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Pastor and his wife mark several milestones

In 2014, milestones for the Rev. C. W. (Chet) Andrews and his wife, Doris, are 40 years, 50 years, 55 years and 124 years.

It’s his 40th year serving as minister at Calvary Baptist Church in Spokane.  The church is planning a celebration on May 4 and 5.

C.W. and Doris Andrews share about their lives.

It’s his 50th year in ministry.

It’s their 55th wedding anniversary.

It’s the 124th anniversary of Calvary, the oldest black church in Washington.

Through the good days and bad days, the hills and valleys, they have weathered the years by respecting and loving each other, being at home the same people they are in the church and community.

“In many ways, we are opposites,” Doris said.  “He wants to go out.  I like to stay home.  I like to shop, but he does not.  We understand our differences and know each other well.”

So she has found her place, acclimating to what he enjoys, and he has done the same.

She worked at Spokane Falls Community College from 1988 to 2008, coordinating continuing education and summer programs, and took some child development and general studies classes there, but mostly she has chosen to stay at home and take care of the family and him.

“I still do it.  I like taking care of the home,” she said. 

It shows in their orderly home, with dinner plates on the table mid-day, ready for the next meal.

“He needs a place to come to be away from the confusion of ministry and serving in the community,” Doris said.  “Despite frustrations at work, he was able to come home and focus on the children.”

The Andrews have five children, 14 grandchildren and five great grandchildren.  With four children and their families living in Spokane, they often come home for dinner, with Doris doing all the cooking.

“Faith keeps me grounded, so I am calm about things.  I tend to be quiet, and he does most of the talking,” Doris said.

At the church, she has also done tasks that keep Chet free to do the “work he is called to do.”  Sometimes she is just there to answer the phone and do other things to keep things running smoothly.  She helped organize the 124th anniversary, served as vice president of the women’s ministry, and has been Christian education director.

Her family moved from New Orleans to Yakima when she was five for her mother to pursue employment.

She and Chet met after he came from near Selma, Ala., where a brother lived.  He was the youngest of 17 children of Jessie and Edna Andrews, who were sharecroppers.  Growing up in times of segregation, he walked two miles to school and worked both before and after school in the fields.  After his siblings finished high school, they left the community.

When his father died in 1958, his parents had been married 64 years.

“Sharecropping was not for me, so after I graduated I went to Yakima in 1959 to visit my brother and work.  I found different jobs and worked hard.”

Chet served seven years in the U.S. Army, where he became a non-commissioned officer.  He later embarked on a career with Western Electric, with which he traveled extensively throughout the United States. 

“This chapter of my life closed after 20 years of service, when I yielded to the compelling call to full-time pastoral service,” he said.

In 1963, he became the assistant pastor at Pilgrim Rest Missionary Baptist Church, where the pastor mentored him.

While most of his learning to be a pastor was on-the-job training, he also did some studies at Selah Bible College while he was in Yakima.

He first came to Spokane in 1968, and then he, Doris and their family moved to Spokane in 1971.  They began attending Morning Star Baptist, and he worked with the Rev. Freeman Simmons for three years until he came to Calvary Baptist in 1974, first as interim minister, and then called seven months later as pastor.  He still serves there today, 39 years later.

Chet has served on many committees and boards in Spokane and throughout the Pacific Northwest, including the Spokane Human Services Department, the Department of Social and Health Services, the Spokane Police Department and Spokane Ministers’ Fellowship.  He has served as a past president of the North Pacific Baptist Convention and assistant chaplain at Whitworth University.

In 1998, he was awarded an honorary doctorate of divinity from Whitworth University.  That came about because in 1992, a shooting at Calvary Baptist led to an offer by Whitworth to offer classes to African-American pastors.  A group of 25 students from Whitworth had come to the church the third Sunday of January as they had done for many years.  The son of a Whitworth professor fired a shot from the balcony that ricocheted off a pew.  The young man went outside and took his life.

Chet and some other pastors took up Whitworth’s offer, and took classes there. 

For 14 years, he has been co-teaching a January Term class on African-American preaching with Whitworth professor Ron Pyle. 

“For me, God comes first, then family and then the church,” he said.  “I can’t be effective in the church without caring for my family.

“I love and have compassion for people.  I understand what they experience, because I’ve been in the hog pen,” Chet said.  “I know what it means to find the path back to righteousness.  I don’t look down on anyone.  I extend my hand to anyone, to people of any color.”

Married 55 years, he believes taking the marriage vow before God is important.

“Growing up in a large family, I saw good times and bad times.  It was an example for me.  I knew the road would not always be easy.  I believe we need to trust each other,” Chet said.  “God knows our hearts, so we can’t be a phony.

“I’m for real at home and in the community,” he said. 

“If Doris says she doesn’t like something, I try to meet her needs to make her happy and she does the same for me,” he said.

Chet believes it’s important for couples to be kind to each other, to do simple things, like saying “good morning” and “good night,” and keeping each other informed of where they are.

After 55 years, he can tell if something is bothering her, so they talk about it.

“Love hides a multitude of faults,” he said, noting that the same dynamic is true in a church.

Many people have lost faith because someone in church leadership has made blunders in his/her ministry, he said.

Chet finds that people today are less faithful and less respectful.  Some feel anything goes, even in the church.

“People are peculiar.  We love and we hate,” he said.  “We need to pray for each other.  We are the living epistles.  We are the only Bible some people will see, so ministry comes in many forms to reach many lives.”

Doris added, “I see a lack of respect for self and others, especially among young people.  If we have more respect for one another it will make a difference.  Everyone is due real respect, even when they disrespect you.”

Chet said, “People often get bent out of shape over nothing.  People need to set their hearts right.  God does not care for one race over another.  We are a nice mix of people in our church,” he said.

Over the more than 50 years of marriage, Chet and Doris have seen some aspects of society improve because of the influence of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., but they know still more changes are needed.

“I rejoice in what has happened, but I pray for a better day,” he said.

“Jobs need to be more available for all God’s people,” he said.  “We sing ‘We Shall Overcome,’ but I ask ‘When?’

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Copyright © March 2014 - The Fig Tree