STATEHOUSE — State lawmakers have a tough job. A job that can be mentally and sometimes even spiritually taxing for lawmakers who are deep in their faith, whether they be Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or any other denomination.
Pastor Matt Barnes has been the Indiana Statehouse chaplain for 17 years and he tells Indy Politics that he and his team of six people are the only group within the statehouse that doesn’t want something from state lawmakers.
“We have a team of five or six folks here that simply care about the people here,” Barnes said. “Everybody in this building, everybody outside this building, is created in the image of God. My religion (Baptist) dictates that I love all people.”
He urges Hoosiers to understand that though politics is the name of the game for your elected officials, they are still human beings.
“They (lawmakers) certainly don’t do it for the money,” he said. “Virtually every single person in this chamber could make way more money doing their regular job back home. I have yet to meet a political leader in the state of Indiana, that wants to destroy the state of Indiana.”
This year is Barnes’ 18th legislative session. 17 years ago he walked into the statehouse simply to speak with the statehouse chaplain, only to learn that there was no designated chaplain to speak to.
The lightbulb went on for Barnes then and there that maybe he was the man to take that role on. A tall task and a leap of faith coupled with quitting his job to start his ministry at the statehouse 17 years ago when all three of his children were not even six yet.
Barnes has also been careful to keep his ministry completely independent from any official association with the state’s government.
“I am an entirely independent volunteer,” Barnes said. “We are not paid and we do not receive benefits from the state of Indiana, because we are independently funded.”
Barnes said his mission in the statehouse is to simply look after the mental and spiritual well-being of your state leaders and has had many people who were not a fan of him being there in the first place to becoming life-long friends.