6105 Abbott Avenue So. Edina, Minn. 55410 March 1970
Instead of sitting here for hours trying to figure out how to start, I’ll just start. I still have to finish unpacking many cartons and find room for loads of things, but I would rather write and give you some of our impressions so far.
The weather is great. Despite the low thermometer readings you hear for Minnesota, it’s just beautiful when you go out: the sky looks like Florida and the ground looks like the North Pole.
Pam is out playing on our ‘front snow’ (we hope there is a lawn underneath.) We did have a small snow storm last Thursday, but the streets and driveway are bare again.
The people are friendly. The first Sunday we were here at Wooddale Church a family invited us home following the evening service. They live in Edina, too, and have a daughter Jill’s age. Then on Wednesday I was invited to an informal luncheon for the wives of the couple’s class Allan and I attended. I got to know ten or twelve by name which was a nice feeling when we went back this Sunday. Next Tuesday one of the deacon’s wives has invited a few of the newer women for coffee. So you can see why I still have so many cartons to finish unpacking….Did I mention, Monday night as the moving truck pulled out, one of the couples from the church pulled up with a casserole and a chocolate cake for us?”
Mother wrote these letters about Wooddale Church because long distance phone calls were too expensive. Our family of six had left all our family and friends 1200 miles behind in Abington, Pennsylvania. The letters exude cheerfulness, a British trait she and and Dad shared.
“My sergeant in the Royal Marines taught us to look in the mirror every morning and say, ‘In every way, throughout the day, this is going to be the best day of my life,” Dad repeatedly told us.
Mother’s response to Dad’s, “We’re going to Minneapolis!” the previous fall, was an immediate, “Terrific!” Their cheerfulness grew out of their belief that God was leading them.
It wasn’t easy. My grandfather had been the pastor of our church, Berachah. My parents were pillars there. Dad was an elder and Sunday School Superintendant. Mother taught the College and Career class and directed the Christmas pageant each year. Wendy was a junior at Abington High school. I was in the 9th grade Madrigal choir. Jennifer and I loved Pioneer Girls. We loved sleepovers with our cliques at church. Only four, Pam was already popular at church, with a ‘boyfriend’, Eddie, in Aunt Nancy’s preschool class.
Our friends couldn’t believe it. “Minnesota – where’s that?! Like near California?” “Will you be going to a one room schoolhouse out on the prairie?”
My parents taught me three essentials to meet our new challenge:
- British “Keep calm and carry on” cheerfulness.
- Hang out with people who love God.
The first year we moved, I was surprised how hard it was to be the New Girl, in spite of that cheerful attitude.
Loneliness pounced on me when I walked into the school lunchroom every day, jammed with teenagers merrily eating lunch with their friends.
“Who will I sit with?” I was scared.
Even a friendly church like Wooddale required a year of patiently pushing myself to go to every scheduled youth activity, knowing no one was waiting for me to arrive.
“You just keep going,” Mother often encouraged my sisters and I, and followed up those words by example. By next summer, I was Vice President of the Youth Group.
For our family, the people who loved God were at Wooddale Baptist in Richfield. From an April 1970 letter:
Here’s the news;
We’ve just finished a prolonged wrestling match with Pam, getting her to bed and trying to get some Mecca ointment on her big toe, which has been sore. Now she’s ready for Sunday School this week. She loves Sunday School. They have a water table in her room! Pam comes home on Sunday afternoons talking exactly like a Midwesterner, imitating the kids she’s been with.
We’re all enjoying the Sunday School. Our teacher is dedicated and his obvious love for the Bible makes it a great hour.
Speaking of Sunday School, we were at the S.S. Superintendent’s house last night after church. The service begins at 7 p.m. and is over at 8:15, so it’s nice to visit following the service. I think we’ve been invited out every Sunday night but one since we moved here. We’ve met a lot of different couples this way, which is very nice in a big congregation like Wooddale’s.
Our Sunday School class had a picnic last Sunday! Of course it was in the church gym following the morning service. We all brought something and had a buffet style lunch. We all brought our children, too, so there was a crowd of 150 or 160. There sure are a lot of Larsons, Gustafsons, Nelsons, Anderson, Lunstroms, etc.
We’re enjoying the church. The services are really alive! The choir is filled in the evening service as well as the morning! They use a tremendous number of young people, too.
I could go on and on about our impressions at Wooddale…”
Wooddale Church celebrates its’ 75th year this September 2018. Mother’s letters ignite memories of my first days at Wooddale. Forty years of memories; bursting with genuine friends, gatherings, conversations, retreats, service projects, parties, singing groups, ministry planning sessions, and yes, services and sermons . Duane and I married at Wooddale in June 1977, one year after Leith Anderson became the Pastor. After Duane’s medical training in Chicago and Rochester we moved back to Wooddale in 1984 with our two boys. Sat in the front row every Sunday morning with them at the new red brick campus in Eden Prairie.
We moved to Florida in 1995, but I hold all my Wooddale memories close in my heart. I only wish my mother had written more letters, and I had more pictures.
Wooddale Church A Place To Become A Place To Belong
“Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow builds her nest and raises her young at a place near your altar, O LORD of Heaven’s Armies, my King and my God!” Psalm 84:3
– with love and gratitude to Peter and Chuckie Unruh & family and Leith and Charleen Anderson & family