For the Rev. Deanna Woodward “it’s like coming back” as she joins the pastoral team at Faith United Methodist Church in Spring Valley, and the Maple Leaf Parish, which includes the Cherry Grove and Fountain churches.
Growing up in Pine Island, Woodward has spent the majority of her life in the southeast corner of Minnesota.
It was in her teenage years, when she began to feel the draw of the ministry.
“When I was about high school age I started thinking about ministry as a life’s work, of course, faith plays a large part in making that decision,” Woodward explained. “So I went to college with that as a possibility; I hadn’t totally made up my mind, but I was keeping it in mind. And through the college years it just became a stronger pull in my life.”
After graduating from Hamline University in St. Paul, Woodward and her husband, Mark, attended Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Ill. Upon graduating with their masters of divinity degrees the couple returned to southeast Minnesota.
“I grew up here, ventured as far away as St. Paul for college and then the Chicago area for theological school. Then when I was ready to graduate, our bishop was deciding what church appointment I would receive and he placed me back in southeastern Minnesota again,” Woodward commented.
Her first appointment was to the Wykoff and Fountain United Methodist Churches where she led the congregation for eight years before taking time off to stay at home with the couple’s two daughters.
After returning to the church Woodward served as associate pastor at Evangel United Methodist Church in Rochester and most recently as the Plainview-Elgin Peace and Kellogg United Methodist Churches.
On June 29, she came full circle, as she became associate pastor for the Faith United Methodist Church in Spring Valley, and the Maple Leaf Parish.
“My position is part-time here in Spring Valley and I also serve the United Methodist Church in Cherry Grove and the one in Fountain where I started out,” Woodward said. “It’s sort of like being Rip Van Winkle; you’re gone for 20 years, woke up and you’re in the same place but everybody was older and things had changed.”
Though she has been in the ministry for over 30 years, Woodward still finds great joy in forming relationships with people and being there for people at significant times in their lives, all while helping them to know God better in their lives. Now she is excited to continue to build on her relationships with her newest congregations.
“I’m still getting to know people and getting to know the churches, as well. Just like people have different personalities, churches have different personalities, so I’m just learning what each one is already doing and then figuring out what I can do to enhance those things,” Woodward concluded. “One of the great things about the job is that there is just such a great variety of activities and to some extent it is what you make of it.”