A History of St. Andrew's
St. Andrew’s was founded from a nucleus of ten families in 1951 to respond to the rapidly growing area of northwest Des Moines, under the episcopate of the Rt. Rev. Gordon V Smith, 6th bishop of Iowa. The original wooden ‘white building’ was completed in time for Christmas services that same year. In the first year, the church grew to 80 families and additional land was purchased for expansion. Groundbreaking for a new brick church building with a full basement was held in May, 1955. The new church was dedicated in April, 1956. An educational wing was added onto the property in 1962.
The first rector of St. Andrew’s, the Rev. Robert W. Kem, served the parish from 1951 through his retirement in December, 1987. Over the years, several individuals assisted/exchanged hats with Father Kem including exchange priest, the Rev. John Hodgkinson, numerous curates, and the Rev Peter Pintus, deacon.
In February of 1989 a Celebration of New Ministry took place in 1989 to welcome the Rev G. Wayne Smith. Significant building and property improvements completed during Wayne’s tenure included the installation of an elevator, re-organization of the worship space, and creation of a Memory Garden. Under Wayne’s leadership, and the leadership of the Rt. Rev C. Christopher Epting, 8th bishop of the Diocese of Iowa, several ideas took root that began to change the way parishioners viewed themselves and their role in the church and in the wider community. One of these was the renewal of the catechumenate (the institution by which people are prepared for church membership through a course of religious instruction.) The first catechumenate group formed in 1991. Another was the renewal of the permanent diaconate. In April of 1996, St. Andrew's member Margaret (Peggy) Harris was ordained to the diaconate, and served from St. Andrew’s until her retirement in 2012. The re-organization of the worship space brought physical changes to reflect changes in attitudes. A new altar table, designed and built by a member of the congregation, was relocated closer to the congregation. A larger baptismal font, with 50 gallon capacity, designed and built by the same parishioner, reflects increased emphasis on baptismal ministry.
The Rev. Peggy Harris was instrumental in developing a refugee ministry from St. Andrew’s. Under Peggy’s leadership, a Muslim community of Darfur refugees began meeting and praying in the original ‘white building’. Additionally, with Peggy’s help, St. Andrew’s reached out to a Christian (Anglican) community of Dinka refugees. The Dinka’s hold a worship service every Sunday afternoon in the St. Andrew’s sanctuary.
Wayne was called to a new ministry as the bishop of Missouri, and was consecrated in 2002. Interim rector the Reverend Kristy Smith served St. Andrew’s from 2002-2004. Kristy continued some of the changes instituted by Wayne Smith, including a regular roster of lay preachers preaching at Sunday services. In 2004, we welcomed a new rector, the Rev. Sharon Mahood. Sharon served until her retirement in 2011.
In the 2000’s St. Andrew’s redoubled efforts to reach out to members of the lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual community. This renewal is represented in the simple phrase “Pray, Think, Act” that we use as a constant reminder of how we strive to approach our work. Over the last several years, St. Andrew’s has had a significant presence in the Annual Gay Pride Parade. We also completed a renovation of the undercroft, including a major effort to remodel the kitchen.
The Rev Dr. Georgia Humphrey served as interim priest from October, 2011 until April, 2015. A phrase that captures the spirit of Georgia’s relationship with and support of the congregation is, “There are no couch potatoes at St. Andrew’s”. During Georgia’s time with us, we expanded the Sunday School program, reached out to the community through a summer lunch program for school-aged children, and participated in joint celebrations with our Darfur and Dinka neighbors. She led us in developing a sense of pride reflected in the phrase, “We are St. Andrew’s” which has resulted in greater participation in many church activities.
In 2012 we began our Orange Bucket campaign to collect loose change at services to support food needs in the community. We have contributed to Hunger Hike and, currently, Food Bank of Iowa. Through 2020 we contributed over $40,000.
In May of 2015 The Rev. Steve Godfrey was called as our half-time rector. St. Andrew’s moved to a ½ time rector in order to involve more members in church leadership and, more importantly, to allow us to financially invest more in outreach to our immediate and greater community. In 2019 we were able to move Steve to ¾ time and still maintain our outreach programs. Under Steve’s leadership St. Andrew’s increased it’s commitment to involvement in the LGBTQ+ community and to expanding outreach to our nearby community. The number of AA meetings increased to four nights per week. On December 14, 2019, St. Andrew's member Elizabeth Gillman was ordained as a Deacon.
On 3/12/2020 St. Andrew’s responded to the Corona virus pandemic by instituting recommended procedures; masking, social distancing, etc. The last in person service was held on March 15, 2020. On March 19, 2020, all in person services, meetings and events were cancelled. With many changes, efforts in social justice and community service continued. On September 12, 2020 St. Andrew's member Eric Rucker was ordained to the diaconnate. In November our Dinka community became an independent parish, Trinity Cush. They continue to meet in St. Andrew’s building. On February 13, 2021, the Rev. Elizabeth Gillman was ordained to the Priesthood.
During the pandemic Zoom meetings became an important part of St. Andrew’s gathering. Services, committee meetings, social activities, and more moved to Zoom. As vaccinations increase and a potential end to the quarantining appears to be in sight we are working diligently to incorporate lessons learned during the pandemic and to find ways to once again meet and worship in person.
St. Andrew’s continues to grow, to reach out to each other and to serve our greater community. Our visions and hopes for the future are to continue to grow in these areas.