Woodburn congregation changes name, mission
Pastor Will Robertson is usually excited and enthusiastic. But these days his enthusiasm is more obvious than normal. And he chalks up the added measure of enthusiasm to the changes that have been happening at his church.
One of the most obvious changes is the name. The congregation formerly known as Soul's Harbor Church of the Nazarene is now Woodburn Fellowship Church of the Nazarene.
The change of name has been brewing for several years, Robertson said.
"About five-and-a-half years ago, God called our congregation to merge with a local Spanish-speaking congregation, and to become a fully bilingual church," he said. "And to me, and many others of our leadership, that signaled a change of direction, a clarifying of the mission for our church that would reasonably require a change of name."
But the process for changing the name of the church took a few years, he said.
"We first had to wait until God was giving the same message (to) all of our key leaders that he was giving to me," Robertson said. "Then, about eight months ago, I just felt that it was the right time."
The board approved moving forward with a name change and, after much discussion, the name Woodburn Fellowship Church of the Nazarene was selected by the church board and then approved by the district advisory board. Then came the congregational vote on Jan. 21.
"I have to admit to being a little bit nervous," Robertson said. "It felt like a real turning point to me, a critical juncture in the life of our congregation."
The vote, while not unanimous, was decisive, with 66 percent voting to change the name, and 34 percent voting to retain the old name. Immediately after the service, the church board approved the new logo, and the rebranding process began in earnest.
"The important thing to me in all of this is understanding who God has reshaped us to be as a congregation," Robertson said. "Our people speak three different languages: English, Spanish and Russian. We come from many different cultures. God has uniquely positioned us to reach out with the good news to all of the people who make up our community, as well as those who live in neighboring areas. Whoever comes to our church will find someone there that they can relate to."
Robertson said his first visit after the name change to Woodburn Area Chamber of Commerce's Greeters event produced a collective gasp from the crowd when he introduced himself as "Pastor Will Robertson, formerly of Soul's Harbor Church of the Nazarene."
"They all thought I was leaving the church!" he laughed. "But I just smiled and said, 'now of Woodburn Fellowship Church of the Nazarene.' And everybody started laughing."
Robertson is adamant that the change of name is not an end in itself.
"It just helps to identify our renewed and clarified vision of what God has called us to be," he explained. "The word 'fellowship' in our new name is not a verb, as in 'We love to fellowship together.' It is a noun. God has called our congregation together to be a genuine fellowship: a group of people who have been purposefully assembled to accomplish a monumental task, a task that is too big for any member of the fellowship to do individually. And a task that will require all of our diversity of language, and culture, talents, skills and gifting. That task is to live purposefully in the kingdom of God, and to help all of the other people in this area to understand how they can live in the kingdom, too."