Holy Trinity’s Rev. Andrews feels right at home in Vicksburg

Published 7:54 pm Thursday, March 21, 2019

The first thing you see when you meet the Rev. Andy Andrews is a broad smile and a bright gleam in his eye.

“Andy Andrews,” he says as he shakes someone’s hand and immediately makes them feel at ease.

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The new rector of Church of the Holy Trinity came to Vicksburg after serving as the dean, or chief priest of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Memphis, Tennessee, for 12 years. “I’ve been here since Wednesday, Feb. 20,” he said. “My first Sunday service was Feb. 24. A beautiful crowd turned up on that first Sunday; it’s been robust ever since.”

A Greenville native and graduate of the University of Mississippi, Andrews has been a priest for 22 years. He and his wife Anne have three sons, Ferris 16, Sam 14 and Will 12. Since his ordination, all of his assignments have been to communities along the Mississippi River.

“I’ve served up and down the river, not intentionally, but some magnetic force has kept me close by,” he said. But then he has had a connection with the river that goes back to his ancestors.

“I have family ties here,” Andrews said. “I’m already discovering why the Andrews family and as well as my grandmother, who is a Ross, why the Andrews and Ross families lived here for at least two generations, may be three.

His father, he said, lived in Vicksburg until he was 16, and then moved with his family to New Orleans, because Andrews’ grandfather was a mechanic on towboats.

“I find it refreshing, exciting and mysterious how I get to bring the Andrews family back to Vicksburg to hopefully enrich it, and hopefully help all of us prosper even more, to enjoy and to celebrate.

“The river, I think, has a song for everyone, at least that’s what I’ve been told, and I feel such inspiration and I recognize it as a beautiful natural resource.”

Drawn to serve others

As a child, he said, he used to spend time on the river, skiing on the river and having long conversations on the river. Living in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, then Memphis, and now in Vicksburg, his appreciation deepens at its marvel.

Andrews said the joy of serving others, “And the great Christian art of becoming selfless and filled with compassion is what drew him to the ministry.

“I felt led to live a life where I really did not just try to practice the Christian principles but live them, and in doing that, I found that the world is brand new and sparkling, the possibilities are fresh every morning,” he said.

“The same spirit I’ve trusted throughout my life surprised me when the possibility of coming to Vicksburg and the door opened here,” he said.

Serving at St. Mary’s in Memphis he said, “Was a privilege, a good rich experience there; fantastic.”

But when he saw the letter inviting him into the process to apply for the opening in Vicksburg, “It stood out over other letters I had received.

Back to his roots

Vicksburg, he said was not a part of his 10-year goals, but “I’ve really seen so many bright spots and seen so many impressive people and been wowed by how Vicksburg is in bloom, the quality of positive feeling here is really overwhelming and refreshing. People have been incredibly nice and interested.”

And while he has several “learning curves” as he adjusts to his parish, Andrews said coming to Vicksburg “has returned me to my roots — learning rhythms with our wonderful music department, learning the office here as well as teaching and preaching more.

“(In Memphis) I worked on a very eclectic and talented staff, so I didn’t preach every Sunday. I didn’t teach every Sunday, but here, I have been busy, which is wonderful; I feel blessed by that.”

He looks forward to meeting people in the church “and hearing their faith stories, hear about the miracles that have happened in their life. That’s what I’m interested in.

“Being a priest, it’s so wonderful to see how the Holy Spirit works and manifests itself in people’s lives, and how so many people know what death is, but they also know what the resurrection is.

“They know not only what being pulled down is like, but being raised up together; that’s powerful; hopeful. I get to learn about all the marvels the creator does in other people’s life and I get to hear it and I get to share it.

“I do believe a blessing can’t be kept; when you receive something good for you and good for the faithful and the community, you’ve got to share it. By giving it away, you get to keep it.”

Andrews said he is impressed with Vicksburg, its growth, diversity and its commitment to preserving tradition and honoring it, and drawing inspiration from its past.

“I believe in the future of Vicksburg; I believe the future of the world is bright.  That’s the good news I have to share.”

Concerning his work at Holy Trinity, Andrews said, “It’s joy to be surrounded by the smell of gumbo in your church; it’s almost as good as incense, frankincense and mer.”

The tradition of Episcopalians, he said, is to inspire by beauty.

“We don’t really wag fingers, we try to inspire from within with beauty, good food, good music; we use our brains and our hearts to read scripture and live out our lives.

“I’m really impressed with the ministry of the church, the way it has served the community, the way it has flavored Vicksburg for 150 years, it seems like it’s a gathering place, a meeting ground; a place of inspiration and refreshment a place of hope.”

And he hopes to continue the church’s success.

“It’s been my experience that the spirit is always emerging from the bottom up; new creative ways to be humans, new creative ways to serve each other; that’s what I’m looking for.

“I’ve already found so many assets; recognized so many spiritual strengths and gifts in people, that my plan for the first year I’m here is just survey and discover and recognize all the good things that have been already happening here and try to build on the success of Holy Trinity.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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