History of the Restoration Movement

Steven Wayne Barnett


Source: Ancestry.com

Gospel Preacher In Walker County, Alabama

Steven Wayne Barnett was born July 1, 1946, in Jasper, Walker County, Alabama. He was the son of Victor Aubrey Barnett (1922-2007) and Lora Maurice Cain (1921-2008). Steven had two sisters, Sandra and Sheri, and a brother, Scott. He married Beverly Phelps in October 1968. They had three sons, Chris, Doug and Chad.

Steven was raised in northern Walker County, in the beautiful Bankhead Forest of Northwest Alabama region. The region was the perfect setting for a growing boy to experience wildlife and a simpler way of living. The churches of Christ at Curry and a little north at Arley up in Winston County owe their existence to many good Christian people, including Steven's parents and his uncle Earl Barnett and family. In fact, Aubrey and Earl did quite a bit of preaching in the area. Aubrey did a good bit of fill-in preacher, and, for a time, Earl conducted a TV program on CBS channel 42 in Birmingham called Seeking The Lost. The program ran for several years and was supported by many churches of Christ in the area.

History records that a tent had been purchased for conducting gospel meetings in the area. Aubrey would preach in those meetings. Scott Barnett reported, "Paw Paw (my Daddy) held "tent meetings." They actually had a big tent and would go to different communities and setting up the tent, advertised, and then held a tent meeting each night during the week. That is how Curry Church of Christ got started. The truck hauling the tent broke down. So, they set up the tent and had a gospel meeting right there." (Email, Chad Barnett, 09.17.2023)

Wearing many hats over the years, Steven was a servant. He loved his community and did what he could to help his fellow man. His son Chad shared, "Dad was always involved in the community. He served as an assistant scoutmaster in Arley for several years. He also helped in organizing Little League baseball around Arley. He was involved in the Arley rescue squad and volunteer fire department and served on the city council for many terms before winning a term as mayor in 2000. Dad always made time for people that needed his help. Living in the middle of Arley meant that working outside increased the likelihood that someone would stop by to discuss something. Dad never met a stranger either, never refusing to help someone in need." (Email, 09.15.2023)

Steven was an amateur ham radio operator and tinkering with electronics and computers. He had a wonderful sense of humor, but his love for the gospel of Jesus led him to do what he was most passionate about, and that was preaching. Like his father and uncle, Steven was self-taught. He began his preaching career at Arley church of Christ on January 2, 1972. His efficiency in the pulpit became known in the area, which led to invitations for fill-in work for other congregations. Some churches of Christ he helped during this time were Argo, Cedar Creek, Curry, Oakman, Pleasantfield, and Quintown. He did this for the first couple of years when the call came to become the preacher at the Dovertown church of Christ in Walker County, near Cordova. He started preaching for them on January 6, 1974. He continued the work there for the next three years. His last Sunday with the congregation was September 25, 1977. After this, he began again filling in for other churches of Christ where he was needed. He assisted at Arley, Cordova, Oak Grove, and at Pleasantfield. In February of 1978, he began preaching full-time for his home congregation at Arley. He did this for about two years when he started to fill in again briefly at Addison, Arley, Cordova, and Pleasantfield. Finally, as Chad revealed in his email about his dad, "On June 13, 1982, he began preaching at Arley with, initially, a one-year commitment. He was the full-time preacher at Arley from that point up until his death on Sunday, November 25, 2001. If memory serves me correctly, he preached that day. He also spoke at Cordova, Addison, Mt. Hope (Hayvalley), Curry, Dilworth, Sixth Avenue, and Dovertown in various capacities (VBS, Summer Series, etc.)." Also, during this time, ". . .he also assisted in providing worship services at Ridgewood Manor, a nursing home in Jasper, Al. This was a rotational schedule that alternated with a handful of other congregations in the Jasper area. Growing up, I recall Arley sending men at least once a month to have worship services at that facility."

