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Labor of love to end for retiring pastor
Labor of love to end for retiring pastor
By SUE REID
After 17 years of service to the "dedicated and faithful" people of Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Solon, the Rev. Powell Woods will retire next month. He will preach for the last time on Aug. 8, bidding farewell to a career that has been a true "labor of love," he said.
"I don't know how many pastors you'd hear this from, but this congregation is truly unique and exceptional," the Rev. Woods, 69, said. "It's unique in a sense of a unity of fellowship.
"There is just no real bickering, politics, agendas or factions that can easily worm its way into any organization," the Rev. Woods said. "I have loved my time here."
The Rev. Woods, of Bainbridge and a Missouri native, came to Our Redeemer in 1993, first as a vicar and then as associate pastor for the next five years. He served as senior pastor for the next 11 years. His involvement in the church came many years earlier, though.
"I've been a member of this church since 1982," he said. He spent 16 years in the business world, serving the last five as vice president of human resources for Nestle's U.S. operations. Prior to that, the Rev. Woods was a professor of literature and linguistics at the University of Wisconsin.
In 1991, changes at Nestle would have necessitated a move to California with his wife, Karen, and three young daughters, the Rev. Woods recalled.
"I didn't want to raise young children there," he said. At about the same time, he began teaching Bible study as a lay person at Our Redeemer.
"The more I taught it, the more drawn I was to the Bible and the more faith became the central part of our lives," he said. While changes were going on at Nestle, the Lutheran church was putting out a call for new pastors, targeting those "second career" individuals, the Rev. Woods said.
He and his wife talked and prayed about the decision for a better part of a year, the Woods said.
"We decided it was what the Lord wanted us to do," he said.
Mr. Woods attended Concordia Seminary in St. Louis and there he completed a two-year program. The Rev. Woods said, in the Lutheran Church, a vicarage, or apprenticeship, takes place, where individuals are called to a church as a vicar to see how it works out, prior to becoming an associate pastor or pastor.
When the Rev. Woods came up for vicarage, he was asked if he would be interested in coming back to his home church. His predecessor at the time, Herbert Borchelt, who served as pastor from 1968 to 1998, was a "good, strong pastor," the Rev. Woods said, who sculpted the congregation.
"Pastor Borchelt was a strong advocate and believer in outreach," the Rev. said, that the church is intended to be a lighthouse of the gospel.
"That's not the easiest thing to get people to do," he said. While he does not take credit for any of the new ministries that have sprung up at the church over the years, the Rev. Woods worked to encourage high levels of participation on the part of the congregation.
"If I've been good at anything, it's hopefully that," he said.
The Rev. Woods' style of leadership is ingrained in what he considers to be the main role of a pastor.
"I think a pastor is ordained and called to preach the word of God," he said. "Simply, that is what our job is." Besides that, the Rev. Woods said, a pastor needs to show God's love to the congregation and to the people outside of the church as well.
"The pastor is a vehicle," the Rev. Woods said. "He is not the source of anything, but he is a transmitter in my view.
"That's what I've believed and what I've tried to do," he said.
Our Redeemer, located on SOM Center Road (Route 91), has a membership of over 800 people and is one of the larger Lutheran congregations in the area.
The Rev. Woods said that he will miss the "guts of the job, preaching and teaching," but it is time to retire.
"I will admit over time that I won't mind giving up the responsibility," he said.
The Rev. Woods said he has no immediate plans in retirement but will spend more time at home, "cleaning the house and cooking the meals." His wife, a librarian at the Twinsburg Public Library, will continue to work, he said. The couple have three grown daughters and three grandchildren.
The congregation of Our Redeemer will hold a farewell dinner Aug. 15. The Rev. Woods said following that, he will be gone from the church for a while.
"It's a good idea for senior pastors to get out of the way for a while," he said. "When a senior pastor has been there a long time, it's considered to be a good idea to send in an interim pastor who will serve for about six months or a year.
"This helps the congregation adjust to the loss of a senior pastor," the Rev. Woods said.
His message to the congregation in these final days takes him back to when he first graduated from the seminary, the Rev. Woods recalled. At that time, David Buegler, the district president of the Lutheran Church, conducted a "call day," where new pastors were told where they were called to serve.
"He took me and some of the other men who were called back to Ohio, and he was showing us pictures of churches to which we've been called," the Rev. Woods said. "After he would talk about any given church, he would say, 'All they need is for someone to come in and love them.'
"I have never forgot that," the Rev. Woods said. "That is all any of us need.
"I have found it impossible to love this congregation as much as they love me," he said. "It's been a pastor's delight to be here."
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