“Family is so important to my wife and I. Pastor Bryan made us feel like we were part of the family right away,” said Neil Markey, whose family moved about five years ago into the church’s neighborhood. “The man is a brilliant speaker. For me personally, he makes the Bible relevant. He’s wonderful with the kids. They adore him. He’s really a good man.” Woken says that over the years, most of the questions from his congregation have revolved around how to cope with daily life issues. “We have a lot of families and the top question is on raising children: How to keep them safe and healthy, what to do about outside influences and how to give them a moral vision,” Woken said. “I also get the `balance’ questions: What impact is my work having on keeping my family together?” In addition to his level-headed pastoral advice, Woken is acclaimed for his scholarship on the Bible. Biblical studies were his specialty when he attended Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn. “There’s a real respect for people as thinkers. He writes intelligent sermons that are challenging,” said Barbara Kaye, a longtime church member. “He’s also got a really good sense of humor. I think he’s both a good counselor and a wonderful teacher.” The celebration for the Rev. Bryan Woken’s 20th anniversary of service to Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church will begin at 4 p.m. Oct. 29 at 23838 Kittridge St., West Hills. Reservations for the dinner are required. Woken will deliver the Sunday message at the 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. services Oct. 30. Call (818) 348-8343. Holly Andres, (818) 713-3708 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! WEST HILLS – The Rev. Bryan Woken says his mother likes to tell people that her son talked about becoming a pastor when he was just 3 years old. His sister, he says, used to tease him that he would be a good preacher because he talked all the time. Ultimately, the inclination to Christian ministry and his gift of communication converged 20 years ago when Woken was ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and came to serve as a pastor at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in West Hills. Woken’s milestone anniversary will be celebrated by his congregation with an evening of tributes, a service of renewal and a dinner on Oct. 29. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week “I don’t remember telling people that I wanted to be a pastor at that age and I didn’t have a lightning-bolt event,” said Woken, who grew up in Bakersfield. “I always enjoyed church, that’s where my friends were.” “Church was what our family did. Our lunch conversation on Sunday was discussing that Sunday’s sermon. It was more of a long-term process that just seemed right for me.” An upbringing that emphasized family togetherness and strong faith are at the core of Woken’s ministry at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran, nestled with its K-6 school in a residential neighborhood that lends itself to a sense of family coziness. Woken said a surprise to him when he started his career was his congregation’s expectation of an honest and forthright relationship with him. In a world filled with superficiality, Woken said, the need for straight talk from him has been humbling and gratifying over the last 20 years.