A Brief History
Woodlake Lutheran Church, sponsored by Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church of Minneapolis, was established in 1947 as a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. The new congregation first met in homes and then in the now-demolished Wood Lake School on 66th Street near Wood Lake in Richfield. A church was built and occupied on Penn Avenue and 72nd Street in 1948. Woodlake experienced rapid growth in the early 1950s and, realizing the need for a larger facility, purchased the land where the present church stands from the Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church, in turn, bought Woodlake’s land and building, and continues to worship there at what is now St. Nicholas Episcopal Church. The southwest wing, including a worship space that is now Fellowship Hall, was built in 1955. The northwest wing, sanctuary, chapel, and office area were completed in 1962. A 31-rank Holtkamp pipe organ was added to the sanctuary in 1977. Several updates and renovations have been completed since that time. A refurbishment of the classroom wings was completed in 1998. Installation of the eight stained glass windows envisioned in the original design of the sanctuary was finished that year as well. Most recently, the narthex and Heritage Room addition along with renovations to the office/reception area and Fellowship Hall were completed in 2000. Woodlake has been served by eleven pastors: LaVerne Nelsen (1947-1952), C. Richard Evenson (1952-1957), Alf Romstad (1957-1977), Paul Romstad (1977-1995), Warren Schulz (1995-1996, interim), Mark Wegener (1996-2010), Arthur Bruning (2010-2012, interim), Fred Hanson (2012-2016), Charles Plaster (2016-2018, interim), Micah Pearson (2018-present), and Neal Cannon (2019-present). Associate and Visitation Pastors have included Jack Bredfeldt, Al Byers, Paul Oas, Marshall Pechauer, Louis Larson, John Henning, Henry Ehlen, Walter Ekeren, Theodore Edwardsen, Paul Romstad, Jerome Larson, Clarence Solberg, Robert Hall, Kari Fedje Rasmus, Mark Nelson (Interim), and Diane Roth. Many Seminary Interns and other staff members have also enriched the ministry of the congregation. Changes in the larger Lutheran Church brought a merger between the Evangelical Lutheran Church and several other Lutheran churches in 1960, and Woodlake became a congregation of the American Lutheran Church. On January 1, 1988, another merger made Woodlake a part of the new Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Vision, Purpose, and Values
Woodlake is a gathered inclusive community, growing in faith to humbly share the love of Jesus with all people, and working together to heal and restore the world God loves so much.
We are called and sent by God to invite people from our surrounding communities to join with us in Christian fellowship and to celebrate our diversity as a tapestry of God’s love as we offer our lives as a response to God grace – this is our spiritual act of worship. I want you woven into a tapestry of love, in touch with everything there is to know of God. Then you will have minds confident and at rest, focused on Christ, God’s great mystery. Colossians 2:1-2a So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. Romans 12:1-2a
Together we will create and implement innovative Faith Formation programming that ensures people a safe place to explore their faith, learn to experience a personal relationship with Jesus, connect the Bible and our Lutheran beliefs to daily life, and be equipped to serve within the church, share our faith with others, and serve others in need. He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christ’s followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ. No prolonged infancies among us, please. We’ll not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are an easy mark for impostors. God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love. Ephesians 4:11-16
We are called by God, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and sent by Jesus to embody the “good news” holistically. We are to become peacemakers and bridge builders between and among people, and we are to mobilize people around their passion and gifts so as to stand with those on the margins of society and work together for personal and community transformation But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts 1:8 “No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from neighbors who need your help. Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes. Isaiah 58:6-7, 12
These are the values people stated have been a part of Woodlake from the beginning, and have always been important.
Community: Woodlake is a welcoming congregational community that connects multiple generations through support, worship, service, and encouragement. Woodlake connects with the larger community beyond the congregation through its mission and outreach.
Lay Leadership: Woodlake believes in the Lutheran idea of the “priesthood of all believers.” The congregation encourages the involvement of everyone in the different areas of work and ministry of the church. Woodlake promotes inclusive shared decision making within the congregation.
Lutheran Theological Expression: Woodlake deeply values its Lutheran identity and heritage which is grounded in an understanding of grace and the practice of forgiveness. The congregation’s worship and mission are grounded in the Lutheran Church’s emphasis on the Word and the sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion.
Mission/Outreach: Woodlake believes that the congregation, as the body of Christ, is called and sent. As we are called, the people of Woodlake value using their resources to help anyone in need without any expectations of return or benefits. As we are sent, there is a renewed emphasis on coordinating and enabling all members to go and serve with their passions and gifts.
Music: Woodlake values the expression of different kinds of quality music. Within worship, this means music that is rehearsed and done well that praises, worships, and honors God, and helps tell and celebrate God’s story.
Worship: Woodlake values worship as an opportunity to experience God’s grace, mercy and love with and through the gathered community. Worship is valued as a response to God’s grace and services are grounded in the belief that worship is something that the congregation participates in together to praise God.
These are the values the people identified as new values that God may be calling us to live out more abundantly.
Faith Formation: Woodlake believes lifelong learning and discipleship are important parts of being a Christian. This is why Woodlake offers educational programs for all ages, working to express faith and traditions in a modern context. Emerging Edge: In growing into its concept of Faith Formation, there will be a need to further grow an understanding and practice of mentoring both the young and adults.
Inclusive (seeking): Woodlake believes that its people are called and sent by Christ to seek out and invite all people, without bias or prejudice, into relationship with Christ and us. We believe that we are to name and remove all barriers that can create divisions. Emerging Edge: In doing so, the congregation anticipates giving and receiving. It is anticipated that through relationships there come potentially new expressions and ways of being and acting as the church in the world.
Intergenerational: Woodlake is committed to intentional connections between age groups so that there is mutual support, learning, and growth. Emerging Edge: This will enable mentoring across generations and inclusion of all as equal participants in the congregation as Children of God.
Stewardship and Innovation: Woodlake values a community that shares its gifts from God, inspiring each other to contribute their talents and treasure. Emerging Edge: This will lead Woodlake to become an “onsite lab” for ministry and mission.