Michigan family's six sisters carry on legacy of preaching

Neal Rubin Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Troy — Katrina Barr, who's been preaching since she was 12, said it was like getting married after a 21-year engagement.

Her sister Christina, who started at 9, said it was like a seal of approval.

On a snowy night in the conference room of a Quality Inn on Sunday, they were ordained to preach the gospel.

With their four sisters.

By their father.

As their brother, the Rev. Keith Gino Barr Jr., cheered and sang.

Nobody officially keeps score, but as far as the Barr family knows, it was a first: six sisters ordained at once.

Gina Barr, right, and sister Katrina Barr listen to their brother before being ordained along with their four sisters by their father, Apostle Keith Barr, at the Quality Inn in Troy, Feb. 9, 2020.

They had studied under Barr Sr. for five months, said Katrina, 33, to earn the approval of their ministerial organization and make official what they've known since they were kids — they were born to serve.

"Gina had approached my father first," Katrina said. "The rest of us said, 'You know what? What am I waiting for?'"

Gina, 38, is the oldest, followed by Katrina; Christina, 30; Sabrina, 29; Angelina, 28; and Tina, 24.

They all write or sing gospel or work or multiples of the above, and after decades of evangelizing, Christina said, "as far as the ministry goes, we've got our street smarts."

As Barr Jr. noted, it was Katrina who cried first Sunday in front of a gathering of six dozen people that included the Republican National Committeewoman from Michigan and Barr Sr.'s high school chemistry teacher.

He was pleased, because it meant he was free to sob as he praised them amid a buoyant ceremony that included a drummer, a keyboard player and spontaneous dancing in the audience.

"What a legacy," said Kathy Berden, 66, the committeewoman, who did political work with Gina and Christina. "They're going to do a lot of good in our world, aren't they?"

Lester Mack of Waterford Township, the former Pontiac Central High School teacher, said he knew even when Barr Sr. was 16 "that the Lord had his hands on him," and that Barr would someday pass that on to his family.

"You're talking to a 93-year-old man," Mack said. "My daughter would kill me if she knew I'd come out on a night like this, but I couldn't stay away."

The Barr sisters, from left: Gina, Katrina, Christina, Sabrina, Angelina and Tina take communion after their father, the Rev. Keith Barr, ordains them on Sunday in Troy.

The Barrs' non-denominational ministry is based in Rochester Hills, where Barr Jr. leads a small church.

"You've heard of double weddings," Katrina said. "I don't know what you'd call this, but it's good."

The sisters’ story stretches back to their grandmother, Patricia, a mother of eight who went from holding prayer meetings in her living room in Pontiac to opening a church with son Keith in 1980.

She died in 2005 and “was a powerful woman of God,” Christina said. “We grew up watching her. We have a legacy of preachers on my mom’s side of the family.”

The Barr family’s church has had different locations and names, according to the Keith Barr Ministries site.

Barr Sr., who was ordained in 1975, has written books, lectured extensively, and ministered around the world with his wife, Isabelle, including on trips to Africa, Central America and Asia.

The daughters sometimes accompanied them and often sang. The three youngest formed a gospel rap group.

“If God called you to do something, you should step up and do it,” said Christina, who has worked as a videographer. When she first preached as a fourth-grader, "I got up and announced that I had been waiting two years to do it."

Two decades later, she made it official.