen, where 17 million people potentially face severe hunger because of a civil war, a PHP partner “has done cool training of households to supply them with economic development tools,” Barnes said, including sewing machines, cameras and phone repair tools people can use to start a microbusiness.

Noting the Matthew 25 Summit that was held in January, Wilkinson asked Barnes about how building congregational vitalitydismantling structural racism and eradicating systemic poverty “come together in your work.”

“We know that there’s a need for movement-building and for empowering people to speak,” Barnes said. “Something like that can energize a congregation and give it a sense of vitality, because you’re going beyond the core group in your own church that cares about these things and all of a sudden, you’re building relationships in your state with people who also care about these issues. That can build a sense of your church’s relevancy and connection to the larger community issues.”

Katie Snyder

“When you’re looking to undo structural racism and attack systemic poverty, you’re really looking at a lot of the same things when it comes down to it: minimum wage, access to jobs and health care, transportation and education, and safe places for children to go,” she said. “Churches going down the route of understanding poverty pretty soon discover, ‘Oh, that is connected to racism. Let’s learn about that.’” She said PHP has connected with the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of PeoplePresbyterian Disaster Assistance, the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program and World Mission “to help bring education and advocacy efforts to the church to address all of these, because they’re all connected.”

Snyder, the project manager for digital fundraising and interpretation in Special Offerings, asked Barnes about ways congregations “who have a passion” can also get involved in the work.

“It’s hard work and it’s long work,” Barnes said. “Don’t try to do it alone. We’re built for relationships.” It’s important to recruit “a core group of people” so that “it doesn’t rest on one person.”

Other editions of “Between 2 Pulpits” can be heard here.

Mike Ferguson, Editor, Presbyterian News Service

Today’s Focus: Rev. Rebecca Barnes is a guest on ‘Between 2 Pulpits’

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Patricia Hoehn, Production Clerk, Hubbard Press, Administrative Services Group (A Corp) 
Steve Hoehn, Manager, Hubbard Press, Administrative Services Group (A Corp) 

Let us pray

Lord, you have called us and sent us to serve. Open our eyes, our hearts and our church buildings to neighbors in our midst. Bless us with the diverse glory of your children; guide us to serve one another. In the name of your Son. Amen.