In March 1962, Pastor John McCarthy began a survey of Cary, Fox River Grove, and Algonquin while conducting worship in homes and at Maplewood School in Cary. Then, beginning on Easter Sunday in 1963, the congregation moved to the little white church at 111 First Street. In April 1964 St. Barnabas was organized as a congregation of the Illinois Synod of the Lutheran Church in America. Pastor Ken Merckx was the first pastor (1964-1967).
Other pastors (and interim pastors) who served St. Barnabas through the years include: Eldred Trede (1963-1964), Thomas Johnson (1967), Benjamin Eljer (1967-1970), Karl Langrocki (1970), Delno Sahs (1970-1977), Clayton Rudolph (1977-1978), Steven Ramey (1978-1981), Michael McPherson (1981-1982), Richard Holmer (1982-2001), Sonja Selboe (2000-2001), Paul Lutz (2001-2002), Gary Heedum (2002-2007), Robert Linstrom (2007-2008), John Cunningham (2008-2016) and Sarah Wilson (2017-present). The congregation welcomed interns in 1989 (Kim Lee-Brown and Art Steckel), 2011-12 (Doug Liston, offsite at Joyful Harvest Lutheran Church in Johnsburg) and in 2015 (Debbie Kelly).
In October 1965, just three years after establishing our congregation, we purchased our current 5.9 acre church site on Cary-Algonquin Road. Groundbreaking for our new facility occurred on August 20, 1967. The first worship service in the new building took place on Maundy Thursday, April 1968 and the building was dedicated on May 26, 1968.�� This new church met the needs of our small congregation for nearly two decades.
To meet the needs of a growing Cary-Grove community, the building was significantly expanded in 1986, creating an entirely new Sanctuary (the worship area) and freeing up space in the former Sanctuary for Sunday School classes and fellowship events.
By the new millennium, we had once again outgrown our space and the need for a larger facility to conduct our expanding ministries was evident. Ground was broken in 2000 to add 100 seats to the existing Sanctuary, create a larger Narthex at the church entrance, increase the number of preschool classrooms, expand office space for our staff, and, most importantly, create a multi-purpose Family Life Center and additional classroom, meeting and fellowship space. This most recent addition created the space we now call our church home.
Over the years, St. Barnabas has welcomed many community groups to use our facilities, including the independent St. Barnabas Christian Preschool, since 1993. The Cary-Grove Food Pantry has been on our site since 1989.
In 1987, the Lutheran Church in America, the American Lutheran Church, and the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches joined together to form the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The Illinois Synod was divided into three synods, with St. Barnabas belonging to the Northern Illinois Synod.
Through the years, St. Barnabas has offered strong music, Christian education, and youth programs, including: a bell choir, praise band, junior praise band, vocal choirs, the Logos program, Kingdom Weekends, canoe trips, confirmation camp, mission trips, and participation in ELCA Youth Gatherings. Family and small group ministries are also a part of life at St. Barnabas. The congregation sponsors missionaries—at present, Pastor James and Carol Sack in Japan.
People often ask, “who was Barnabas?” After a man named Joseph gave a generous gift to the first Christians, they named him “Barnabas”, which means “encourager” (Acts 4:36). Later, he again showed what an encourager he was when he convinced Christians not to fear Paul, who had been persecuting them but had come to follow Jesus (Acts 9:27). Barnabas became Paul’s mentor. Early in Acts he is mentioned first (“Barnabas and Paul”), but later he comes second to his more famous co-worker. As a congregation, we seek to be a community of encouragement in faith.