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Westminster Presbyterian closes one chapter

For 33 years, Sandy Brockway has been pastor of church.

Recognizing that there's a birth and death to everything, Sandy Brockway uplifts the vital role Westminster Presbyterian Church has had in West Central Spokane as it prepares to close after 119 years of ministry.

After more than 33 years as pastor, Sandy, 74, will retire.

The final service at Westminster Presbyterian is at 2 p.m., Sunday, April 28.

The church has served the community with a food bank, medical care, job training, after-school programs, young adult mentoring, neighborhood outreach, volunteer services and summer programs, along with worship, Bible study and congregational life.

"Sandy has had a long, amazing ministry," said Sheryl Kinder-Pyle, who, as executive presbyter of the Presbytery of the Inland Northwest, has been consulting with the church on closing.

"The presbytery wants a presence in West Central Spokane and wants to be sure members find a new church home," Sheryl said. "We don't plan to sell the building now and are discerning how we will continue ministry in the neighborhood."

Growing up attending Mission Avenue Presbyterian Church in Spokane, Sandy found faith central in her life. Her carpenter father often did odd jobs at the church.

After graduating in education in 1970 from Eastern Washington State College, she supported herself through school by working three years at Cheney Nursing Home. She then did substitute teaching and supplemented that income working at Sampson-Ayers Music Co., North Central Care Center and the former Custom Glass and Auto.

In 1973, Sandy became church secretary, youth minister and a parish worker at Mission Avenue Presbyterian.

When the Larger Urban Parish of Presbyterian churches started in 1987 with Bethany, Emmanuel, Mission Avenue and Westminster churches, Sandy became its youth director.

"The Larger Urban Parish put small churches together in a larger ministry," she said.

Sandy saw an opportunity and joined studies with three Nimiipuu lay pastors from Lapwai to become a commissioned lay pastor (CLP).

After finishing the program in 1990, Sandy became part-time pastor of Westminster Presbyterian, at 2705 W. Boone.

Several ministries were already in place.

The Presbytery Office was at Westminster before Christ Clinic and Christ Kitchen.

The church housed Christ Clinic to provide low-income neighbors with health care. It was run for many years by volunteer doctors who tended to both medical and spiritual needs.

It also housed Christ Kitchen at Westminster to help women seeking to gain job skills so they could escape lives marked by addiction, poverty and abuse. Women came to package dry foods and study the Bible. Now Christ Kitchen also does catering.

Both Christ Clinic and Christ Kitchen eventually moved to 2410 N. Monroe. Christ Clinic has since closed.

"Westminster opened the first food pantry in Spokane," Sandy said. "Others were modeled on it." The Spokane Food Bank, which started in 1971, supplied Westminster and nine other food bank sites with mostly canned goods and some dried beans and fruit.

The Spokane Food Bank became Second Harvest, which is part of Feeding America and supplies food in Eastern Washington and North Idaho.

Second Harvest continued to supply food and to supplement the Westminster Presbyterian Food Bank director's salary until 2023, Sandy said.

"For many years, the food bank gave government-issued surplus food such as flour and cheese," she added. "People lined up around the block to get food."

It also operated with donations from Second Harvest and from other Presbyterian churches, including Emmanuel, Hamblen, Knox, Northwood, Manito and Shadle Park.

"Those churches provided funding and volunteers, as well as food," she said.

Westminster also participated in founding and supporting Our Place Community Outreach Center at 1509 W. College Ave., sending funds and volunteers. She served on the West Central Ministries group of congregations that founded Our Place in 1988 and supported it for many years.

Our Place provides basic needs and services for West Central neighbors. It has a large food pantry and a loading dock to receive food.

"We transferred our clothing bank to Our Place," Sandy said.

The church, which was also a drop-in center for people needing help, joined six Presbyterian churches in 2002 to build a Habitat for Humanity house nearby and helped start COPS West, a neighborhood police station.

Westminster Presbyterian also had Boy Scout Troop #1.

Each year since 1992, five to six Whitworth University graduates lived nearby at 2612 W. Gardner in Westminster House. They helped with Logos, a Wednesday Bible study for children ages five to 12. They also helped with the after-school program for 40 children from Holmes Elementary School who came for activities and homework help. It was a safe drop-in center for children.

The graduates paid $50 a month for rent to live in Westminster House. Along with other half-time jobs, they served the church and neighborhood. Several went on into various types of ministry careers.

During the summers, youth groups came from churches in Tampa, Fla., Beaverton, Ore., and other communities around the nation to lead vacation Bible school programs.

Westminster Presbyterian has also offered its building for a weight-loss group, a singing group and a Native American neighborhood group led by retired Presbyterian pastor Tom Sutherland. A 2005 Fig Tree article reported that the church also offered cooking classes through Washington State University and Native American worship services.

Sandy said her ministry of presence in the neighborhood has been one of "providing love for the unloved."

The congregation drew both people who needed care and who would give care to each other.

The West Central area, which once was a middle-class neighborhood, became what was known as "felony flats," with many low-income, marginalized families and people caught in drug addiction and gangs living in deteriorating homes, Sandy said. Now Kendall Yards townhomes border it on the south.

At its peak, Westminster had 199 members. Now it has 26 members, with 15 to 26 attending Sundays, including some from the neighborhood. When Sandy came, there were 85.

Along with Sunday worship, there is a Thursday morning Bible study.

"We went from being a mission church with an active ministry to a church that is struggling," Sandy said.

"I have used my gifts to maintain the ministry through ups and downs, but now the presbytery will close the church and consider options to continue its presence through new use of the building and property," said Sandy, who will help church members find places to worship.

Sandy expects many may attend Emmanuel Presbyterian, because Westminster and Emmanuel worshiped together six times a year for many years.

For information, call 328-5002.

Copyright@ The Fig Tree, April 2024