End of an era

Pas­tor Paul An­dell of St. James Luther­an Church at Castor Ave. and Pratt St. is re­tir­ing after 39 years. KEV­IN COOK / FOR THE TIMES

It was back in 1972 that the Rev. Paul An­dell ar­rived at St. James Evan­gel­ic­al Luther­an Church, at Castor Av­en­ue and Pratt Street, as a young as­sist­ant pas­tor.

At the time, the pas­tor was the Rev. Joseph L. Schantz. He served for 28 years un­til he died of liv­er can­cer at age 58 in Feb­ru­ary 1975.

By the spring of that year, the con­greg­a­tion voted on wheth­er to make An­dell the per­man­ent pas­tor.

Some 87 per­cent of the flock gave the OK, and An­dell has been in place ever since.

“I nev­er thought I’d be here longer than my pre­de­cessor or that it would be my only call, that I wouldn’t have an­oth­er church,” he said.

Known to most as “Pas­tor Paul,” his last day on the pul­pit was June 12. He’ll re­tire as a young-look­ing 65-year-old.

Next week, he will drive to his new home in Min­nesota.

The move to the up­per Mid­w­est will be a home­com­ing, in a way. In 1968, he gradu­ated with a his­tory de­gree from Augs­burg Col­lege in Min­neapol­is. In 1970, he did an in­tern­ship in the state, serving two rur­al churches that were 20 miles apart.

In Min­nesota, he met a young wo­man named Pam who would go on to be­come his wife. The two raised a fam­ily in North­wood and wouldn’t have a prob­lem re­tir­ing in the neigh­bor­hood, where the vast ma­jor­ity of res­id­ents take pride in their prop­er­ties. 

“I love Phil­adelphia and I love St. James,” he said. “I think it’s a great city, and I have loved do­ing min­istry here.”


The An­dells spent their sum­mer va­ca­tions in Min­nesota, where Pam’s child­hood home sits near a lake.

The couple have a big mort­gage on that home, and Min­nesota tax law re­quires some­body to live there half the year to meet the primary res­id­ence re­quire­ment. Thus, Pam has lived there six months out of the year for the last sev­en years.

The An­dells spent their first five years in Phil­adelphia liv­ing on Pratt Street, fol­lowed by a 32-year stay on Wakeling Street in a St. James-owned home. They’ve lived again on Pratt Street since 2009.

Rev. An­dell, who was born in Rhode Is­land and gradu­ated from high school in Miami, will spend his free time trav­el­ing, read­ing and be­ing with his fam­ily, but he ex­pects a ma­jor ad­just­ment. He and his wife will be liv­ing in the coun­try, near the town of Aitkin.

“It’ll be very dra­mat­ic,” he said of the life­style change. “It’ll be one of the great­er chal­lenges of my life.”

The An­dells’ new church will be Beth­le­hem Luther­an Church. He’s kept in touch with some mem­bers for more than 40 years, dat­ing to his days as an in­tern, and has formed close friend­ships.

Still, the couple will also re­main mem­bers of St. James. Their three chil­dren — old­est son Todd died in 1990 — and five grand­chil­dren, ages 2 to 10, at­tend ser­vices at the church.

“We’re go­ing to sup­port St. James fin­an­cially,” he said.


In Min­nesota, An­dell might have the op­por­tun­ity to per­form wed­dings or fu­ner­als, and he would prob­ably ac­cept an in­ter­im po­s­i­tion at a church that is seek­ing a pas­tor.

Hav­ing worked in the big city for al­most four dec­ades, he thinks he can be a con­sult­ant to an urb­an min­istry in Min­neapol­is. He has plenty of en­ergy left and is in good health.

“I think I really need to con­tin­ue, but I don’t want to do it sev­enty hours a week,” he said, not­ing his heavy work­load at St. James.

An­dell, a fourth-gen­er­a­tion Luther­an pas­tor, will drive to his new home on June 29, but most of his be­long­ings have already made the trip. His wife has been there for six weeks, and he will head out only with a car-full of books and pa­pers.

The out­go­ing pas­tor has been busy of late, per­form­ing a dozen bap­tisms and only in re­cent days re­lin­quish­ing po­s­i­tions as pres­id­ent of the His­tor­ic­al So­ci­ety of Frank­ford and mem­ber of the North­east Phil­adelphia Hall of Fame steer­ing com­mit­tee. He also served for 21 years on the board of dir­ect­ors of the Frank­ford Lions Club.

