Historical Marker Honors Rev. Bill Barnes

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City officials, family and friends unveil a historical marker in honor of the Rev. Bill Barnes at Edgehill United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tenn. Photo by Mike DuBose, UM News.

Nashville, July 17, 2019:  Mayor David Briley and members of the Nashville Metro Council joined friends and family of Rev. Bill Barnes for the unveiling of a historical marker honoring the work and memory of Rev. Barnes.

Rev. Barnes was well known for his activism and work in Nashville helping those marginalized by race, social class, sexual orientation, incarceration, or homelessness.

The marker was authorized by The Metropolitan Historical Commission and is placed at Edgehill UMC in Nashville,  where Rev. Barnes served for 30 years.

A brief service of remembrance held in the church sanctuary before the unveiling of the marker included comments by several leaders introduced by 25th district councilman Russ Pulley. The presentation also included children from the University School of Nashville who told stories about Barnes’s life and work through the church.

Speakers included Rev. John Collett (former UMC Nashville District Superintendent), Avi Poster (A Voice for the Reduction of Poverty), Bettie Kirkland (Project Return), Matt Wiltshire (Metropolitan Development and Housing Authority), Hannah Davis (Metro Affordable Housing Program), Mayor Briley, and Rev. Sonnye Dixon (Hobson UMC).

“Amidst all Bill’s compassionate and courageous endeavors, few people know that he rose every morning at 5:00 a.m. and spent as much as two hours in prayer, scripture meditation, and writing. That’s the part of Bill that kept him going, the part that sustained his compassion and courage. He left the church, Nashville, and the world a much better place. We now have to build on his legacy,” said Rev. Collett.

The text of the marker, located at 1502 Edgehill Avenue, reads:

“Reverend William L. “Bill” Barnes, a pastor, civil rights leader and teacher, was often called ‘the conscience of Nashville.’ Rev. Barnes passionately agitated for legislation that would help those marginalized by race, social class, sexual orientation, incarceration, or homelessness. He also founded many organizations to bring attention to those issues including MANNA (1975), Project Return (1979), and the Organized Neighbors of Edgehill (O.N.E.) Barnes Scholarship (1995).

In 1966 Rev. Barnes founded Edgehill United Methodist Church, one of Nashville’s first intentionally integrated churches. His work, addressing issues like affordable housing, often centered in the Edgehill community. Barnes wanted his work to be carried into the future, believing, much like Saint Oscar Romero, that, ‘The temple shall remain unfinished until all are housed in dignity.’ In 2013 The Barnes Housing Trust, the city’s affordable housing fund, was named in his honor.”