The Rev. James E. Woods II, 62, of Wilmington, a pastor, mentor, and author, died Thursday, Jan. 28, of sepsis at Seasons Hospice at Wilmington Hospital.
Originally interested in pursuing an education in medicine after high school, Pastor Woods took a religion class at Temple University and became so interested in theology that he transferred to Jameson Bible Institute and graduated with a doctorate in divinity.
He went on to found the El Shaddai Word Center Church in Philadelphia, later renamed El Shaddai Christian Assembly, in 1983. Over the next three decades, first in North Philadelphia and then in the Northwest part of the city, Pastor Woods trained and mentored other ministers, visited and preached to congregations as far away as the Caribbean, and worked to help young people navigate their world.
“He grew up in the church, and he liked to teach,” said his daughter Tiffany Ifon. “He really liked kids, and drew young people to him. They connected.”
An avid reader and audio book listener, Pastor Woods had an extensive library and wrote four books: How To Be Happy Regardless in 2017; What Happened to the Baby They Stole? in 2018; and Princess Antoinette and the Magic Box and Canaanite Chronicles: Book 1: Spying Out the Land in 2019.
He was the CEO of Prime the Pump Publications LLC and urged others to make their voices heard through published writing. He was on the boards of several outreach organizations, a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors, and certified as both a behavior consultant and personal coach.
He was honored in 2003 by Mayor John F. Street and the City Council of Philadelphia for a youth campaign, and the family received several resolutions of special recognition from civic and religious groups after his death.
Born Aug. 4, 1958, to James E. Woods Sr. and Inez Woods, Pastor Woods grew up in Philadelphia with his mother after his parents divorced. She later married Harvey Cooper.
Pastor Woods graduated from Parkway Alpha High School at 15.
Active at Mount Calvary Baptist Church as a youth, Pastor Woods sang in the choir and taught vacation Bible school. He later joined Mount Pisgah United Holiness Church. That’s where he had met Barbara Brown earlier.
Wanting to learn more about her, the family said, Pastor Woods signed up for Bible classes at Jameson he thought she would attend. As it turned out, her mother — not Barbara — had signed up for the same classes. Nevertheless, Pastor Woods and Brown were married in 1977, and went on to have two children, daughter Tiffany and son James Edward III.
“He was the model of perseverance,” said his son. “He was super intellectual, and he seemed to know everything.”
“He was into quality time with us,” said his daughter. “He always had an ear to listen.”
The family moved to Wilmington in 1990 when Pastor Woods joined a ministry there, but he continued his work in Philadelphia, too. He liked to talk politics and, as a part-time tax consultant, was interested in how economics and leadership intersected with religious life. He liked jazz. He also liked traveling, especially on long drives with his children.
They visited, among other places, Niagara Falls, Disney World, Alaska, Hawaii, and Mexico. He enjoyed open-air train rides in Panama, and science-fiction stories.
“His passion was people,” his family wrote in a tribute. “He loved ministering in various formats, venues, and platforms. He shared the love of Christ wherever he went.”
In addition to his wife and children, Pastor Woods is survived by three grandchildren, three brothers, two sisters, and other relatives.
Donations in his name may be made to El Shaddai Christian Assembly, 1448 Greenwood St., Phila., Pa. 19150.