Celebrating 50 years together
In September 1969, a group of Christians began to work together to start a Church of the Nazarene in Woodburn, Oregon. Under the leadership of Rev. Braddock, the church was organized in October of that year.
The story of the Nazarene Church in Woodburn is an interesting one, full of many twists and turns. Like most congregations, this one has had its share of joy and sorrow, victory and tragedy. And, like all congregations, the people who are part of the congregation look to the future with hope.
I was the pastor of this congregation for 14 years. During my time at the church, I learned a lot about its history.
In the 1960s, the Oregon-Pacific District of the Church of the Nazarene owned all of what is now West Woodburn and was using much of it as the district campground. They started to sell housing lots around the campground to offset some of the costs, and quite a few Nazarenes moved into the area. The closest Church of the Nazarene at that time was in Donald, and it wasn't long before the people started talking about starting a congregation in Woodburn.
Rev. Braddock stepped up and helped organize the congregation in October of 1969. The next month, he stepped down and was soon replaced by Rev. Bertrand Peterson. During Rev. Peterson's time as pastor, the church met in the large meeting hall on the campground.
The expenses associated with keeping up the campground soon became too much for the district, and they began to sell off larger parts of it. The meeting hall was sold (it is now the Hispanic Seventh Day Adventist Church on Willow Avenue), and the congregation moved into the basement of the Nichols family, who lived across the street from the campground. When the congregation outgrew the basement, they moved into the chapel of a local mortuary.
Finally, the district decided to sell its property on the south side of the Newberg Highway, and the Woodburn Church of the Nazarene was able to buy a five-acre parcel. Over the next several months, under the leadership of Rev. Ellis, they built the current structure that is home to the congregation.
Over the last 50 years, the congregation has undergone many changes, including a couple of name changes. It started as simply the Woodburn Church of the Nazarene. Later, under the leadership of Pastor Ray Jones, the name was changed to Soul's Harbor (a Church of the Nazarene). Finally, at the beginning of 2018, the name was changed to Woodburn Fellowship Church of the Nazarene, in large part to better reflect their growing diversity.
I know from experience that our congregation is kind of unique. Because of the high percentage of Spanish speakers in the Woodburn community, seven years ago, we decided to become a fully bilingual congregation. Now all our worship services, Bible studies, and prayer meetings are in both English and Spanish.
We are fortunate to have quite a few people in our congregation who are fluent in both English and Spanish — many of them older teens and young adults. They can translate whatever is being said on the spot from English into Spanish or from Spanish into English — whichever language is needed.
The congregation is well-known in the Woodburn community as the long-time host of the Community Thanksgiving Dinner. At its peak, we served just over 1,000 meals in four hours on Thanksgiving Day, and we've always had a lot of support from the community and business leaders — including both financial support and coming to serve on the holiday itself.
After 10 years, the decision was made to stop the dinners. We had to change locations due to the limitations of our small, non-commercial kitchen at the church. With that change, the number of people coming to the dinner diminished to the point that we decided it was time to move on.
Everyone in the community who has attended or served at the church over the last 50 years is invited to come and help us to celebrate. We will be having a potluck lunch afterward, so bring something to share and celebrate with us!
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