Wooddale Church


At 63 I feel the same tremors I felt on the first day of school:  I wondered what my new teacher would be like and which of my friends would be in my class.   Would I be able to do all the new schoolwork?

Part of the curriculum for this 64th year is telling my story for my kids and their kids.  I’ve begun to do that at jill rommel.com, “Chocolate Chip Cookies for Tea.”  Each post springs from a picture that grabs a vivid memory.  The memory burdens me.  Writing helps, but as I begin I feel overwhelmed.   I’m sure I’ll never unscramble the chaos of ideas into a clear story.   Putting the right words onto paper feels like lifting heavy rocks and throwing them at a wall, hoping they’ll stay there.  Once I labor through writing, editing, rewriting, asking my husband to read it, rechecking phrases, discarding unnecessary details, and reading it out loud, I publish the story on my blog.  I feel released from the burden.  Satisfied.  I’m done.  Nervous.  Would anyone read it?  Then a few days later, a friend says, “I liked your story.”  Joy.  I connected with someone.  The next day, I worry.  I’ll never be able to write another story as satisfying as that last one.

Then, again, out of nowhere comes that sharp longing; a new idea consumes my heart.  It happened a few Sunday afternoons ago.   I was watching a Facebook video of the 75th Anniversary Celebration of Wooddale Church, a place I had belonged for forty years.  The program was emceed by an elegant looking woman in a black blazer with white rose boutonniere.  I hadn’t known her when we went there.  She was the chairman of the Elder board.

“A woman on the elder board, and chairman at that!”  I marveled silently.  When I attended , the elder board was made up of men.  Women served on other boards and committees, but not the Elder Board.

I could see her in my mind for days after that, standing, poised, at the podium.

Many still argue about what a Christian woman is allowed to do at church.  As a girl, I had heard quoted, ““Sir, a woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.”—Samuel Johnson, 1763

I was fourteen when I went forward in an evening service to dedicate my life to “full time Christian service.”  In 1969, that was limited to:  being a Sunday School teacher (as long as they were girls, or boys under the age of 21), singing in the choir, being a missionary, or composing hymn lyrics.

Wheaton professors challenged me to put more thought into my expectations as a woman for serving.  My major was Christian Education.   I learned how to lead Bible studies, facilitate small group ministry and principles of spiritual formation.  We were women and men in classes learning all the same stuff.

From ivory college towers I entered back into real church world where the thinking was still “men do this,” and “women do that.”   It didn’t really bother me, because I loved working with kids.  I got busy writing and leading an evangelistic mom’s program.  Facilitated small group Bible studies with women.   I didn’t agree with some hazy positions on women, but rationalized, “There’s plenty I can do without making waves.”

I believed that what the Bible illustrates, and what’s healthiest for ministry, is men and women serving the Body of Christ together, gifted by the Holy Spirit.  The spiritual gifts are not designated on the basis of gender.  But I kept my beliefs to myself.

Then last week I read Bible teacher Beth Moore’s May 2018 “A Letter To My Brothers.” (blog.lproof.org.)   She spoke out on misogyny, “dislike, contempt or prejudice against women,” she experienced in the church.  It happens.  I’ve experienced it.  I’ve witnessed men’s eyes become vacant when I speak, because “I’m only a woman, and the Bible says women should be silent.”  Misogyny in the church has two roots:  one placed in an interpretation or misinterpretation of what Scripture says about women.  The other is simple jerkiness, which afflicts even Christians: men and women.

The quiet presence of Shelly White, chair of Wooddale’s Elder board, contrasted with Beth Moore’s feisty letter,  yet both forced me to revisit my own reticence on the subject of women and what they can do in the church.  There’s an added urgency:  I’m 63.  Time is running out.  My two granddaughters are growing up.  I didn’t want to create unnecessary fuss but maybe I should have.  God might want Addi as part of a team of men and women serving on an Elder board.


He might give Sophie the gift to ‘preach the Word.’

God’s plan has always been men and women serving together in the power of the Holy Spirit.  It’s presented to fathers and mothers in Deuteronomy 6:7: “Repeat my commands again and again to your children.  Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.”   I learned what I believe about the spiritual work of men and women at home.

