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Catherine Chambers has often been introduced to audiences as the Queen Mother of the United Pentecostal Church. Indeed she is a lady of royalty. She carries herself with great dignity and beauty at the age of eighty-nine. Her love for people and her love for her church make her the queen that she is.
Catherine was not born into royalty. She comes from the simple strong roots of immigrant parents. She was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Ukrainian parents, Peter and Pelagia Strepka.
The family belonged to the Russian Orthodox Church. When Catherine was seven years old, a minister of the gospel visited their home. He brought the biblical message of salvation to the Stepka family. This visit was the beginning of home prayer meetings among the Strepka circle of immigrant friends and relatives.
Seven-year-old Catherine was a part of all these spiritual activities. She was the very first person in the group to be filled with the Holy Ghost, speaking in other tongues as the Spirit gave her utterance. Soon she was baptized in the name of Jesus.
Many others in that prayer group also received the Holy Ghost and were baptized. Among these were her mother, father, aunt, uncle, cousins, and later sister, Marie (Yarbrough), and brother, David.
Catherine was a smart gregarious youngster with many friends. She hoped to go to college and become a teacher, but this was not God’s plan for her life.
At the age of nineteen, she was one of the hostesses at a youth rally being conducted in her home church in Brooklyn. One of the people she greeted that night was a young man who was new to the New York City area. His name was Stanley Chambers, and he had come to New York from Ohio to be the office manager of a thriving company.
Stanley was immediately attracted to the friendly pretty hostess he met at the door. Soon this attraction turned into a friendship, and then the lifelong bond of marriage.
Catherine was aware that God was calling Stanley into the ministry. One night at the end of a service in the Manhattan church, Pastor Andrew Urshan came to Catherine with a message: “God wants me to tell you that he is going to use Stanley in the ministry and that you are to follow him wherever God leads him.” The message was prophetic.
Soon Catherine would be called upon to leave her beloved New York City and travel to Hazleton, Pennsylvania, to fill the role of pastor’s wife. During that time, the young couple also started a church in Sunbury, Pennsylvania.
In 1945, Catherine and Stanley attended a special meeting in St. Louis, Missouri. This was the meeting in which Apostolic ministers came together from all over the country to form the United Pentecostal Church (UPC). Stanley was asked to take the minutes of the meeting.
How shocked the young couple was when the ministers elected Stanley at the young age of thirty to serve as the general secretary of the newly formed organization. By this time, Catherine had given birth to two daughters, Jean and Judy. They would now move their young family to St. Louis, Missouri, where they would take up residence in the small headquarters building of the United Pentecostal Church.
Stanley served as general secretary of the UPC for twenty-two years. He then became the general superintendent and served another ten years. During his thirty-two-year tenure, the church grew exponentially. Meanwhile, Catherine was always there. When they were not traveling together, she taught Sunday school, administrated vacation Bible schools, and spoke to ladies groups internationally. She also authored two books and wrote many articles.
During this time, God gave them two more wonderful children, Larry and Jerolyn. They dedicated these children to God, just as they had their other two daughters. Little did they anticipate that the sorrow of their lives would come when their son died of leukemia at the age of twenty-three, just after he entered the ministry. Great grief would evolve into great hope as they diligently returned to the work God had given them.
After thirty-two years of service, the Chambers resigned their position of leadership. Another surprise awaited them. Stanley Chambers was asked to serve as superintendent of the Missouri District. The Chamberses labored together for another ten years, encouraging and ministering to the people of the Missouri District.
In the latter years of Catherine’s life with Stanley, they worked as short-term missionaries to Austria. She loved being a pastor’s wife again, even though they lived in less than ideal circumstances. She gave herself with great joy to this stage of their lives. Many friends from Austria still keep in contact with her on a regular basis.
Stanley and Catherine live on in the lives of their three remaining children, ten grandchildren, and twenty great-grandchildren. Judy and Jerolyn both graduated from universities with teaching degrees, something Catherine had always longed to do.
Jerolyn Kelley and family have contributed twenty-five years of service ministering throughout the countries of Scotland, Ireland, and Northern England where they have helped establish ten churches.
Judy Bentley and family have established churches both stateside and overseas. They ministered for eight years in the countries of the former Soviet Union, including the country of Ukraine.
Jean Cowell and family founded Whitestone Country Inn where they offer their unique gift of hospitality to ministers and missionaries from all over the world.
In June 2004, Catherine lost her beloved Stanley. He was eighty-eight years of age and she was eighty-three. Life would now take her down a road she had never chosen for herself. She chose to make peace with the Lord over her new role of widowhood.
Catherine Chambers remains strong, alert, and very much involved with the church she loves. In the morning, she rises early to work out at the local gym near her house. She is daily involved with the many friends she has made over the years.
There is now time to spend with her three daughters, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. There are many preachers in the family and many youngsters who have been baptized and filled with the Holy Ghost.
Catherine lives as a reminder of a great generation of believers who stood strong and left a royal legacy.
For more information read Ship Ahoy! The Life and Times of Stanley and Catherine Chambers by Judith Bentley.