A Quick History of St. Andrew Presbyterian Church

 

            A Congregation is Born.  In 1959 Albuquerque was a city of 200,000 straddling the Rio Grande.  As housing development grew to the north and east of downtown, a group of Presbyterians saw the wisdom of a new church development to serve those who would inhabit these outer reaches of civilization.  For this purpose Earl and Lillian Montgomery donated a part of their ranchland to the Presbytery in 1957.  Three acres were set aside for a church and manse.  Montgomery Boulevard was unpaved at the time, and early members remember the Montgomerys' nearby ranch house and windmill.  Charter members came primarily from Immanuel and First Presbyterian Churches, which with La Mesa Presbyterian Church formally sponsored the new church development.   

The Rev. Earl S. Harvey, an Assistant Pastor at First Presbyterian Church, was appointed by the National Missions Committee as the organizing minister.  The first service of worship was held in the Albuquerque Square Dance building on January 4, 1959.  The hall was complete with wagon wheel and lantern chandeliers.  More than a hundred people attended this first service.  The new church development was named St. AndrewPresbyterian Church, and later the sign on Ponderosa Avenue would read "Home ofSt. Andrew Presbyterian Church," reminding all that the building is not itself the church, but where the church gathers.

 The formal organizing and chartering service, which lasted over two hours and included 15 baptisms, was held on February 22, 1959.  The Rev. Bill Lytle, later Moderator of the General Assembly, participated in the service.  The charter was officially closed on May 29 with a formal list of 134 members.

On September 27, 1959, there was a groundbreaking service for the construction of the original sanctuary (now the fellowship hall) and south wing of offices and classrooms.   By Palm Sunday (April 10, 1960) the building was complete and St. Andrew held the first service of worship in its own sanctuary, less than 14 months after its organizational service – quite fast for a new church development.  The service of dedication was held on May 22, 1960, and the sermon was delivered by "the cowboy missionary" Rev. Dr. Ralph Hall, who was also the father of Rev. Jim Hall, long-serving Director of Ghost Ranch.

 

            1959-1963: A Time of Rapid Growth. With the sanctuary completed, it was already apparent that the building was too small to accommodate this rapidly growing congregation.  With great reluctance, it was decided to divide into two Sunday services, at 8:30 and 11:00, beginning on May 1, 1960.   Membership grew to 244 in 1960, 337 in 1962, finally leveling off just over 400 members in 1963.  St. Andrew was officially declared to be a self-supporting congregation in 1961, just 32 months after its organization.  In January of 1963, St. Andrew ordained the first of many women to serve on its Session as Ruling Elders.  The Christian Education program swelled as well, with an average Sunday School attendance of 190 by the end of 1963.  A new Christian Education wing (the north wing beside the courtyard) was completed in June of 1963.  

Any new church must soon face the question of identity:  Who are we? What is our mission?  Pastor Harvey recalled, “There were those who wanted to be comfortable and left alone, and on the other hand there were those who insisted that the church exists for mission and that we are expendable.  The true test of what a congregation is made of was about to be tested. Would those who wanted to be comfortable and secure return back to Egypt, or would the voice of faith and the command to press forward toward the promised land prevail?  The voice of the latter group prevailed and the church began to be shaped by her vision of mission.”  

 

            1968-1978: The Worshipping Community.  After Earl Harvey accepted a new pastoral call in 1967, St. Andrew called its second pastor, the Rev. Harold M. Daniels, who brought a vision of worship as the central and defining activity of a Christian church.  Membership continued a decline from the 1964 peak, and one worship service again sufficed for Sunday mornings, but a larger proportion of members attended weekly worship and per-member pledging more than doubled.  The picture is of a smaller, more engaged community.  The mortgage was paid off, an Allen organ was purchased, and new traditions emerged including the Thanksgiving Breakfast prepared by men of the church (1968), celebration of Seder (1970) and Easter Vigil (1977). Dr. Daniels accepted a call to become the Executive Director of a new national Joint Office of Worship, and preached his last sermon as St. Andrew's pastor on August 20, 1978.   

