New to Woodside? so are we!
if you're thinking of visiting woodside,
In fact, we’re asking questions, too, because we're in a new space, a rented space, and we're figuring it out as we go.
When and where?
You can find us Sundays at 11 am, at our new home, 503 Garland Street (at Second Ave) in Carriage Town neighborhood. Parking is in the rear. Entrance is off the front patio.
i heard you were closed.
That's because a lot of people think of "churches" as "buildings." Woodside congregation, the community of faith, has been around since the 1830s (before the 1960s, we were known as First Baptist Church of Flint), and expects to be around another century.
It is true, however, that we sold our iconic Court Street building and moved to a smaller place -- a different iconic building, the old Sears Tire Store in Carriage Town. We wanted a way to be more engaged in the community, and less tied up with building care. So, we’ve been renting for about a year, and now we’re moving in! Far from being closed, we are as busy as ever, and growing all the time.
Will I be welcome?
Oh yeah. You can read it in our statement of belief. We welcome everybody! No exceptions. Woodside is enriched by our diversity. Our community includes white and black; straight, gay and trans; old and young; families, couples and singles; folks from a variety of religious backgrounds -- or none at all. Whoever you are, whatever your story, you're welcome here!
no, i mean will i really be welcome?
We know that churches are famous for saying “welcome,” but then subtly communicating in all kinds of ways that the welcome is conditional or fake. We don’t ever want you to think that. You are welcome as you are. We take all the steps that we can to express that loving welcome, and we hope you’ll tell us if we fall short.
Will I be embarrassed?
We won’t single you out or make you stand or bring you a boutonniere or Woodside pencil as a special gift. (However, we have pencils if you want one.)
Will I know what to do?
We think so. You’ll be greeted by an usher who will give you a worship bulletin. Everything you need is right there.
Will I be included?
Part of welcoming everyone means including everyone. Worship almost always includes holy communion, a meal of community, of remembrance, of renewal and grace. We invite everyone to join in without requirement of any particular theological understanding. The bread is gluten-free (and nut-free, as far as we can tell); the wine is alcohol-free; the meal is free. Practically nothing in there at all, we say, except the power of God to make us new.
Is anyone going to pressure me to join?
Will I have to sign anything?
Sounds like you have concerns about being able to check us out without awkwardness. Please, count on it. We have people at Woodside who have worshipped for years without joining, and others who join after a few months. We do pass around attendance pads each week, but this is just so we can know who you are (and keep track of members). We’d love you to sign it, but there’s no requirement. (Pastor Deb likes to write notes to folks, and this is where she gets the contact info.)
Be prepared: someone will almost certainly invite you to stay for coffee (which happens right there in the worship space). Usually we have coffee, juice, snacks, including some vegetarian and vegan options. Conversation is good and people just enjoy visiting. Totally casual. New people have said they always feel comfortable here, and we hope you will, too. If you can stay, please do. If you can’t, we understand!
What’s worship like?
Sunday morning worship has a shape like this: welcome and prayer, which we sometimes read aloud together; a song; usually 2 readings from scripture; Deb preaches for about 25 minutes, followed by a song or instrumental music; we gather an offering, sometimes read together a statement of faith, (which has a lot of grace for not being sure); more prayers, Holy Communion, and another song. Everything you need to know is in the worship bulletin. And if you find anything that is confusing, we hope you’ll tell us, so we can make it better.
Our music is quasi-traditional, whatever that means. We use mostly piano, sometimes an acoustic guitar, sometimes other stuff. Our special music is small ensembles, informal, just whoever wants to be involved. If this is your thing, you should meet Tom, our music leader!
Is there an alternative to Sundays or anything happening during the week?
Woodside wants folks to feel comfortable and welcome, so we asked Wildroot Coffee to provide coffee on us, free to the community. Tuesdays, you can find Chris in the worship/coffee space. Great coffee and a peaceful space. Plus wifi. Come and have a cup, hang-out, be yourself. If the sign is out, we're open.
What accommodations can you make
for people with special needs?
