They were the first Church Of God ministers to serve outside the United States, and the first ministers of African descent credentialed by the denomination.
On Friday, Feb. 7, 105 years later, at the Church Of God International Headquarters' Prayer Plaza, a new plaque was dedicated to their memory and their great work.
The plaque reads in part, "Honoring Edmond and Rebecca Barr, Church Of God ministers of African descent who were the first individuals to take the gospel outside the United States to Nassau, Bahamas, arriving November 1909."
It ends with the words, "Hebrews 12:1."
And when passers-by stop at the plaque and then look up the verse, they will read, "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” This is from the King James translation.
The Barrs were at the Pleasant Grove Camp Meeting near Durant, Fla., when God called them to be missionaries. At that camp meeting, they became the first people of color to be licensed and commissioned as missionaries as well as the first to represent the Church Of God outside the country.
A large crowd braved winter weather in order to take part in the recent event that was significant both to the denomination and our city. The ceremony was the conclusion of a two-day conference celebrating Black Ministries in the Church Of God, sponsored by Church of God Black Ministries and led by Dr. Kenneth Hill and the Pentecostal Theological Seminary.
From the research of Dr. David Roebuck at the Pentecostal Research Center, we learn more about Edmond and Rebecca Barr. He came to America looking for work. Edmond met Rebecca Clayton in Florida and they were married in 1894.
When Edmond and Rebecca went to the Bahamas to preach and teach, the Church of God itself was new to Cleveland. It was organized in the nearby North Carolina mountains in the late 1800s. The leadership moved the denomination's headquarters to Cleveland in the early 1900s. The church has been an important part of our city for more than a century now.
Since Edmond and Rebecca's time, the denomination has grown into an international church with millions of members. The Church of God World Missions, from its headquarters here in Cleveland, now reaches people in 177 countries.
Theirs is a life and a story worth sharing.