 

            1979-1984: A Call to Service.  After an interim with Rev. Walter Dodds, the Rev. Robert H. Craig was installed as St. Andrew’s third pastor in 1979. Membership grew by 50% and pledging by 150%. The decision was made to build a new sanctuary to accommodate the congregation's growth, and groundbreaking occurred on March 5, 1982. To practice good stewardship in resources, the Session decided that the church building would be shared with a non-profit agency serving the community, and Share Your Care was chosen and participated in building planning.  The new sanctuary was dedicated in January of 1983, and Share Your Care moved in.  

Perhaps the most striking developments in the congregation during this period were in the area of Christian response to social problems.  The Christian Social Response Committee was organized into task forces addressing aging, criminal justice, hunger, Latin American concerns, peacemaking, refugee resettlement, and legislative impact.  The annual Alternative Christmas Fair (now Christmas for Others) began.

In June of 1983, the northern (UPC) and southern (PCUS) Presbyterian denominations were reunited after more than a century of separation that began with the Civil War. St. Andrew thus became part of the reunited Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA).  

 

            1985-1998: A Search for Personal Growth.  In 1985, Dr. Craig accepted a teaching and administrative post at McCormick Seminary, and in 1986 Rev. Robert Butziger was called to be our fourth installed pastor.  In the area of mission, this period was characterized particularly by ministries to and by individuals.  Dr. Butziger used his pastoral counseling skills, working with many individuals and families in personal need.  Members continued to provide strong support for community organizations such as the Storehouse, Cuidando Los Niños, and Habitat for Humanity. Various workshops and retreats were offered on marriage enrichment and personal spiritual growth.  A health ministries program was begun, and services of wholeness were initiated.

By the time of its 35thanniversary, St. Andrew was showing substantial signs of strain.  Membership steadily decreased, eventually falling below 200.  Pledges leveled off and staffing increased, resulting in a shortage of program funds.  After Dr. Butziger resigned in 1995, Rev. Carol Harrison served as Interim Pastor for two and a half years.  

 

            1998-2014:  Re-growth of Community.  Dr. Franklin Yates was called as our fifth permanent pastor in 1998. During 1999 all five of our installed pastors preached during the celebration of St. Andrew’s 40thanniversary. The sanctuary underwent extensive remodeling, the lighting and sound systems were improved, and the kitchen and playground were remodeled.  The “Famous Friends” program was begun and a new salaried staff position was created in 2000 for Director of Children and Youth Ministry.  Social justice ministries flourished, with the addition of a ministry to homeless and near homeless “neighborhood friends.”  Dr. Yates became St. Andrew’s longest serving pastor, along with David Ziems as our longest serving Director of Music. Particularly identifying as a teaching elder, he taught many adult CE classes and Bible studies at St. Andrew as well as courses at UNM and CNM.  The parish system stabilized, with a deacon serving each of seven parishes that were reorganized by geographic areas.  A strong Board of Deacons emerged, in one year providing over 2000 pastoral care contacts as home and hospital visits, cards and phone calls.  

 

          2015-2019: New Beginnings. Pastor Yates announced his retirement well in advance, and the congregation participated in the denomination’s “New Beginnings” process of reflection.  St. Andrew was capably served by a transitional leadership team of three pastors from within the congregation: Drs. Catherine Robinson, Rob Craig, and Bill Aber – collectively and affectionately known as the “Crabersons.” Rev. Cheryl Finch then served as our interim pastor for one year until Rev. Roger Scott Powers was called in December of 2015 as our sixth installed pastor, bringing a strong background in social justice ministries.  New developments quickly followed including a periodic Faith and Politics community forum, celebrating the 500thanniversary of the Protestant Reformation, becoming an Ally Church in the Sanctuary movement, hosting the New Mexico Peace Choir as its rehearsal site, and internal refinancing of the mortgage loan through endowment funds.  Our 60thanniversary was formally celebrated in worship on February 24 with Revs. Harvey, Craig, Yates, and Powers sharing the pulpit, and with a luncheon program on Saturday, March 2, 2019.

 

A more complete pictorial history of St. Andrew Presbyterian Church is available for digital download from the St. Andrew website, in CD format through the church office, or in hard copy for examination in the library

St. Andrew Presbyterian Church 

5301 Ponderosa Ave NE 

Albuquerque, NM 87110 

Office hours: Wed, Thur, Fri - 9:00 am to 5:00 pm

(505)881-9626 fax:(505)884-9636 

adm.standrewabq@aol.com

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