A Walk with Saint Andrew

 

The people of Saint Andrew are what make our church special and unique with a wonderful blend of talents and personalities and a diversity of backgrounds. The congregation of Saint Andrew has had a rich and proud heritage of service to the community of Longview.

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In 1963, Stephen Lucas Cook, D.O., Minister of First Presbyterian Church, Longview, Texas, had a dream:  A new Presbyterian Church would be organized in Longview, a child of First Presbyterian.

 

In August 1965, Dr. Joel E. May from Oak Park Presbyterian Church, New Orleans, Louisiana, was called to be the organizing minister of Saint Andrew Presbyterian Church; which was the dream nourished by Steven Cook and members of First Presbyterian Church, Longview.  In October 1965 the first worship service was held at Bramlette Elementary School.  Thirty-eight families signed the Charter Roll prior to the first worship, and after that first worship, the roll included fifty-two families.

 

Saint Andrew was officially organized by the Presbytery of Northeast Texas (now Grace Presbytery) on November 21, 1965, and Dr. May was called by the congregation to become the minister. Seventy families had signed the Charter Roll by that time.

 

In 1966, the congregation elected fifteen Deacons and nine Ruling Elders; two of the nine elders were women.  This was the first church in Longview to have women on its official board. The first Session was installed January 9, 1966, and included Glenna Knutson (Guindon), Nancy Smith. This was just the beginning of St. Andrew making social justice changes in the church and in Longview! 

 

During the months of June, July, and August of 1966, services were held at the Jewish Temple Emanu-El to take advantage of its air-conditioned facility. A strong relationship with this congregation continues. 

 

On October 16, 1966, one year after the first service, a ground-breaking service was held for the new church building at our present location, 2500 McCann Road. The new Educational and Fellowship Hall Building was dedicated May 7, 1967. The Fellowship Hall was also used as the Sanctuary. (In the original plan, a large sanctuary was to face on McCann Road.) The total cost for building, street, driveway, furnishings, and equipment was $138,000.

 

In November 1968, the Saint Andrew Session voted to join First Presbyterian Church in the operation of the new Presbyterian Service Center on High Street. This Service Center provided food, clothing, and household items to the needy. This was the church's first community service project and the beginning of a love of community service, which was evident in our giving.  The church budgets for 1966, 1967, and 1968 reflect that Saint Andrew pledged in total benevolences 25% of the total funds received in those years. This church began with much faith and has a history of financial commitment to benevolences.

 

It seems appropriate that we look at certain events which occurred during the 1960's in the United States of America:  the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, his brother Robert, and the prominent Black Leader, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. There was a movement in progress with a name new to the White community--"integration."  Joel and Lucy May encouraged the congregation to “take a stand” and support the integration movement.

 

For those who supported this point of view, it was a painful time. Saint Andrew was referred to as "that little liberal church north of town."  Some of the Saint Andrew members left to join more conservative churches.  This was the first potentially divisive challenge that was presented to this congregation, but the experience ultimately proved to strengthen the congregation.

 

On March 30, 1969, the Rev. Michael L. Parsons, a native of Norfolk, England, was called to Saint Andrew from First Presbyterian Church, Henderson, Texas.  Quoting from his earliest letter to the Saint Andrew congregation, “We should remember that a witnessing church is a living church.  To witness is to reach out to others, not only to our friends, those whom we know and like, but to the stranger in our midst, whoever he may be.  Where this church goes depends on you, for you are the church."

 

The Saint Andrew congregation worshipped with a Black congregation at the Harrison Street Presbyterian Church on several occasions.  In the spring of 1970, Presbytery closed Harrison Street Presbyterian Church, and Saint Andrew was most fortunate to welcome into the fellowship of the church the Algie Thomas and Ardis Moch families.

 

During this period a new community ministry, The Children’s Association, was organized by Saint Andrew.  With the closing of Harrison Street Presbyterian, the Harrison Street Day School opened in the vacant building to serve low-income families.

