By Rabbi Hillel Cohn
The celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Episcopal Ordination of Bishop Gerald Barnes is one in which the wider community joins the Diocese of San Bernardino.
For the past quarter-century Bishop Barnes has been far more than the leader of the Diocese. He has been a leader and participant in the wider community. In so many significant ways he has enriched the lives of us all.
The motto that Bishop Barnes selected for his coat of arms and that guides his ministry is “Amar Es Entregarse—Love is the Total Giving of Oneself.” While Bishop Barnes has honored others over the years with an award bearing that motto—an honor I received in 2013 for which I will be eternally grateful—he has lived by it.
Over the past 25 years we have been together at many community events, we have joined together in a number of religious celebrations and we have served together on a variety of community boards and committees. Bishop Barnes always blesses those occasions and causes with his wisdom, his warmth and his spirit.
Bishop Gerald Barnes is a fierce advocate for the rights of the vulnerable and the disadvantaged. His commitment to better health care for all is inspiring. His understanding of the plight of immigrants and the leadership he gives within the Church and throughout the wider community is extraordinary. His uncompromising rejection of the many “isms” such as racism, sexism, ageism and others is deep and sincere. He truly fulfills the biblical call of “Justice, justice shall you pursue.”
Bishop Barnes is totally committed to ecumenism. He has a respect for other faiths. He works cooperatively with all segments of the religious community. Over the years, I have always been impressed with his knowledge of other faiths and his readiness to work together with his clergy colleagues of whatever faith for the betterment of life for all members of the community. He truly applies the psalmists admonition “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers and sisters to live together in unity.”
My colleague and friend, Bishop Barnes, is a man who is totally void of any form of pretense. While his official duties may not always give the thousands for whom he is the spiritual leader a glimpse into the very human side of Bishop Barnes, I have seen that side time and time again. His compassion, his concern for the welfare of others and his delightful wit - these are all part of the person he is. He has given himself totally to those whom he leads and serves and he has done so with Love.
Bishop Gerald Barnes is the consummate shepherd—leading his flock with grace. In everything he does he lives by the prophetic call to “do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with one’s God.”
I pray that the years ahead find Bishop Barnes blessed with good health and contentment and I look forward to our continuing friendship.
Rabbi Hillel Cohn is Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Emanu El in San Bernardino/Redlands and Rabbi of Sun City Jewish Congregation in Palm Desert.