She fought a good fight…..she has finished her course! On Saturday, January 20, 2018, after a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer, Pastor Mary Frances Woods was called from labor to reward at Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, NJ at the age of 83. Pastor Woods was born Mary Frances Haywood on May 7, 1934 in Red Springs, NC to the late John Sampson and Rebecca Mack Haywood. She was the sixth of seven children and attended both elementary and high school in her hometown. Her father was a very successful farmer and sharecropper in Roberson County and “Frances” as she was affectionately known, was trained early on to perform the duties associated with maintaining the large farm and fields. She also developed her love of cooking from her mother who was a dressmaker a southern cook for a local catering company. As a young girl, Frances was introduced to “holiness” by Mother McEachern who took her along with her siblings and cousins to Pilgrim Grove Holy Bible Church of God on Evans Hill. This is where Frances accepted Christ.
In September 1953, she was united in marriage with the love of her life, Bishop James Woods. Five children were born to this union, James Curtis, Carolyn, Sheila Mae, Wanda Jean and Daphne Regina. In 1960, with the assistance of Bishop Virgil Williams, Bishop and Pastor Woods relocated to Newark, NJ and were taken to Zion Holy Church by Bishop and Pastor Fairley. They were embraced by Pastor Minnie Stith and the Zion church family and began forming what would become lifetime spiritual friendships. In 1966, Pastor Woods endured an extreme test of her faith with the passing of her son, James Curtis, at 12 years old. This test allowed her to become a “living testimony” and counselor to so many others who would endure similar losses in the years to come. It was also transposing of the once shy, timid, soft spoken Frances into the tough piece of leather that she ultimately was referred as.
In September 1972, Pastor Woods answered her call to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and in January 1973, the doors of St. James were opened. Pastor Woods worked faithfully and diligently by her husband’s side as co-pastor. In 2005, after nearly 52 years of marriage and 32 years of pastoring, God called Bishop Woods home. Pastor Woods embraced her assignment to carry the work on and was ordained as an Elder in October 2005. In June 2006, she was installed as the Sr. Pastor of St. James, which took on the brand as “the church of love” and the motto “love is not love, until you give it away.” Following the establishment of One Accord Holiness Church Inc., Pastor Woods was appointed as the NJ District President and a member of the National Executive Board under the leadership of the Presiding Chief Prelate, Bishop John D. Wesley. After the establishment of One Accord Worldwide Church of God Inc., Pastor Woods continued to work faithfully, obediently and in accordance with the organization’s goal to build up the kingdom of God. Though small in stature, she was gigantic in her commitment to serve the Lord.
In addition to pastoring, she also worked for the State of New Jersey, Department of Human Services, Division of Developmental Disabilities, as a Licensed Adult Home Care Supervisor for 36 years. During her tenure, she obtained a manifold of licenses, certifications. She also received numerous accolades for her outstanding performance. As a result of inheriting her love for cooking as a young girl, she was also the proprietor of Virtuous Woman Catering. She is indeed a virtuous woman of God who has devoted her life to the purpose in which God has predestinated her for. Her living spirit sets her apart from others, as she is always thoughtful and generous.
Lastly, but certainly not least, if you knew Pastor Woods, you would know that her name was always associated with good food, hospitality, faith, love, and prayer. Pastor Woods and her Soul Food Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays will be greatly missed.
Pastor Woods is to be commended for her courage and unwavering faith. Shortly after what she referred to as “their diagnosis”, she shared this message with her family: “I’m not going anywhere until God is ready for me, so don’t cry or feel sorry for me. I’ve had a blessed and wonderful life and God has been real good to me. I had a wonderful husband, a great marriage and a loving family. If it’s in His perfect will that my time has come, know that it is well with my soul! Her last words included “it’s almost time, I’m gonna be alright and I’m going up higher”. She will forever be known as “A Great Woman of Faith”.
Preceding her in death were her parents, John and Rebecca Haywood, her husband, Bishop James Woods, her son, James Curtis Woods, her sisters, Sue Neil Gay, Minnie (Hodgin) Powell, Willie Mae (George) Farrington; two brothers, Lester Haywood and Roosevelt Arthur, and great grandson, Symir McMillian.
Pastor Woods leaves to celebrate her life and cherish memory, four loving and devoted daughters, Carolyn (Bob) Harris of Fayetteville, NC, Pastor Sheila (Joseph) Dunbar of Claymont, DE, Wanda (David) Woods-Barnett of Hillside, NJ and Daphne Woods of Newark, NJ; one special son, James (Margurite) Terry, Jr. of Waco, TX; six beloved grandchildren, Taishia Dunbar, Tony Dunbar, Christopher Woods, Brittney Barnett, Courtney Woods and Tiara Harris; 10 adored great grandchildren, Tymirra Dunbar, Shaquanna James, Nahzir Dunbar, Marcus James, Jr., Soniah Vanderberg, Ayden Webster, Nylah Dunbar, Zaire Smith, London Barnett, De’Anna Woods and Reagan McMillian; God children, Wilhelmina Hinton, Maurice Troy, Delina Blount, Kamisha Fairley, Monique Holland, Jason Holland, Elder James McKellar, John Clay, Dennis Douglas and Minister Stefan Cobb; special friends, Pastor Louise Fairley, Betty Murphy, Evangelist Everline Williams and Helen Brown; a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, friends and the St. James One Accord Worldwide Church of God Church Family.