 

From 1971 to 1977, Saint Andrew was led by the Rev. Dr. William K. Hedrick, a graduate of Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina. He was a graduate of Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.  During the next six years, the church underwent revitalization.  In September 1971, the church adopted the Unicameral System, where the Board of Deacons and the Session were merged into one governing body. Three members of the church—Susan Elms, Lainey Mobley, and Trudy Morphew—handmade velvet table cloths, pulpit hangings, and matching stoles for the pastor in the colors of the four liturgical seasons.

 

The Session resolved to make "full use of its properties for the advancement of Christ's Kingdom" during weekdays and other times when it was not in use as a center of worship. This resolution provided for housing charitable or community service activities whose goals and methods were consistent with the policies of the Presbyterian Church. Saint Andrew has continued to open its doors to assist a number of service organizations in the community: Scouts, Habitat for Humanity, Literacy Council, Alcoholics Anonymous, soccer and baseball teams are only a few of the organizations who have used our facilities.

 

Under Dr. Hedrick there was a strong emphasis on evangelism in the church. The Andrew Club, which contacted visitors and other prospective members, was revived, and Dr. Hedrick conducted seminars on Prospect and New Member Visitation, Congregational Care, and Ministering to the Sick and Terminally Ill. Officer training was intensive and included extensive studies of the Confession of Faith and the Book of Church Order.

 

In 1974, a church member, Shirley Blackman, painted "The Saint Andrew Series"—six paintings— "Birth," "Life," "Death," "Resurrection," "Pentecost," and "Hope," which hang in the sanctuary. A brochure depicting the paintings and the Scriptural explanation for each is available at the church.

 

In 1977, Frank William (Joe) Sutterlin, Jr., became Saint Andrew’s minister. Joe Sutterlin graduated from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, and he was also a graduate of Union Theological Seminary.

 

During the second half of the 1970’s, Joe Sutterlin recalled, “I was at Saint Andrew during the early teenage years of the church . . . years of early adolescence. There was much enthusiasm, much willingness to try many things.  The first burst of numerical growth had tapered off somewhat, and there was a process of reassessment going on.  We went through goal setting and reorganization.  We increased our benevolent giving and better ordered our whole stewardship situation.”

 

On July 1, 1981, the Rev. Robert Gray Bruce, a native of Radford, Virginia, became Saint Andrew’s fifth minister. Bob Bruce was a graduate of King College, Bristol, Tennessee,

and Union Theological Seminary.  Reverend Bruce served Saint Andrew for nine years.

 

Plans for a new building phase went into effect on October 17, 1982, and a new addition to the church was dedicated on February 19, 1984, which included a new Fellowship Hall, classrooms, nursery, kitchen, and renovated Sanctuary and administrative facilities.

 

Another gift of love and talent was presented to the church by Judge William C. Martin III, also a Charter Member of Saint Andrew. Judge Martin carved a magnificent Celtic cross that now hangs on the wall at the front of the Sanctuary. Shirley Hughes Blackman continued to express her commitment to the Lord and Saint Andrew by designing and sewing intricate motifs on a series of Communion table cloths, one for each liturgical season of the church year.  In 1983, our pianist, Marcia Everingham, composed “A Baptismal Song,” which the congregation has traditionally sung during baptisms in our sanctuary.  The church now had the adult chancel choir, adult hand bell choir, three adult Sunday school classes and classes for children and youth.  “Ministry Groups” do the work of the church and serve as spiritual and social "face-to-face" groups. Through the love of Christ and the Church, our members have formed loving and supportive friendships within these groups.

 

The Adult Fellowship Ministry Group sponsors "Wednesday Night Live" for dinner and fellowship. Other activities are scheduled around the dinner, originally intending to save fuel costs.  Another of Bob’s legacies to the church was the establishment of ministry groups.  The original groups are still viable and essentially the same as Bob envisioned.

Since our beginnings as a congregation in 1965, we have maintained a tradition of voluntarism that has continued throughout our forty-eight years.  Today the life of Saint Andrew continues to prosper and be enriched by those who give of themselves as servants of Christ.

