His fascination for the Spanish language and Latin American art will soon come together in a harmonious convergence for the Rev. Canon George F. Woodward III, who in just a matter of hours will officially step down from his position as the Seventh Rector of San Marino’s St. Edmund’s Episcopal Church.
It’s a role in which he has served with grace and dignity since 1995, but the affable Woodward will be moving more up than out.
San Miguel de Allende could possibly provide the ideal transition for Woodward. San Miguel de Allende is a town of about 80,000 that includes between 8,000-10,000 expatriates from the United States, Canada and Great Britain. San Miguel de Allende is home to a popular art school and major English-speaking writers conference. It was a destination for GIs, who emigrated to the town following WWII.
For five years, Woodward served as Associate to the Rector at All Saints-by-the Sea in Santa Barbara. He spent two years as Assistant to the Archdeacon of the Aegean, working with Anglican churches and American military chaplaincies in the Republic of Turkey. Following his return to the United States, Woodward served as Rector of St. Timothy’s in Apple Valley and Dean of the Eastern Deanery of the Diocese of Los Angeles for four years. He became the Seventh Rector of St. Edmund’s Church in 1995.
But it was a “summer job” that led Woodward to the pulpit.
“He was an impressive character and a model of a human being. We were inoculating children throughout the country. I returned the next year and by the end of the second summer, I knew I wanted to be an Episcopal priest.”
He chose well, especially in the eyes of those in this community for whom he has deeply cared.
“Father George has accomplished so much in so many ways,” said Laureen Chang, who has been a St. Edmund’s parishioner for more than 30 years and actually predates Woodward’s arrival. “He is responsible for many many firsts that continue until today that have enhanced our parish life. His is a legacy of many years of dedicated service and volunteer activities, on his own time, to causes that move his heart. So many hours of his personal time have been spent in friendship with his parish.”
A former Senior Warden and current second-time Vestry Member, Chang also chaired St. Edmund’s 75th anniversary celebration.
Alan Steinbrecher and his family have worshipped at St. Edmund’s for more than 30 years, and the former San Marino Little League and Schools Foundation president will bid farewell with a similar sentiment.
“Father George has strengthened and deepened parishioners’ faith through his thoughtful sermons, never telling his congregation what to believe or how to act but providing the spiritual underpinning for how to live Christian lives,” said Steinbrecher, who also has served several terms as Senior Warden. “He has developed extremely strong relationships with parish members through his ministry to their needs and involvement in their lives. Most importantly, he has been a friend, counselor and spiritual leader for his flock.”
“He is as fine a human being as one could be privileged to know, work with and count as a friend,” Steinbrecher concluded. “He will be sorely missed, although the entire parish wishes him well as he continues his journey.”
Woodward became pensive, reflective, when discussing his final days at St. Edmund’s.
“This is a great community,” he said. “There are so many able, talented, hard-working, driven people here. I think the way San Marino has navigated through many changes, including demographic changes, has been salutary. There is a great cohesion. It is fun to see.”
Woodward praised the town’s and his parish’s diversity and what he called “a nice mix of political perspectives.”
“I consider that a personal achievement,” Woodward said. “At a time when our larger culture is fractured in so many ways, St. Edmund’s reflects a spectrum of opinion rather than political tribalism.”
He also pointed to the major renovations at the church that have taken place during his tenure as sources of pride, including a new organ that is rivaled by few.
Woodward then harkened back to the message he had given a couple weeks earlier on Easter Sunday, his last at St. Edmund’s.
When Jesus appears to his apostles after rising from the dead, Thomas wants to place his hands in Christ’s wounds.
“I have been privileged to place my hands in the wounds of so many, and to find there the living Christ…the wounds we all incur through this earthly pilgrimage. Our wounds heal, our scars remain, and together we press forward into new and vital life. There is no greater privilege than to share that journey.”