The first recorded service of St. Barnabas’ Church was held on Easter Sunday, 1901 in the Masonic Hall in Arroyo Grande. Bishop Nichols, second Bishop of California, and Archdeacon John A. Emery later visited Arroyo Grande and the name St. Barnabas’ was given to the mission on September 1, 1901. Shortly thereafter, Mr. R. W. Sanford, owner of Tar Springs Ranch, donated two lots on Mason Street. A small church was built there at a cost of $689. The first service in the new church was conducted on January 19, 1902, by Archdeacon Emery. During the first half of the century, the mission was supported by the Diocese of California and was served by a succession of clergy from neighboring parishes and by layreaders.
It wasn’t until 1949 that St. Barnabas’ had a resident clergyman. In August, 1949, Robert L. Darwall became the first resident Vicar Clergyman. In January 1950, work began to move an army chapel from Camp San Luis to a location on the corner of Grand Avenue and Barnett Street. The first service in the new church was held on December 10, 1950. The original church was sold to the Roman Catholic parish of Arroyo Grande and moved to Oceano where it stands today. During the early sixties, the Sunday School wing, parish hall, and offices were built with used lumber and donated labor. On March 15, 1959, the St. Barnabas’ Mission applied for and achieved Parish status.
In January, 1974, the Rev. Dan McHugh led a group of parishioners to gather clothing for the community’s needy citizens. Items were gathered and given or sold for a small fee from the basement of the church. This small operation grew into a thriving enterprise located at 114 Brisco Road in Arroyo Grande. The St. Barnabas’ Thrift Shop provides a valuable service to the community in many ways. It is staffed entirely by volunteers and is able to provide clean, usable clothing and other items to a large segment of our community as well as funds to twelve different local community Outreach recipients such as Hospice, the Christian Women’s Food Bank, and the Women’s Shelter. The Thrift Shop also funds special church projects and contributes to the church operating fund.
In January, 1986, under the leadership of Rev. McHugh, a dream began to take shape to build a new church at a site southeast of the Barnett St. location. The ground breaking ceremony for the present church was held on November 12, 1989 led by the Rev. Charles Atcheson. On December 9, 1990 the first service in the new building was held at 301 Trinity Ave. The Sunday School addition was completed during the summer of 1991. St. Barnabas’ Episcopal Church has enjoyed a century of ministry, outreach and worship in the Arroyo Grande Valley and surrounding areas. The congregation celebrated its Centennial Sept. 30, 2001 under the leadership of the Rev. Dr. Norman Somes. Rev. Somes retired in 2006 and was replaced by the Rev. Dr. Valerie Hart, who just retired January, 2014.