 

For several summers, a Mexican border mission project, named "Starfish,” sent Saint Andrew youth and adults to the Texas-Mexico border to provide labor, Christian puppet shows in Spanish, food, clothing, Spanish hymnals, and medical care for the Mexican impoverished. In addition to the projects in Mexico, Saint Andrew also sponsored a mission trip to South East Arkansas and another to an Indian Reservation at Four Corners.

 

On May 13, 1984, our youth began Youth Sunday. They planned and prepared all the elements and mechanics of worship from flowers, bulletins, and ushering to music, leading worship, and preaching.  This service was held on Mother's Day each year.  For our Twenty-Fifth Anniversary in 1990, Marcia Everingham composed “A Song for Saint Andrew,” which was sung by the choir.  A beautiful quilt with patchwork for each family in the church was made and hung in the hallway.  Later, as membership grew, another quilt was added.

 

Saint Andrew has often blazed trails in the community of Longview, as evidenced by ordaining the first women Elders, taking a stand on the integration issue, initiating the Martin Luther King, Jr. Service; hosting World Aids Day services, and helping to organize The Children's Association, Habitat for Humanity, and Longview Community Ministries, which now sponsors the local Meals on Wheels program. We have also supported the Foodbox, Rainbow Room, Longview Youth Shelter, Longview Child Development Center, and the Heifer Project.  Saint Andrew began and continues to house a highly successful Mothers’ Day Out program, the Angel Academy, which operates a two-day per week childcare program.

 

In 1993 a second, less formal, contemporary Sunday worship service was added at 8:30 a.m. By 2000 Saint Andrew had approximately 200 active members. This has remained a fairly constant number over the past decade.

 

In August of 1994, Lee Wyatt was called to Saint Andrew.  Lee was a graduate of Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.  In 1998, we began participating in the Bridges program with our sister church, Bethel Missionary Baptist Church.  We also participated in a pastor exchange with Trinity United Church of Christ and the First Lutheran Church.

 

In 1999 our building loan was paid in full.

 

On September 21, 2003, Scott Hookey was installed as Saint Andrew’s seventh pastor.  Reared in Washington, Pennsylvania, his father was a Presbyterian minister and college professor.  Scott’s undergraduate degree was from Wake Forest, a BA in politics.  He then attended Princeton Theological Seminary, earning his Master of Divinity Degree in 1983.  Prior to coming to Saint Andrew, Scott served other churches in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and he taught special education students in public schools in Fort Worth and Gilmer, Texas.  Also, during this time, he was serving Grace Presbytery on several child-related committees and task forces as well as serving as moderator for churches in East Texas, which were in the pastor-search process.  On our regular Mothers’ Day Out, we also kept a total of eighteen children from foster care families.

 

In 2004 Longview Interfaith Hospitality Network (LIHN) was born.  Late in 2001 several Saint Andrew members joined a core group of churches interested in creating an ecumenical coalition (with a goal of twelve churches) to house the homeless in the various churches.  Like herding cats, getting twelve different churches to agree to do anything together proved to be very difficult.  So, after much prayer and faith in the knowledge that God intended for us to do this thing, the group decided to begin with only ten churches.  We are happy to report this agency did achieve its original goal of twelve churches, plus a couple more, and is strong and expanding today.  A side bar to this is that our own pastor served as an early board member at LIHN and endeared himself to many when, at the annual fundraising dinner, he would quietly disappear into the kitchen to later be found with sleeves rolled up to his elbows in hot soapy water, scrubbing the pots and pans.  He became known for his service to LIHN as the “Scullery Pastor.”  This same year, Grace Presbytery began a new ministry called “Growing in Partnership Through Sharing.”  The new partner was the North Kerala Diocese of the Church of South India.  Saint Andrew was asked to be one of six churches from our presbytery to take part in this exchange.  We were partnered with CSI St. Thomas Church, Sultan Bathery.  On September 26, a pitcher and set of four plates and chalices were dedicated at our early worship service.  These are beautiful pieces of pottery with Christian symbols etched in each piece.  This gift was given to the church in loving memory of Chance Neff, who on September 11, 2003, at the age of three, died from injuries sustained in a car accident.  The Neff and McKinney families, along with the potter, James Sanders, were present for the service.  These communion vessels have been used for World Communion services.

