The Rev. Geroge J. Barnes III has replaced the Rev. Jamal Bryant as pastor of the Empowerment Temple.
The Rev. Geroge J. Barnes III has replaced the Rev. Jamal Bryant as pastor of the Empowerment Temple. (Courtesy of the Empowerment Temple)

The Rev. George J. Barnes III has taken over as pastor of Baltimore's Empowerment Temple AME Church, succeeding the Rev. Jamal H. Bryant.

Barnes, 37, previously served as pastor of the Elevation Chapel in Owings Mills. He is also CEO of the World Institute of Safety, a Washington, D.C.-based safety training and preparedness company.

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Barnes said he has received a warm reception since he joined the Empowerment Temple Feb. 24 after Bryant left the church in December.

“It’s been wonderful,” Barnes said. “The people have been great, they’ve been loving, very supportive. We’ve been really excited to take the church into the next phase of its life.”

Bryant, who founded the Reisterstown Station church in 2000, preached his last sermon there Dec. 2. He left Baltimore to lead the New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Georgia, a church that boasts more than 10,000 members and played host to the 2006 funeral of Coretta Scott King, the widow of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

After Bryant left, the Rev. Ann F. Lightner-Fuller served as interim pastor.

Barnes founded the Elevation Chapel and served there for about nine years before coming to the Empowerment Temple.

Under his tenure, Barnes said he hopes to better connect the church’s members with one another — a difficult task in a congregation of more than 10,000. He also wants to provide more resources to members to help guide them not only in their spiritual development, but also in their physical health, relationships, finances and careers.

“We really want to have a church be a place that impacts the lives of people in every single way,” he said.

And while Bryant took a publicly political approach to confronting problems beyond the church’s walls, Barnes said his approach to community issues likely will be more subdued.

“My goal is a little bit more focused on family development,” Barnes said. “If we can build people in the house, that will be just as effective as changing people’s lives as perhaps communicating to people outside the house.”

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