New pastor rebuilds congregation, leads African-American community
|Walter Kendricks makes community connections.|
Shaped in the 1960s by the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, by fires and race riots in cities, and the election of Carl Stokes as the first African-American mayor in Cleveland 30 miles east of his hometown, Lorain, Ohio, Walter Kendricks is inspired by how the United States has moved from where it was in 1956 to where it is today.
He remembers when not everyone could drink out of the same water fountain or sit at the same lunch counter, but today people are more able to go where they want to go when they want to go.
Walter brings a lesson of hope to Spokane, where he has been pastor of Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church since August 2013 and was recently elected to succeed Roberta Wilburn as president of the Spokane Ministers’ Fellowship.
He also recently connected that fellowship with the Martin Luther King Jr. Family Outreach Center, helping organize the first Prayer Breakfast on Jan. 9 to help the center launch its funding campaign for a new facility.
He also was the preacher for the Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Celebration Service, held Jan. 18 at Morning Star.
At the breakfast, Walter spoke of the power of dreams of equality and equal access to health care, education, jobs and legal services.
He spoke of everyday dreams of children, a child by his mother’s bedside dreaming of becoming a doctor to cure cancer, a child hearing an airplane fly over and wanting to be an astronaut, as did the late Michael Anderson, whose family is at Morning Star Baptist.
His church of humble means pledged $1,200 to help build a new and larger Martin Luther King Jr. Family Outreach Center to nurture children’s dreams.
That’s $100 a month or $25 a week, Walter said, challenging other churches in the fellowship and community to match that pledge to help reach the $3 million cost to build a new facility.
At the commemorative service, he said that Martin Luther King Jr. was no average man. “He shook the consciousness of a nation and led a nonviolent protest, asking the nation to live up to words in one of its most treasured documents,” that “all men are created equal” and are “given certain rights by their Creator—acknowledging there is a Creator—inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Walter said that when “God became tired that millions were denied those rights for years, God sent a man who would answer God’s call. Throughout history, God has sent men and women when people have gone astray.”
Walter said God called Martin, as God calls “all of us,” and Martin, a “young, charismatic, eloquent and learned Baptist preacher,” answered God’s call.
God called him to face “the modern-day Pharaoh, who went by the name poll tax, Jim Crow laws and segregation,” Walter said. “God chose what the world would deem as foolish, a small in stature, dark-skinned man, to put to shame the wise, as God chooses weak things of the world, to put to shame the mighty.
“Martin was a nobody God chose to lead a group of nobodies,” people many considered subhuman, Walter said. “God pricked the conscience of a nation, even though it took the murder of some, even though dogs were set upon people as they marched peacefully in the street, and even though water hoses were turned on them full force. God, because a man answered his call, brought to nothing the things that were.”
Walter expressed gratitude “as we gaze through the prism of time” for King—for his service, his sacrifice, his witness and his labor. “We are thankful he answered the call that was issued to many before him for a specific purpose in a specific time.”
In a recent interview, Walter shared his background, his vision for his church and his involvements in the community.
The son of a Baptist pastor, Walter started studies at Ohio State in Columbus in 1976, but was drawn into work with United Airlines from 1977 to 2012 as ramp serviceman. He worked in Cleveland, Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver and Seattle, where he came in 1989. In 2012, he decided to leave United Airlines, because he found the secular workplace and work schedule wearing, discouraging a religious lifestyle.
In 1994, Walter accepted the call to ministry and, in 1997, he was ordained to do prison ministry through the Martin Luther King Memorial Baptist Church in Renton.
While serving Eastside Baptist Church in Tacoma from 2005 to 2013, he graduated from Faith Evangelical Seminary in Tacoma in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in religious studies.
In August 2013, Arthur Banks, the pastor of Eastside assigned him to the vacant pulpit at Morning Star Baptist Church in Spokane, with a call to rebuild the ministry there.
“I knew something was up. It had no website or Facebook page,” Walter said.
His first sermon was the first Sunday of November 2013. When he moved to Spokane in December, the office phone and internet did not work, and the boiler heated only part of the church. He set to work getting them functioning.
The church has grown from under 30 members to nearly 60. There was no youth program, but now there is a teen choir. While most attending are African American, there are also many white people, rich and poor.
Walter’s focus is on preaching and teaching the Word. In January 2014, he started a Bible study, with John 1:1. The group is walking piece-by-piece through John, expecting to finish it in 2016.
As he continues to do prison ministry in Spokane, he tells prisoners that God forgives them, but they still need to pay the penalty for what they did.
He also calls on society and churches to care about people when they are out of prison. To transition the prison population, especially African Americans, there is need for jobs, education or health care.
“I ask Morning Star how it relates church to society, how it perceives God, how it relates to prisoners, homeless, elderly, sickly and shut ins. How we as a church relate to people in all situations is how we relate to God,” Walter asserted. “As we do to the least, we do to Jesus.”
Walter promotes caring and community involvement.
Morning Star now has a clothing ministry, Tabitha’s Closet, which offers free, gently used clothing for men, women and children from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturdays and from 2 to 4 p.m., Wednesdays.
Walter is active in the NAACP Spokane, in addition to the Spokane Ministers’ Fellowship.
Morning Star recently had a joint worship service with New Vision Lutheran Church nearby.
“Churches should come together,” he said. “We need to learn about each other so Sunday is no longer the most segregated day of the week. We worship the same God.”
Morning Star has also reached out to other churches.
“Spokane is on the cutting edge of race relations in work with the police and city to change attitudes and build understanding about the diverse community here,” Walter said. “The NAACP Spokane and city are working together to address issues and inequities.
“Black people want the same things as all people—jobs, homes, family and being left to live their lives,” he said.
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Copyright © February 2016 - The Fig Tree