Senior Pastor Rev. John Barnette

Rev. John Barnette is a native of North Carolina. John’s call to ministry came rather abruptly in 2009, even though he feels God had been preparing him since childhood. Upon graduation from the University of North Carolina with a degree in biology and attempting to discern his next steps in life, he ruled out a career in veterinary medicine and turned to nursing, focusing on the opportunity to care for people and offer support during times of great need.

Then a tug at his heart and with the support of his wife, he was drawn to seminary, maybe into chaplaincy. Exploring other options, however, opened the door to parish ministry. He pursued his Master of Divinity with a concentration in Pastoral Care and Counseling at the M. Christopher White Divinity School at Gardner-Webb University, a small, accredited university associated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

After graduating from seminary in 2013, John served briefly as a youth pastor. In 2014, he took his first major step into ministry as the Senior Pastor of St. Matthew’s Reformed Church in Maiden, North Carolina. After serving there for six years, he accepted the call to serve as Senior Pastor of Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Port Charlotte, Florida in 2020.

Over the last several years, while serving at Pilgrim, he has been active in the Florida Conference of the UCC. He serves on the Board of Directors, is a founding member of the Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (REDI) committee, and served as a member of the search and call committee for the current Transitional Conference Minister. He looks forward to continuing to work with the Florida Conference, strengthening relationships between the conference and local churches while supporting the United Church of Christ’s efforts to be a progressive, prophetic voice in Florida.

Throughout his ministerial journey, John developed a passion for social justice. His love for the UCC, its commitment to unity and its extravagant welcome (“no matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey”) are of utmost importance to him. Rev. John is a progressive pastor, and throughout our time with John, the Search Team has learned of his collaborative management style, his desire to empower those called to leadership roles in the church, his emphasis on building relationships, and his beliefs that the connection between pastor and people is a sacred trust, and that open, caring and healthy relationships are essential for the well- being of any congregation.

John has been happily married to his wife, Cathy, for fifteen years. They have a creative and vibrant eleven-year-old daughter, Charlie, who is currently engaged with a progressive-thinking homeschool community in Fort Myers.

During his free time, John enjoys spending time with his family, making pottery, or relaxing in a coffee shop with a book in hand. If you do happen to spot him hanging out alone, enjoying a cup of coffee, please feel free to approach him and say hello! The only thing John likes better than coffee and a good book is coffee and fellowship!

Rev. John has read our strategic plan that involves change for this church and the way we will go about “being the church.” He finds our willingness to accept change is beautiful. Rev. John loves to teach, loves to ask questions, and likes people to find answers for themselves by engaging in conversations. John is passionate about people engaging with the still speaking God and scripture in new ways.

He feels that children and youth are vital parts of worship and that passing of the peace and congregational engagement in worship all help to emphasize unity and bring people together. What he finds most sacred is some of the harder stuff we don’t like to deal with…. being there for somebody who may have lost a loved one and helping them shoulder that load.