In 1989 Joe Allison provided the following account in the “Songs of Faith” section of Vital Christianity, a discontinued publication of the Church of God (Anderson). It is entitled, “Barney is the Lord’s: A story form the life of B. E. Warren”. The article is quoted in its entirety.
Gospel singing played an important role in the early growth of the Church of God reformation movement. The importance of music is clearly shown by the gospel quartet that D. S. Warner formed just after he moved the Gospel Trumpet to Williamston, Michigan.
In April 1886, Warner’s group was holding cottage prayer meetings at Geneva Center, Michigan. Here lived a teen-ager who had been converted just a few months earlier as a result of the preaching of Joseph Fisher, and now he was feeling God’s call to enter the ministry. His name was Barney E. Warren, and he had a wonderful bass voice. Only one obstacle kept Barney from joining the singers-his unsaved father, Tom Warren.
One night the singers conducted a prayer meeting at the home of Joseph Smith. When the service ended and the farming folks began putting on their coats to go home, Warner came directly to the Warrens to express his appreciation for their presence. “And I want to thank you for bringing Barney to sing with us tonight,” Warner added. “Your son has a beautiful voice, and I’m glad to see him using it for the Lord.”
“Won’t you reconsider your decision about letting Barney go with us?” Warner pleaded. “I can understand your concern for his welfare; but believe me, he will be well cared for. And I’m sure he’ll write to you often and tell you about his travels. You’ll be proud of him.”
“Barney knows how to take care of himself,” Tom retorted, pulling on his gloves. “I raised him good. But I ain’t about to see him gallivanting around the countryside when he’s got plenty to do at home.”
“Yes, I know. I grew up on a farm myself. But isn’t the Lord’s work more important for a young man with Barney’s abilities?”
“Ha! That’s what all you preachers say! ‘The world is coming to an end!’ ‘Repent, the Lord is drawing nigh!’ Be that as it may, somebody’s got to keep food on your table and clothes on your back. Someobdy’s got to keep the home fires burning. That’s where Barney belongs.”
Warner bristled. Stepping up close to Tom until their faces almost touched, Warner looked him straight in the eye. “Tom Warren,” he said, “you are fighting against God, and you can’t get away with it.”
Warren began to tremble. Suddenly he sank to the floor and shook violently, as if chilled by a draft. With his feet planted on either side, Warner towered over him. “God has smitten you, and you cannot get up until you let Barney go,” the preacher said.
Tom Warren made an effort to get to his feet, but he kept falling back to the hardwood floor and shivering in helplessness. The neighbors watched. Tom pounded the floor with his fists, but it was no use-he couldn’t get away. Finally he stopped fighting and relaxed his body upon the slats. “Barney is the Lord’s,” he sighed.
D. S. Warner smiled in relief. “Now you can get up,” he said.
And Tom Warren did.
Barney Warren made a lasting contribution to the reformation movement through his work with the gospel quartet, which traveled together until 1890.
Curly-headed young Barney proved to be a skillful songwriter as well as singer, and after the quartet broke up he continued to travel as a music evangelist for many years. His songs formed the backbone of the movement’s early hymnals and were used by other Christian groups as well. (33)
Allison, Joseph D. “Barney is the Lord’s: A story form the life of B. E. Warren”. Vital Christianity. Anderson, IN: Warner Press, 13 April, 1989. Arlo F. Newell, Editor in Chief.