Steven was the consummate minister. He attended hospitals when people were sick and conducted funerals when they passed away. He conducted gospel meetings when opportunities arose and served couples as celebrant when they married. His greatest desire in ministry was to share the gospel of Jesus with people. His son wrote, "I do have records of the individuals that he baptized or restored. And also for those that he married and helped preach their funeral. But I have not taken the time to put a number to those. Knowing Dad, he would not care to put a number to it. He was more concerned about planting and watering. He always gave God the credit, as we should."

Chad further related, "I was born on April 18, 1985, and was baptized on May 22, 1994. I recall him being very active with every aspect of the church. He was the Bible Bowl sponsor for a number of years that we had a team. Always made sure a visit was made to a hospital or home when someone was ill. During his time as a preacher, he always worked either in the coal mines or other jobs as necessary. I fondly remember seeing him preparing for sermons whenever he had a spare moment around the house. He was such a great influence on us and others around him. My dad was a great worker for Christ but humble about it as well."

The Indian Creek Youth Camp in the southern part of Walker County was championed by many Christians in the region. In its planning and development, the Barnetts were heavily involved. Aubrey, Earl, Steven, Gus Nichols, and a host of others in the region planted and built this camp that has endured over 50 years. With Steven's background in engineering, connected to his work in the coal industry, he helped to produce some of the buildings on the property. He and Beverly were camp counselors for the first years of its running. She recalled never being so tired as they were after a summer of working with the camp in those early days.

Sadly, brother Barnett's life was cut short, but even in his struggle, he was helping his neighbor. His son penned, "The evening he passed, we were helping a member move from an area outside of Arley to an apartment in Jasper. He started not to feel well and eventually collapsed while I was driving the truck. We suspect he had a heart attack. He worked with many great preachers like Levi Sides and L. T. Gurganus. L. T.'s daughter, Queena, worshipped at Shades Mountain (a church of Christ in Birmingham, Alabama) for a while before she passed and mentioned to me that one of the few times she saw L. T. cry was when he performed Dad's funeral." He passed from this life on November 25, 2001, and burial followed in the Walker Memorial Garden Cemetery in North Jasper, Alabama. His memory lives strong in the hearts of his family, brethren, and friends.

-Scott Harp, 09.18.2023

Note: Another word of note that should be entered here is the generous gesture of the church of Christ at Arley upon the passing of brother Barnett. As he and Beverly had been living in a parsonage owned by the church at the time of his death, the congregation's leadership expressed to Beverly that she could live there as long as she lived free of charge. What a testimony to Christian kindness and beneficent care. Being a "widow indeed," the church fulfilled her charge laid out in 1 Timothy 5. Churches, take note! Some in similar circumstances have not fared with such generosity.

Sources: Ancestry.com. Special thanks to Chad Barnett, Steven and Beverly's son, who reached out in mid-September 2023 and shared most of the excellent information you are reading here about the life of this good and godly man of God.

Photo contributed by Chad Barnett, 09.15.2023

Directions To The Grave Of S.W. Barnett

From Birmingham, Alabama head northwest on Hwy 78 toward Memphis. About 40 miles from Birmingham you will arrive in Jasper, Alabama. In Jasper you will need to take the Hwy 5 exit. Proceed up the ramp and turn right on Hwy 5 (Ninth Ave.) About 3/10ths of a mile Hwy 5 will bear to the left toward Haleyville. Continue to the left on Hwy. 5 for about a mile and the Walker Memory Garden Cemetery will be on your right. Go into the cemetery and approach the cemetery office. Go past the fountain and continue toward the rear of the cemetery. Go about a hundred yards and turn right. Go toward the other side of the cemetery. Stop in front of the pond. Head into section toward a marble park bench. Just before and to the right of the bench is the grave of Steven Barnett.

The GPS location of the grave is: 33°51'36.3"N 87°17'36.6"W / or D.d. 33.860095,-87.293501

Walker Memorial Gardens

Steven W. Barnett
July 1, 1946
Nov. 25, 2001

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