The Rev'd Rebecca Barnes

“Scranton has the most extraordinary potential. It’s a city that has a lot to offer.”
“Scranton has the most extraordinary potential. It’s a city that has a lot to offer.”

By Shannon Bunn

Edited by Elizabeth Dockett

SCRANTON- Along with many in the Scranton community, Mother Rebecca Barnes is taking charge of helping out those in need.

Barnes, 59, Scranton, is a full-time parish priest at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. Mother Barnes and her wife reside in the Hill Section, and have for the last seven years. Her connection to Scranton is through her father who worked as Chief of Anesthesia at Community Medical Center and Moses Taylor Hospital and living in the surrounding areas.

Mother Barnes earned three graduate degrees. A master's degree in divinity, a master's degree in sacred theology and a master's degree in classical vocal performance. The master’s degree in divinity is a basic professional degree for the clergy. Barnes’ master’s degree in sacred theology is an academic degree.

With a passion for social justice work, Mother Barnes is working at St. Luke’s to start a re-entry bakery.

“We have established a 501c-3 Cypress House at St. Luke’s., modeled after Home Boy Industries in California and the work that Fr. Gregory Boyle has done out there,” Barnes said.

Cypress House is a starting job for those who have been released from jails; however, this project is a starting point for something more.

“The overall picture for Cypress House is to provide wrap-around services that will provide other kinds of counseling, vocational training and occupational training for people post incarceration,” Barnes said.

Why do you live in Scranton?

I moved here when I was called to serve as the priest at St. Luke’s. Since we don’t have a rectory, what was important to me was being close to the church itself. My goal when looking for a house was to be close enough if I had to, I could walk even in a snowstorm to get to the church. I also wanted to be close enough that I would be able to run and make a hospital call if one of my parishioners were hospitalized. That was important to me when I came here and why I chose to live in Scranton.

What’s appealing about living in Scranton?

There are very giving people in this area and that makes it a wonderful place to be. In terms of location and proximity to other things, we have so much to offer right where we are, but we’re just over two hours from New York and a little over two hours from Philadelphia. In a little over two and a half hours there’s the finger lake areas of New York. There are a lot of wonderful attributes about the area in that regard. It’s pretty.

What does Scranton mean to you?

I’ve sometimes said that Scranton has the most extraordinary potential. It’s a city that has a lot to offer. It has some extraordinary architecture. I’m a history buff. That is something that’s always been near and dear to my heart and the history of this region is extraordinary.

What do we aspire to be as a city?

I would like to see the downtown come back again. Whether it be people who live in apartments or new shops coming in, urban renewal while retaining what’s so important in terms of our history is vital. To use a word, the “patrimony” of Scranton is in its roots, foundation, and tradition right here. To retain it and make it a place where people can say living downtown is the place to be, where you can get around easily and there is everything that you need.

What are your hopes for Scranton?

I was so thrilled that for years they have been talking about restoring the train service between New York and Scranton. I hope that happens because I look at it as a person from New York City where people would commute that distance from parts of New Jersey, Long Island, up into Connecticut, but on this corridor those train lines were discontinued. Restoring that would have a positive impact on Scranton in terms of our proximity to some of the northeast corridor and some of the more major cities in the northeast.

What about Scranton’s story makes it our nation’s story?

At one point we were one of the most diverse cities in the United States because of people who were coming here to work in the mines. I think of our history and the role that this area played in the development of the country and in certain key national issues like the rise of unions and the coal mines. I also think of the area in its role in the civil war. We tend to think only of Gettysburg, but this whole region was a part of the underground railroad. It played an incredible role in that regard and its history is just vibrant in that way.