Dad had four daughters.  We were never second class to him because we were girls. He was fully engaged in our lives.  He took us to church, on vacations, offered us spending money on Saturdays when we walked to Woolworths, made us lunch on those days, took us to music concerts, and would call to us, “Girls, come and listen to this!” when he heard an exceptionally beautiful piece of music on the stereo.   I’ll never forget how his smiling face would quietly peek around the corner of our bedroom door when we were little, to check on us.

He expected us to be aware of the current events of the day.  We discussed politics each evening at dinner.  Questions were modified by age.  Wendy, the oldest, was asked something more complicated, while Pam, the youngest, was asked, “Who’s the President of the United States?”

Dad would exclaim, “Think, girls, think!”  if he felt we were missing the mark on a topic.  He had worthwhile hobbies, like tennis and classical music, and encouraged us to have them, too.  Mine was choir, which he supported by driving me to early morning rehearsals before school on his way to work.


Dad believed in me.  That provided me with security and acceptance of myself as a person. He had a quick wit and delightful sense of humor.   But he never stooped to teasing, which I often unfortunately witness unwise parents do with their girls (and boys.)  Instead, he often told us he loved us.

“If you think something nice, say it,”  he would say.  He told us we were terrific.   Girls that have a father like that generally don’t allow themselves to be around men who belittle them and don’t take them seriously.  At school, work or in the church.

If  Dad taught confidence,  Mother’s life exemplified a woman using her Holy Spirit gifting. Her family was her top priority.  But she also shepherded other women teaching them the Bible.  Mother taught young adults at church, in addition, and that meant teaching men along with women, not the norm in that era.


“Mother doesn’t sound like other women’s Bible teachers I’ve heard,” I quickly noticed when I first heard her teach.  I was in college, and had listened to other women speak in chapel. “Her voice isn’t breathy, and she doesn’t quote poetry.” Mother sounded the way she did at home, as natural as when she asked us to set the table for dinner.

Dad and Mother were my first and best experience of seeing how men and women serve God together.  They were on the same team, loving each other and their kids.  God uses men and women working together, gifted by the Holy Spirit, to build up the Body of Christ.  I haven’t heard of a catchy slogan for this ministry concept.  But I’ve seen it happen in small groups, children’s programs, Bible studies, in homeless shelters, Sunday School classes, and worship teams.  The list goes on.

Addi and Sophie, when the Holy Spirit gives you a gift for service, whatever it is, use it for the Body of Christ, alongside Henry and Ethan.  I hope you remember me doing that, too.



                                            “…your sons and your daughters shall prophecy…”  Joel 2:28








“Mr. Paskins is so funny,”  Mike, our sixth grader,  piped up from the back seat of the van on the way home from Wooddale Church.  “He told us the coolest story today about-”

“God, thank you for Sunday school teachers like  Jerry Paskins!”  I thought.

Wooddale.  The world where, besides home, I poured out my heart.  Duane and I wanted Mike and Jeff to grow up loving God.  Our family attended every Sunday.  We invited families from Wooddale to our home.

And we got involved in children’s ministry.

(Wooddale Church directory picture)

Wooddale had just moved to Eden Prairie.  Plans called for the church to be built in stages.  They had only finished Phase I.  That meant space in the growing church would be tight.  The ‘Gathering Place,’ an enormous brick walled room, would host Sunday morning services and be divided at other times for classes.  Nursery and children’s classrooms were on the lower level.

“We don’t have enough room for elementary age children in our services right now,” Ivy Beckwith, children’s pastor, shared at a leader’s meeting.  “Pastor Anderson suggests we offer a church program for kids in grades 1 through 6 in another space.”

As a child,  attending children’s church meant singing hymns from hymn books as we sat on adult size folding chairs lined up in rows. Then a flannel graph Bible story.  I couldn’t imagine my boys liking that kind of an hour.

“I have a new idea for a children’s worship program,”  I mused to Duane, later that night.  With a Christian Education major, I was comfortable dreaming about what we could offer kids.  They wouldn’t passively sit on chairs; they would create the service themselves through music, art and activities.  The book, “Worship is a Verb,” by Dr. Robert Webber, a Wheaton professor, was my inspiration.

The challenge intrigued me.  (“Fools Rush In.”)  We would have a large number of kids; 150 – 200.  The age range, from first to sixth grade, meant kids were at different developmental levels.  And, our space was limited: we were allotted an expansive, but single, room, Apple.  Wooddale named each room after a tree.