For those with mobility challenges, we have easy access to the main entrance. We also have accessible reserved parking on the north side of the building. We have accessible restrooms. Our entire Sunday morning routine happens on the main level, street level. There is no need to go upstairs at all. Our worship space is set up with chairs instead of pews, so there is always a way to create appropriate space.
For those with challenged vision, we have large-print editions of our worship folder, including all the songs, and we print everything in fonts shown to be easier for folks with dyslexia. Again, just ask the ushers.
For those with dietary restrictions, be aware that our holy communion is alcohol-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, and, we think, nut-free. We have vegans and vegetarians, so our snacks are generally a variety.
If you have some other need, please let us know and we’ll try to address it.
can i ask one more question about the restrooms?
There are two restrooms in the lower level — both marked “all genders.” Both are wheelchair accessible, and very soon both will have baby changing tables. (The changing tables are on order; for the moment, you are welcome to use the one in the nursery.)
Will I be dressed appropriately?
Yes. You’ll worship with people in jeans or suits, heels, tennis shoes or flip flops. Some wear hats. Pastor Deb wears a robe (which changes with the season); she usually wears Birkenstocks. And she has been known to preach barefoot.
Where do I go?
When you arrive, you can park on the street, or in the parking lot behind the building. Use either door off the patio.
What about my kids?
Children are, of course, welcome at Woodside, and we always try to make sure their needs are tended. In response to parent input, our education is happening in special events, from time to time. So, most kids are in worship (and seem to dig it). We have a licensed, professional teacher on staff, working with our younger ones in the nursery. For special events, we offer professional child care, as needed. Just let us know.
Our nursery seems to be down a maze, but it really isn’t. The entrance is in a back hallway, but there is a window into the sanctuary, so that parents can check on the kids anytime. (The window is reflective, so the kids cannot really see you very well.)
Is there "Sunday school" for adults?
Yep, but we don't call it that. For adults, we have at least one forum at 9:30 each Sunday morning -- and child care available during this time. Sometimes there are other classes and conversations. For more info about anything education related, go here.
What if I’m not sure what I believe?
Welcome to Woodside! We believe that faith grows and changes, ebbs and flows. Wherever you are on your journey of faith, there’s likely someone here in the same place. We don’t have all the answers, but we like to say “if you’re searching for something, come to Woodside and we’ll look with you.”
WHAt's with the red circle?
Back in the 1950s, when Woodside became Woodside (we’ve been the First Baptist Church of Flint), and fair housing was a giant community issue, Woodside's pastor, Dr. Franklin Elmer, gave us what he called The Flag of Humanity. This simple flag, a red circle on a white field, has been carried in community demonstrations since then, on the front lines at Selma, locally in the fight for fair housing, anywhere there is a need for justice. It went to President Obama's first inauguration, and to Standing Rock, to marches in DC, and somewhat regularly to Lansing! It's our symbol of our ongoing commitment to the common good.
WHY DIDN'T PASTOR DEB ACCEPT MY
FACEBOOK FRIEND REQUEST?
Please don't take it personally. Social media has put a new wrinkle in ‘relationship standard operating procedure’ for clergy. Pastors have always been urged and/or required to live by particular standards in developing relationships with congregation members. Among those rules for healthy pastorates, the need to keep clear boundaries between professional/pastoral and personal relationships. Pastors have individually been somewhat free to figure out what that meant, but all of us have had to reflect and determine what seems best to each. Pastor Deb's practice all along has been to avoid overlap between congregation and her social circle.
So, with the advent of social media, she and other clergy have had to set parameters for connections such as Facebook friendships. She says: "My own approach is not to have social media connections or friendships with members of my congregation, with staff or interns currently supervised by me, or with anyone under the age of 18. I know some other pastors have different approaches; I respect that. But this system works for me. I just wanted you all to know, so that no one of you thinks I’m singling you out for rejection. Thanks."
We don’t always get it right.
Sometimes our answers seem self-serving. Sometimes we’re in a bad mood (though not usually all at the same time). Sometimes we’re distracted by the wrong things. And sometimes we just don’t know what to do. People can be that way. But we keep trying. And we laugh a lot.
If you’re looking for a place to ponder faith, a place you don’t have to have it all together, a place to be yourself and build relationship with God, a community of grace, we’d like to be your place.