As An­dell leaves, St. James — which opened in 1926 and re­mains the largest Luther­an church in Phil­adelphia — has a steady mem­ber­ship of 500 house­holds and 1,200 people. About one-fifth of the house­holds are in the 19124 ZIP code.

“We’re a North­east Phil­adelphia church. We don’t have par­ish bound­ar­ies,” he ex­plained.

The in­ter­im pas­tor will be the Rev. Dav­id Mc­Get­tigan, who was re­com­men­ded by An­dell and the par­ish coun­cil. An­dell an­nounced in Feb­ru­ary that he was re­tir­ing, and a task force has been look­ing for a suc­cessor for four months.


Each Sunday, there are four ser­vices, in­clud­ing a grow­ing 12:30 p.m. Span­ish ser­vice that star­ted last fall. As North­wood’s demo­graph­ics have changed, the church has also be­come a little more di­verse.

St. James hosts meet­ings for the North­wood Civic As­so­ci­ation, Nar­cot­ics An­onym­ous and Al­co­hol­ics An­onym­ous. It’s also the polling place for voters in the 23rd Ward, 10th Di­vi­sion.

Over the years, more than $1 mil­lion has been spent for church renov­a­tions and im­prove­ments.

The preschool, foun­ded 38 years ago, is flour­ish­ing.

Fif­teen years ago, the church began train­ing lay lead­ers as Steph­en Min­is­ters, al­low­ing them to make hos­pit­al vis­its, pray with people and coun­sel the griev­ing.

An­dell sees St. James, which also serves as a dis­tri­bu­tion site for the Aid For Friends food char­ity, as a “com­munity” church.

“We’ve be­come a par­ish that provides hos­pit­al­ity to all people. That’s one of my greatest sat­is­fac­tions through the years,” he said.

One ma­jor move took place last Decem­ber, when 92 per­cent of mem­bers of St. James voted to leave the Evan­gel­ic­al Luther­an Church in Amer­ica and join the 600-church Luther­an Con­greg­a­tions in Mis­sion for Christ.

“It makes St. James more in­de­pend­ent,” An­dell said. “We’re all about the gos­pel and all about the mis­sion, in the name of Christ.”

An­dell will be missed by his con­greg­a­tion and people in the com­munity.

Debbie Klak, a former pres­id­ent of the His­tor­ic­al So­ci­ety of Frank­ford, de­scribed him as a fix­ture in the Frank­ford/North­wood area.

“It’s a big loss to the com­munity and the So­ci­ety,” she said.


Jack Mc­Carthy, pro­ject dir­ect­or for the North­east Phil­adelphia Hall of Fame, said An­dell’s strength is his abil­ity to make or­gan­iz­a­tions be­ne­fit com­munit­ies at large.

“In any or­gan­iz­a­tion, wheth­er a his­tor­ic­al so­ci­ety or a church, it’s easy to get caught up in day-to-day mat­ters and lose sight of the more fun­da­ment­al reas­on of why you’re here,” he said. “Paul keeps that big­ger pic­ture in mind.”

Sis­ter Eileen Maguire, who has served as the par­ish so­cial min­is­ter at St. Mar­tin of Tours since 1986, said An­dell works well with oth­er people. She teamed with him and a former St. Mar­tin’s pas­tor, the Rev. An­thony Jan­ton, on a hous­ing min­istry. She would of­ten see him at hos­pit­als vis­it­ing the ill.

“He has an un­tir­ing de­vo­tion to the sick,” she said. “His heart is in­ves­ted in the church and neigh­bor­hood. He taught me what it’s like to min­is­ter.”

Janice Man­nal, own­er of Man­nal Fu­ner­al Home, said An­dell has ex­traordin­ary pas­tor­al skills, He’d of­ten preside at a fu­ner­al ser­vice for an in­di­vidu­al with no church af­fil­i­ation, and the de­ceased’s fam­ily would al­ways ap­pre­ci­ate his work. He even filled in at the last second at a fu­ner­al at Deer Mead­ows when the chap­lain be­came ill.

“Nobody does his home­work like Paul,” Man­nal said. “He is one of a kind. I’m go­ing to miss him like crazy.”

An­dell will be back in town in late Septem­ber and early Oc­to­ber to per­form four wed­dings. He also has his chil­dren and grandkids in the area.

Look­ing back on 39 years at St. James, An­dell has noth­ing but fond memor­ies.

“The whole thing has been ex­hil­ar­at­ing,” he said. ••

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­ing@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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