 

The year 2005 was another busy year in the life of the Saint Andrew community.  In January, Jeannie Davis became the first of the Saint Andrew exchange delegates, and later that year, Rev. N. K. Sunny visited with us.  This exchange continued from 2006 to 2011:  Rev. Scott Hookey from Saint Andrew (SA) and M. N. George from South India (SI), Brice Davis from SA and Justin John from SI, Steve Crane from SA and Rev. P. P.

Reginald from SI, Kathy Loy from SA and Eleyamma Kunnathara from SI, Kathy Crane from SA and the Bishop Rev. Dr. K. P. Kuruvilla from SI. Phil Farmer from SA was the last delegate.  There is no way to describe how meaningful this experience was for all participants.  Also, in the words of the Rt. Rev. Dr. George Isaac, “The mutual exchange of delegates has been a unique way of opening doors and windows of each church through which a great deal of knowledge concerning the life and style and Christian witness of both partners has percolated to the people at large.”

 

Another new venture began.  Ground was quite literally broken for the new community garden.  Member David Ward was the driving force behind this effort.  Our garden now furnishes fresh vegetables for Longview Community Ministries (LCM) to deliver along with canned and packaged food to needy families in our area.  This idea was too good for just Saint Andrew.  Steve Crane has now helped five gardens through their infancy.  Along with LIHN families this year, we furnished a safe and inviting building for hurricane evacuees. With the hurricane effort, there arose a new association with the Red Cross.  We are now the local volunteer clearing house.  This means that prospective volunteers, both local and from out of city, will be directed to us for bona fide checks (basically Red Cross training and experience).  Then, when called by the City of Longview disaster coordination office, Saint Andrew will send the proper help to the various shelters.  Saint Andrew joined with four other churches to build an all-Presbyterian Habitat home, and our ladies helped construct the Women Built home.

 

The year 2006 found Saint Andrew celebrating when member, Jan Dittmar, was ordained as Minister of Word and Sacrament at our church.  Acolytes were included in our traditional worship service starting in the fall, lighting the candles and leading the Call to Worship.  A new electric piano was added for early worship in the sanctuary.  It is on wheels, so it can be moved to the Fellowship Hall when needed for programs there.

 

In 2007, longtime Music Director, Donna McFarland, retired and was replaced by Dr. Paul Seong Lee.  Paul is the son of a Presbyterian minister and has a life-long interest in religious music.  Our Acolyte program has grown into a group of ten participants.  The sanctuary was redecorated this year with new pews, carpet, and paint.  With some special congregation donations, we stretched our benevolent giving twice this year.  Over and above budget, Saint Andrew made gifts to our partner in India to help build a child development center and to LCM locally for a Special Projects gift to Food Box and an Emergency Shelter funding.  It has only been a couple of years since Tracy White’s dream for a centerpiece for our Memorial Garden became a reality.  The “Little White Church” started in 2005, with a memorial wall alongside, has now reached its full glory being festooned with many plants exploding with flowers thanks to church master gardeners, Mary and Bill Gammans.  Saint Andrew dedicated the Memorial Garden in 2007.

 

In the fall of 2008 we added a new Allen organ to further enhance our worship.  To bring in the New Year, the community was invited to an organ recital by our Director of Music, Dr. Paul Lee.  The India Mission initiative continues with another delegate from India visiting and then our representative traveling to their church later in the year.  Adult/Andrew Ministry Group continues to organize and facilitate adult Sunday School, Wednesday Night Live meals and fellowship, advertise our church and other adult opportunities.

