Methodist church music director plans to step down after 20 years

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO: LARRY ZIEGLER - Linda Woods directs her church handbell choir at a recent rehearsal. She wants her ringers to be in top form for Sundays special Christmas program.

Linda Woods has one more Christmas gift she wants to give Lake Oswego United Methodist Church.

That will be “A Gift of Christmas,” the church’s annual holiday spectacular set for 4 p.m. Sunday. Woods is planning to retire as the church’s music director, a post she originated in 1993, and she is making sure that her last Christmas program will be a great one.

The mix of sacred and secular Christmas music will include the Chancel Choir, the handbell choir, Lake Carillon’s Christmas Hoedown, a performance by Flipside — the church’s praise band, pianist John Nilson and organist Bob Hinson. It will include an original handbell composition by Linda Woody titled “We Have Followed a Star,” and choral director Chris Rust is contributing his arrangement of “Angels We Have Heard on High.”

“All of the Christmas programs I’ve done have been wonderful,” Woods said. “I’ve done so many over the years, and it always draws big crowds. Not only our church members but people from outside the church.”

When you meet Woods it might seem strange that she is retiring because she seems as vibrant as ever.

“At some point you have to say you’ve done it long enough,” Woods said. “The key has been we have so many members with a variety of musical talents who are compassionate and dedicated musicians, and they really like each other.”

Woods, who has a music degree from Long Beach State University, has been making LOUMC a musical place ever since she and her husband Jerry became members in 1972. In 1982 she founded the church’s handbell choir and became its director. Ten years later, the church and its musical program had grown so much that Woods made an observation: “I said, ‘This church needs to have someone coordinate this musical stuff.’”

That someone turned out to be Linda Woods. But she will be laying down the baton in May 2014 after the church’s Music Fest. Sunday will be an important milestone for her.

“We want to instill the true Christmas spirit,” Woods said. “We’ll have the traditional Christmas music and also the fun aspects of Christmas.”

Fun? You bet. Woods has made her job look easy. She seems to have the joy of Christmas all year around.

“It’s wonderful working with people you love,” she said. “They are always enthusiastic. It is the people who make your job.

“I’m a happy person. I’m blessed to be a person who is up all the time. I think I have the ability to spread happiness around.”

LOUMC is happy that Woods is by no means leaving behind all of her musical ministry. She will still direct the handbell choir, sing in the Chancel Choir and perform in Flipside.

Lake Oswego United Methodist Church is located at 1855 S. Shore Blvd. in Lake Oswego. The program will be preceded by a Christmas carol singalong led by Pete Jurney at 3:45 p.m. Everyone is invited to attend.

“There won’t be an offering taken,” Woods said. “This is a true gift.”

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