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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Whitworth honors chaplain, who students affectionately call ‘Mama Beans,’ for 28 years of service

“You know I love me some Jesus,” said the Rev. Stephy Nobles-Beans, associate chaplain for diversity, equity & inclusion ministry, as she emceed the Gospel Explosion Finale Friday at Whitworth University. After 28 years, Nobles-Beans, known on campus as “Mama Beans,” is retiring from Whitworth in May.  (Colin Mulvany/The Spokesman-Review)

Rev. Stephy Nobles-Beans ended her 28-year career at Whitworth University the way she wanted – praising Jesus with her friends, colleagues and students.

The university celebrated Nobles-Beans, affectionately called “Mama Beans,” Friday night at the finale of the Gospel Explosion, which Nobles-Beans started 25 years ago.

Musicians, singers, praise dancers and other artists from local churches gather each year at the university’s Seeley G. Mudd Chapel to praise and worship God.

Nobles-Beans, associate chaplain for diversity, equity and inclusion ministry, will retire in May.

“I hope that I have made a difference in the lives of people,” Nobles-Beans said. “And they tell me, ‘Mama, you have.’ ”

She said she got the name “Mama Beans” from a former Whitworth student, Christopher Matsin, who said she reminded him of his mother who had died.

“That is a name of endearment that every student that meets me, they know I’m Mama Beans,” she said.

Patricia Ledlow, pastor at Church of Berachah on the South Hill, told The Spokesman-Review she met Nobles-Beans in 1990 at a church service and they became best friends.

She said she and Nobles-Beans started Church of Berachah, of which Nobles-Beans is the assistant pastor, 21 years ago.

“We have the same love for Jesus, and God called us to start a church,” Ledlow said.

Ledlow described her friend as loving and compassionate.

“She will just run herself ragged until she’s just totally exhausted just trying to help people and love people,” she said.

Nobles-Beans has helped people in the Spokane community for decades, including homeless people, Ledlow said.

She has gathered Christmas gifts for women and children, and volunteered at the Union Gospel Mission. Ledlow said her friend caters to women who have been abused because Nobles-Beans has been a victim herself.

She’s a seamstress, poet, singer and author of books, a woman of many talents, Ledlow said.

“This is going to be a very sad departure,” Ledlow said, calling Nobles-Beans a Whitworth celebrity who will be well-missed.

Ledlow said Nobles-Beans captivates people with her voice, which comes from her soul.

“She is fulfilling her calling,” Ledlow said.

Trisha Coder, Whitworth spokeswoman, recognized Nobles-Beans Friday with the Providence 2024 Sister Peter Claver Humanitarian Award, which Providence awarded her this week.

Part of the award stated Nobles-Beans opened her home to 25 women and 28 children who were victims of abuse between 2009 and 2017. She is the first Black woman to receive the award.

Nobles-Beans credited Jesus for the award, saying he elevated her to places she thought she’d never reach.

“If I want them to remember anything, they will know that I love Jesus more than anything,” she said.

Wearing a black dress and using her jubilant voice, Nobles-Beans thanked musicians, choir members, dancers and everyone else in the room who meant so much to her, including Ledlow, who she called her “ride or die.”

She asked Whitworth students to stand.

“Mama Beans loves you guys,” Nobles-Beans told them.

Nobles-Beans, 69, said she looks forward to the second chapter in her life, which will include working for Shades of Motherhood Network, a local organization that she said supports Black maternal health care and mental health.

“It has been a beautiful ride,” she said of her Whitworth career.