The Rev. Dr. Fred Andrea was expecting a routine worship service on Sunday morning at First Baptist Church on the corner of York Street and Richland Avenue. Instead, it turned out to be something very special.

Fellow members of First Baptist’s staff and the congregation surprised the senior pastor with a 20th anniversary celebration of his leadership.

“I feel like Sergeant Schultz on (the television show) ‘Hogan’s Heroes;’ I knew nothing,” Andrea said.

Deacon Ronnie Rogers opened the service with a speech about Andrea. The anthem was a choral version of “Benedictus de Amor,” which had been commissioned especially for Andrea’s big day, said James Bennett, First Baptist’s associate minister in music and worship. St. Catharine College’s Teresa Tedder, who wrote the piano duet and then adapted it, traveled from Kentucky to be at the service.

Following Andrea’s sermon, Gordon Eisenman gave the senior pastor and his wife, Barbara Morgan, an envelope that he said contained “a token of appreciation” from the congregation. A standing ovation followed.

Andrea and his wife remained at the front of the sanctuary afterward, accepting hugs and thanks from congregation members both young and old. The couple also got to take home the oakleaf hydrangeas that decorated the sanctuary.

“It was heartwarming and humbling and overwhelming and more than I can process at the moment,” Andrea said. “There is a great expression of love that I certainly feel for the folks of this church and the community. To be on the receiving end of that is astonishing.”

Andrea, 61, is a native of Greenville. He is a graduate of Spartanburg High School, Clemson University and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he earned his Master of Divinity and Doctor of Philosophy degrees.

Prior to joining First Baptist’s staff in Aiken, he served as the pastor of Rock Creek Baptist Church in Westport, Ind., Augusta Heights Baptist Church in Greenville and First Baptist Church in Savannah, Ga.

In addition, Andrea has held numerous prominent positions in the Aiken community over the years. He is a past president of the Rotary Club of Aiken and a past chair of the Greater Aiken Chamber of Commerce. He was the Chamber of Commerce’s Man of the Year in 2001.

Andrea said “the joy of deep, meaningful relationships with people in the church and the community” is the most satisfying aspect of his association with First Baptist. At one point, he was a member of the church’s congregation before becoming a pastor.

Cathy Cole, who worked with Andrea when he was at Augusta Heights Baptist Church, is the chaplain at Aiken Regional Medical Centers and the chair of First Baptist’s deacons.

“He is one of the most thoughtful, compassionate pastors that I have ever known,” Cole said. “He’s a very dedicated person who goes the extra mile to care for church folks and people in the community. He will call me if he knows someone in the community, as well as anyone in our church, that he feels might appreciate visits while they are in the hospital.”

Cole added that Andrea has a “fabulous memory” and “always remembers everyone’s name.”

There’s only one problem, according to Cole.

“Unfortunately, he’s a Clemson fan,” she said with a smile. “I’m a (University of) Georgia fan.”

Bonnie Pattison, a member of First Baptist’s congregation, also praised Andrea.

“He’s always there; he’s always available,” she said. “He’s a great leader, and he’s a good friend. He and Barbara work so well together.”

Morgan is a former South Carolina 2nd Judicial Circuit Solicitor. She is the executive producer and managing partner of Bellawood Productions.

Dede Biles is a general assignment reporter for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since January 2013. A native of Concord, N.C., she graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.