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James Woodruff, Lead Pastor

A native of Green Bay, WI, and a loyal Packer fan, I grew up at Trinity Lutheran Church where Norwegians ruled and you never planned a meeting during a Packer game.  I graduated from St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN,  and after graduation spent ten years working with Lutheran Youth Encounter as a member of various Gospel teams-notably "Crossfire" and "Kindred", on the Great Lakes Region and National Office staffs, and as part of the group "Song"-leading music at hundreds of youth events across the US.  During these years I had the privilege of working with Lutherans of various Synods as well as Christians of many denominations, driving home the importance of Christian unity grounded in faith, not polity or structure.  I graduated from Luther-Northwestern Theological Seminary in 1992 and have served as a Pastor of St. Stephen since 1993; first Associate Pastor, then Co-Pastor, and currently Lead Pastor.  I've been married to Lisa for 34 years and we have three adult children.  Lisa and I live in White Bear Lake.

As a pastor I am passionionate about three issues.  First, preaching the Gospel; the story of God's incredible love that is actively reaching out to all of us, brining forgiveness, reconciliation, and adoption.  St. Stephen Lutheran Church shares this passion, saying in our Mission Statement: "We are a Christian community bringing God's love to the world".

Second, I am a convinced Lutheran Christian, which comes equipped with unique theological perspectives, but, at the same time I am part of the universal Christian community of faith which demands that we fellowship, encourage, and pray with all believers, regardless of denominational tags.  We are best served when we don't become too dogmatic about our individual polities and pieties, but with an open heart listen to the varied expressions of faith that are all around us.  Jesus prayed for us that "we may be one". In the final analysis our unity can only be found in the person of Jesus the Christ.

Third, I passionately believe God has gifted each person with gifts to be used in building up the body of Christ, the church.  As a faith community we discover those gifts and more importantly use them for the benefit of the whole community.  The Apostle Paul in reflecting on a mature community of faith noted: "We must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body's growth in building itself up in love." (Eph. 4:15-16)

I invite you to come and join us in our mission of bringing God's love to the world.  Become part of a congregation that sees itself as one community of faith in a world of many.  Use your gifts to help this place "build itself up in love" and be all God wants us to be. 

Susan Schoon, Associate Pastor

"Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” Francis of Assisi  

I have this saying of Francis of Assisi on my desk and it guides my daily life and ministry. At St. Stephen I have the privilege of working with people who express and share their love and care for the community within and outside our walls!! You will find grace practiced and a heart for service and learning! WE are a community who enjoys laughter and joy as well as the ability to walk with those who are in need. The teams I work most closely with are in Pastoral Care, Congregational and Community Care and Women in Ministry (WIM). I work with BeFrienders Ministry, Grief Support, Prayer Chain, Visitation, Worship, Preach, Teach and share in Youth and Children’s Activities. 

I am married to the love of my life, Tom, and together we have four grown sons. I love the arts, hiking, biking, swimming and the Oregon Coast.  And I’ll never turn down a chance to see a really good movie or  explore what the world has to offer.

Melissa Stearns, Director of Youth and Family Ministries

I have been active in church since I was 11 years old, spending my first 14 years of church life at a large Four Square Church in Washington State before finally stumbling across a Lutheran Church.  It was at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Marysville, WA, that I finally felt as though I truly “belonged” at church.  I was involved in children and youth programs and served on council. 

When I started college I thought I would earn my degree in Early Childhood Education.  After a rough internship at a preschool I realized I had been lying to myself, working with young children was not for me.  I started almost over and attended  Washington State University where I majored in Human Development with an emphasis in the teenage years.  During this time I worked as the Teen Program's Director for the YMCA of Snohomish County.  Teens were my calling.

In 2011 my family and I moved here from Seattle. My favorite program is Youth Mission Trips.  To watch the youth work as hard as they do for those in need in the name of Christ is an awe-inspiring thing to be of witness to.  My favorite Bible quote is from  one of the Apostle Paul's letters in 2 Timothy 2:22. 

If you need me you can always send an email or you can find me in the Old Youth Building getting beat at ping pong or air hockey.

Tami Heart, Communication & Administrative Coordinator

Business Management, Human Relations, Communications, and Marketing were my area of studies in college and combine perfectly to fullfill my passion for outreach within the church environment, which I have been doing for over 12 years.   In addition to starting a non-profit (Footprints In Need) delivering shoes to those in need (mostly to children in Jamaica), my heart is most happy when I am serving God by serving His people.  Becoming a Christian has been a life-long journey for me.  Although not raised in a religious family, I sought various avenues of spirituality in my late teens and early adulthood.  Eventually, these spiritual steppingstones led me from my self-centered youth to Jesus.  As I walk closer with God, my focus has broadened to include all of His children.  In that light, St. Stephen is a wonderful church to be working in, with a Christ-centered mission of bringing God’s love to the world.