Search PNC News for stories of people and churches in our UCC Conference:

Andy CastroLang retires after 20 years at Westminster UCC

After 20 years as pastor of Westminster Congregational United Church of Christ (UCC) in Spokane, Andrea (Andy) CastroLang will retire Aug. 31—because she is turning 65.

Andy CastroLang

“I’m retiring on a high note with Westminster and me in a good place, so we will have a good good-bye,” she said. “Westminster is ready to be challenged by a new leader. I’ve given them my best. It’s someone else’s turn.

Rather than the usual 60 to 90 days notice, Westminster consulted with Pacific Northwest UCC Conference Minister Mike Denton and Minister of Church Vitality Courtney Stange-Tregear on options.

Unlike usual transitions in the UCC to have an interim, Westminster chose a mentor successor model. On April 4, they called their new pastor Bob Feeney, who will move from Wellesley, Mass., to Spokane July 1 to have two months of overlap time with Andy.

When Andy leaves, she will cut contact with the church for 18 months, so the new pastor can establish bonds. She will attend worship at First Congregational UCC in Colville, where her husband, Jim, is pastor, or will worship with many churches are doing hybrid worship. She can also worship with her first UCC home, United Churches of Olympia and other PNC churches she knows from serving two years as moderator and on the N-Sid-Sen Camp Advisory Committee.

Andy helped establish the PNC model for someone to serve as vice moderator one year, moderator two years, and one year as immediate past moderator for continuity.

She realized it would be hard to follow a pastor who had served the church for 20 years. She remembers arriving at Westminster in 2002, being handed two folders by the interim minister and then having to take time to meet the people and sort out the ministry.

The usual pattern in the UCC is for an interim to help a church heal from any problems, but Westminster is not in any conflict.

It has momentum that includes:

• Ekklesia groups are looking at future options for the church to use its space at 4th and Washington and options for ministry beyond the location.

• Tuesday Night Talks, started in COVID and replaced Sunday adult forums. They explored racism last year and are looking at spirituality and activism now.

• A strong, active youth group is studying issues, taking cookies to elders, finding ways to serve Afghan refugees, learning about the Holocaust and connecting with Samoan efforts to remove a racist statue.

• Spokane Alliance involvement over more than Andy’s 20 years provides ongoing relationship building and community organizing, involving members in sharing stories to discern issues such as health care, apprentice workers, affordable housing and more.

• Strong financial support and the possibility of 200 new neighbors in a six story apartment building planned for part of the block the church is on.

In 2005, the church was in a financial crisis and sold an apartment building next door, the Discovery School—formerly the church’s education wing—and a parking lot for Spokane Housing Ventures to develop affordable housing.

“We put some proceeds in our Second Century Fund and used the rest to help the church sustain itself,” she said.

The 2008 economic downturn meant Spokane Housing Ventures sold the property. The new owners discovered asbestos, stalling plans. A new developer plans apartments for young single people, health workers and college students who want to live near downtown.

The church decided not to pause to search for an interim and then for a permanent pastor.

They thought with an overlap the new minister would get to know the church and community while the church builds trust in that person. Andy would share what she knows and her connections in the community.

“Westminster has many committed, energetic lay leaders,” she said. “We have already set statements of who we are.”

Andy said that her sticking through 20 years at the church was inspired by a book she read early in her ministry about pastors needing to commit to a place through good times and bad as “a form of spiritual discipline.”

That spoke to her, because she was influenced by Benedictine spirituality often going with her parents to a Benedictine monastery.

“Benedictine vows are not just poverty, chastity and obedience, but also include a vow to stability—not to get up and go when things get tough but to see if they can work through,” she said.

“There is much dismay, distrust and toxic relationships in churches as in society, but we are not to give up on people,” she said, telling of a conflict with a small group. The church evaluated her ministry and decided she was a good fit, so she renewed her call to the church.

“In my 20 years, there have been ups and downs,” she said. “By hanging in, the church was able to see what it was capable of, what it wanted to be and where it was going.”

Community organizing with the Spokane Alliance taught Andy what she felt intuitively that relationships endure beyond differences of opinion. Building meaningful relationships is more than talking over coffee on Sunday.

“The UCC covenant holds us together based on love and commitment,” said Andy, adding that she is ecumenical and interfaith.

“What I love about the church is we grow and grow and grow. We want to do better so we challenge ourselves to be better Jesus followers,” she said. “We show up and do what we have to do.”

For information, call 624-1366 or visit


Pacific NW Conference United Church News - © April 2022


Share this article on your favorite social media Bookmark and Share