 

In 2009, the Community and Presbytery Ministry Group continues to help provide assistance to those in need in our community.  In service to Him, we made donations to several local charities with which we have long standing relationships, e.g., Habitat for Humanity, LIHN, and LCM, as well as providing funds for new ministries, e.g., Newgate Mission.  Additionally, we established Agape Health Net and funded it.  Agape provided financial support to Special Health Resources for Texas’s community clinic to provide primary health care for the less fortunate.

 

The next year, 2010, Building and Grounds Ministry Group changed the sidewalk from the parking lot to the memorial garden.  The original crushed stone was too rough to navigate for some.  Now we have concrete.  To this, we should add that B&G does not get much press, but fixes, replaces, and generally keeps the physical plant spruced up at all times.  One of our youth, Nathan Lo, went to Ethiopia to teach a computer class and work with young adults.  He was supported by individuals in the church.

 

In 2011, Saint Andrew conducted a mini capital campaign for the purposes of funding new lighting in the sanctuary, redecorating with new facilities the two upstairs restrooms, and completely refurbishing the sanctuary baby grand piano.  The piano had been given to the church by member, Jeannie Shirley, thirty years prior.  The lighting and piano were completed before Advent.  Because the construction for work on the restrooms would stretch out too long, that phase was not begun until after Christmas.

 

In early 2012, the construction was completed.  The changes in the Book of Order caused Saint Andrew to lose five members and did not sit well with others, but they stayed, and we believe our community is stronger because they stayed, and we are thankful.  The church supported member, Vanessa Butler, a recent college graduate, who joined with worldrace.org adventures in mission.  She concluded an eleven-month world race mission trip in 2012 and returned the following year as a squad leader responsible for fifty missionaries.   In the fall, a Strategic Planning Committee was formed and began to plan for the future of Saint Andrew.

 

In 2013,  Scott Hookey announced his departure and left for his new church in Indiana.  We mourned.  Several old friends are now counted “with those whose rest is won.”  We grieve, yet we pray “Lord, give us grace that we, like them, the meek and lowly, may live eternally.”  St. Andrew found a beloved interim pastor in Kemper Huber to help pave the way forward. We have been celebrating a Saint Andrew victory at the Literacy Council’s annual fundraiser, Spelling Bee.  Not only did members, Kathy Loy, Ray Cottle, and William Martin spell everything correctly until they were the last team standing, but our cheerleading squad armed with prepared cheers and clad in matching T-shirts brought home the Spirit Award.  It was a clean sweep.  Our interim pastor, the Rev. Kemper Huber arrived and was with us for almost two years.  We shared many joys and thanksgivings with Kemper during this time of transition.

 

In April of 2015 the Pastor Nominating Committee recommended to the Session that Nick Setzer and Mia Levetan be called to serve as co-pastors of Saint Andrew effective August 10.  The Session endorsed the PNC’s recommendation and called a congregational meeting for Sunday, May 17, at which time, the congregation confirmed the selection.  We are now the only church in Grace Presbytery to have a married couple serve as co-pastors.  Nick and Mia have a daughter, Eliana. And in 2017 we celebrated as they welcomed Oscar into the world. As we celebrate the Golden Anniversary of our church, we are excited that this young couple is here to help us embark upon the next fifty years of our ministry in Longview.   

 

Through Nick and Mia's leadership, Saint Andrew has reforged their relationship with the other local Presbyterian Churches as a reminder that we are in a connectional church. We share worship services together during Lent and Advent. We share meals together during Thanksgiving and Ash Wednesday. We share service projects together. In the spring of 2016, we combined youth programs and have seen great interest and growth in that program. 

 

Saint Andrew, while small in number, is large in the community of Longview. We continue to support many non-profits while also taking stands for social justice where the opportunities present themselves. Following the 2017 events in Charlottesville, VA our pastors led the charge in bringing together local clergy to take a stand against blatant racism and violence. 

 

Saint Andrew has a long history that emphasizes the sovereignty of God, the authority of the Bible, and the Grace of God in Jesus Christ. We look forward to the future, and we believe God will guide us through new challenges. We have much to celebrate!

St. Andrew Presbyterian church

(903) 758-4952

2500 McCann Rd.

Longview, TX 75605

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