Sunday services and so much more at Eagle Rock’s St. Barnabas

Volunteers working hard to distribute food for the community at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Los Angeles, CA. Sept. 22, 2022. Jessica Paik/The Occidental

There is always something going on at the St. Barnabas Episcopal Church. On Wednesdays, Rev. Carlos Ruvalcaba teaches an online confirmation class. Thursdays, from 8 a.m. to noon, volunteers and church staff sort and then pack rescued produce into 20-pound bundles for distribution. Later that night, there is a potluck dinner followed by a Bible study session led by Rev. Jaime Edwards-Acton, priest-in-charge at St. Barnabas and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Hollywood. On Saturdays the church brings musicians from around LA to perform in the Harmony Room, and on Sunday afternoons there is a worship service, according to Edwards-Acton. St. Barnabas is also home to the Eagle Rock branch of the Delaney Wright Fine Arts Preschool, with 10 teachers and around 60 students.

Throughout St. Barnabas’ nearly century-long history, religious services have been at the forefront of the church’s many roles. During the Bible study nights that Edwards-Acton leads on Thursday, the congregation reads through a Biblical text before reflecting and sharing their thoughts. A reading of Luke 16:19-31 during the Sept. 24 session sparked discussions of economic inequality and wealth distribution in the contemporary world.

An assortment of food and vegetables ready to be distributed to the community at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Los Angeles, CA. Sept. 22, 2022. Jessica Paik/The Occidental

Anna Nicholas, a Glendale resident and participant in the Sept. 24 Bible reading, said St. Barnabas’ radical acceptance appealed to her.

“It has a very warm, inviting vibe, and it’s not just one time,” Nicholas said. “Every experience I’ve had at this church has that vibe.”

According to Edwards-Acton, St. Barnabas has been operating since 1926. In mid-2018, St. Barnabas was closed indefinitely due to declining membership and lack of funding, according to the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles. In late 2018, Edwards-Acton, an Eagle Rock resident of more than two decades, was appointed as head of St. Barnabas. Edwards-Acton said that a goal of his was to connect St. Barnabas more deeply with the diverse Eagle Rock community, which included changes his predecessors were hesitant about making.

“I told them, ‘Have you ever thought about a Spanish language service? There’s like 45 percent Latino in this part of the city,'” Edwards-Acton said. “They were like, ‘If there were any [religious] Latinos, they would be Catholic, and they would go to St. Dominic.’ I felt there were so many things wrong about that.”

In an effort to improve the church’s accessibility for the Spanish-speaking community in Eagle Rock, Thursday Bible studies and Sunday services at St. Barnabas are all bilingual. Edwards-Acton said he is planning consecutive days of musical performances before Christmas and hopes to have at least half of the shows feature Latin music.

Volunteers working hard to distribute food for the community at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Los Angeles, CA. Sept. 22, 2022. Jessica Paik/The Occidental

Due to increasing inflation which can pressure people into tight budgets, Edwards-Acton said another focus of St. Barnabas is taking care of families facing financial challenges through its weekly food distribution effort.

“We started [distributing food] since the pandemic started,” Edwards-Acton said. “We never really asked people, ‘Do you need this or not?’ People just started coming.”

According to Edwards-Acton, the food distribution initiative started in March 2020. Edwards-Acton said multiple organizations work together to get the rescued produce to St. Barnabas — the produce is sourced by Food Forward, a large food-rescue nonprofit. Seeds of Hope, a ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of LA, then ships the produces to various food distribution sites around LA county.

Máté Major ’22 helps out with the food distribution as part of his weekly duties for his Jubilee Year program. Major said he has been working at St. Barnabas and St. Stephen’s since August 2022.

“It is great here. Everyone is just thankful and happy to be working here, which is not something you find everywhere,” Major said.

In addition to food distribution work, Major said he also takes care of the garden at St. Barnabas and teaches gardening classes to children at the fine arts preschool. He said he recently took on the project of setting up a dehydration chamber for over-shipped produce. The chamber would turn fresh produce into dried goods, which are smaller in size, have a longer shelf-life and are equally suitable for consumption.

Carlos Ruvalcaba, an associate priest at St. Barnabas and St. Stephen’s, said the church has cultivated a family-like relationship among its members.

“It is so bonded, it is as if others are your senior auntie, or grandma,” Ruvalcaba said. “As a new priest, it gave me a lot of experience seeing how to create a community from zero.”

St. Barnabas is located at 2109 Chickasaw Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90041.

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