The biggest hurdle would be finding adults willing to serve in something experimental.  I could count on Duane.  The music pastor’s wife, June Bullock, whose kids were friends of our kids, said she would help me.  Jim and Heidi Satterberg signed up.  Their daughter was in Jeff’s class.  Pam Sampson, an artist, wanted to help with room design.  Pat Dourte, a school teacher, was eager.   I knew we needed more help but didn’t know who to ask.

I invited our team to dinner at our house to figure out what we were going to do.  I had a few ideas, but this would be a group effort.  Pastor Ivy threw her support into the project.

The Sunday before the dinner, a trim gentleman in a suit approached me in the hallway at church.

“Hi, Jill, I’m Jerry Paskins, ”  he offered his hand and shook mine firmly.  “I hear you’re starting a program for kids on Sunday morning.

“Oh, you’re Inez’s husband,”  I smiled.  Inez was Jeffrey’s sweet preschool Sunday school teacher a few years ago.

“I’d like to help with that kids’ church program,”  Jerry continued.

“Terrific!”  I was thrilled, and surprised.  People rarely volunteer for children’s ministry. “I’m not exactly sure what you’re volunteering for, but we would love to have your help.  We’re having dinner this Thursday night at my house to pray and plan our program.”

“Great,”  Jerry answered.  “I’m in town this week, so I’ll be there.”

At dinner we brainstormed and laid out plans for the first  weeks of what we called  ‘Youth Worship.’   We decided to start with a unit  on how Israel worshiped God in the Old Testament.  Pam Sampson’s husband worked in hospital supply so she knew where to get old sheets to hang on all the walls in the Apple Room.  That would transform it into the Tabernacle.

“I’ll make the altar of burnt offerings for the center of the room out of cardboard,” I volunteered.

“Are we going to be sacrificing animals?”  June joked.  “I guess they should be stuffed animals.”

We continued to meet together each month over dinner to refine our ideas.  We did six weeks on “The Living Word,”  a history of how we got our Bible.  in another session we experienced the truths of Jesus in ‘The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.’  The kids had to enter the Apple room through The Wardrobe.

Heidi designed a mural for the kids to paint with markers.

We aimed to relate God to kids in ways they would understand.  When we studied the history of the church, June led our massive group of kids on a tour of our church building, pointing out the meaning of each part of the architecture of our building.  I wish I had a video of that.

And Jerry kept showing up each Sunday.  The kids loved him.  At our planning dinners, Jerry kept us laughing with his stories about the insurance industry.

“You know,”  he leaned over his dinner plate and whispered to us, “people put a few slices of bacon in a frying pan on the stove, turn the heat on to high, and go out for a half hour walk.  They can get a whole new kitchen out of that.”

On a first impression, I wouldn’t place Jerry in children’s ministry.  He looked formal, probably because he was slight of hair and dressed in suit and tie.  But each Sunday the kids gravitated to his energetic enthusiasm.

“Feel this muscle,”  he’d tell the group gathered around him.  He pointed to his arm, cloaked in the fine wool jacket.  “Can you feel that? I love to run and work out.”

“Wow!” a kid would say, poking the fabric, ” Your arm muscle is like a piece of steel!”

Jerry could have said he was too busy for ‘Youth Worship.’  He traveled around the country most weeks, as an executive with an insurance company.

“I’ll always be here on Sunday,”  he informed me.  He was.

Over the years I’ve served in several churches, and done a lot of recruiting; asking people to serve.   I’ve often heard, “I’m too busy with work to serve.”

Not Jerry.

When Wooddale built its Worship Center,  and had enough room for people of all ages in the services, Youth Worship ended.  Jerry went back to teaching Sunday School.   Mike was in his class.

I knew Mike loved being there from the stories we heard in the car on the way home from church.  Jerry shared his life and his love for Jesus with those kids.

We moved to Florida in 1995.

I was holding a baby in the nursery for our church’s MOPS program on Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001.  That was the day Jerry Paskins was conducting business on the 94th floor of Tower 1 of the World Trade Center.

Hobbies and Special Interests:

Member of Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity. University of Nebraska football fan
teaching Sunday school
coaching little league

“We have happy memories of the godly.”   Proverbs 10:7









6105 Abbott Avenue So.     Edina, Minn. 55410                            March 1970

“Dear everybody,

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:

  1.  British “Keep calm and carry on” cheerfulness.
  2. Persistence.
  3. 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:

“Dear Family,

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












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