The Rev. Dr. James Spencer Barge, of Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota, died peacefully in his sleep of natural causes at home on July 12, 2020, with his wife and lifelong best friend Silvey by his side. Jim was born in Perry, Oklahoma, on Oct. 20, 1931, the only child to Mary Frances (Spencer) and James Lester Barge. In fifth grade, as a member of the Perry First Christian Church, he met the girl who became his partner in life and ministry — Silvey Lee Wood.
With an enduring commitment to education and the betterment of humankind, Jim graduated in 1953 from the University of Oklahoma (with majors in history, literature and philosophy) and went on to attend Yale Divinity School before transferring to (to be closer to his newly widowed mother) and receiving his B.D. from Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California. In 1977, he earned his Doctor of Ministry degree from McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago.
On June 5, 1953, he married the only girl he ever loved, Silvey, and after his ordination, together they embarked on a lifetime dedicated to the service of others, beginning with his early callings to campus ministry at two churches. As his career blossomed, Jim was called in 1965 to serve Westminster Presbyterian Church in Springfield, Illinois, ultimately becoming its senior pastor and head of staff, where he and Silvey were deeply dedicated for more than 21 years, actively serving the church, the larger community and world. He served the Great Rivers Presbytery in various positions, including moderator and commissioner to the church’s General Assembly.
Jim was consistently engaged in and committed to important social causes, and in Springfield he shared in the founding of Contact Ministries and We Who Care (developing dialogue between the white and African-American communities), served on the Illinois College, Planned Parenthood and YMCA boards, and was president of the Springfield Mental Health Board. In 1986, he was called to serve as senior pastor at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Des Moines, Iowa, and Jim later served as an interim pastor for six Presbyterian and United Church of Christ congregations in Iowa and Minnesota. Jim was an Honorably Retired member of the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area.
In addition to being the beloved husband for 67 years to Silvey Lee (Wood) Barge (who survives him), Jim was proud father to J. Kevin (Courtney) Barge of The Woodlands, Texas, and J. Stephen (Kathleen) Barge of Sewickley, Pennsylvania, and proud grandfather to Aaren (Sreemoyee Som, fiancé), Cameron, Genevieve, Jackson and Scarlett Barge.
Jim and Silvey loved traveling the world together, and in later years loved the time they spent with family and friends at Chautauqua Institution. A well-educated and well-read man, Jim enjoyed reflective conversations about important issues of the day, and in doing so meaningfully contributed to the shaping of two generations of thoughtful thinkers in his own family. Central to their lives together, Jim and Silvey were always working to better our world and the lives of their fellow human beings, and Jim gave generously of himself to community and social service organizations both during his career and in retirement in the St. Paul community. A truly gifted preacher, Jim was a beloved pastor and in retirement thoroughly enjoyed attending House of Hope in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Jim’s memorial service will take place at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Springfield at a later date, followed by an interment in the church’s memorial garden. If desired, memorial contributions can be sent to House of Hope in St. Paul; Jim’s retirement community of PHS Timber Hills; Chautauqua Institution; Westminster Presbyterian Church of Springfield, Illinois; or to the charity of your choice.