April 2023

   The Presbyletter

Ionia First Presbyterian Church125 East Main Street, Ionia, MI 48846

April 2023

Words from Pastor Chris

The God of Unexpected Grace  


Recently, I heard a story about a man who was in desperate need of a job. His wife threatened to leave him and take the kids if he did not do something. She had endured his joblessness for a long time and was at her breaking point. 

The man kept crying out to God, but it seemed to him that God wasn’t listening. One day he called a friend who told him about an opportunity of which he just recently availed himself. It involved selling illegal drugs on the street. The friend informed him of the obvious risks, but the money from the sales would more than cover the debts the man had accumulated.  

The man refused. Eventually, he lost his house. His friend laughed at his misfortune. Unable to bear the shame, his wife left with the kids. Even his parents looked at him as less than a man, and withdrew from him. The man was disappointed with God, because, despite his prayers, he had lost everything.  

One day, the man got a job as a janitor in a large firm. He was grateful for the little he had got, and so he worked diligently at his job. Soon the CEO noticed him. He saw that the man had the potential to be more than a janitor, and decided to mentor him. For two years, the man received training under the tutelage of the CEO in a business that took decades to build. One day, the CEO announced his plan to retire, and handed the company over to this man.  

God can and does bring good out of suffering and misfortune. Indeed, he does even more than this: He transforms suffering so that it actually serves the good that he intended to accomplish all along. This mysterious work of God is on full display during Holy Week and Easter, when we observe the solemnities of the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  

At first, we hear the people cry out with their “Hosannas!” on Palm Sunday to greet the humble king, who is the rightful heir to the throne of his father David. Later the people turn against him with shouts: “Crucify him, crucify him!” (Luke 23:21). Jesus is betrayed, deserted, tried and sentenced to death. On the cross, he dies with a cry of utter desolation: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34).  

But God exalted this one who humbled himself—even to the point of death on a cross—even more highly, giving him a name that is above every other name, so that at the name “Jesus” every knee should bow, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:8-11).  

Let us entrust ourselves to the God who brings good out of suffering—and ultimately resurrection out of death—in the name of Jesus and for his sake.  

The blessings of Holy Week and Easter to you,  

Pastor Chris

At A Glance

Sunday Worship
10:00 A.M.
in the sanctuary.


Join us on Facebook at
First Presbyterian Church Ionia 10:00 A.M.


Palm Sunday
April 2, 2023


Maundy Thursday Service
April 6, 2023
7:00 P.M.


Easter Sunday
April 9, 2023


Session Meeting
 April 18, 2023
2:00 P.M.

Holy Communion
First Sunday
of the month


Nursery Care Provided
Children are welcome
in the
worship service

Joint Maundy Thursday Service

First Presbyterian, Zion Methodist, and First Christian Churches will join together for a Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday) service in our sanctuary on April 6, 2023, at 7:00 P.M.  All three ministers will participate in the worship and Communion liturgy commemorating the Last Supper Jesus had with his disciples. Please join us and other members of the Ionia community for this meaningful worship time leading up to Easter Sunday.

Worship Volunteers

April 2, 2023                             Cindy Rozich               Communion Servers;  Carol Campbell, Kathy VanSyckle

 April 6, 2023                                                                  Communion Preparer; Lee Hunsberger
April 9, 2023               Marilyn McKay 
April 16, 2023             Lee Hunsberger
April 23, 2023             Barb Klenk
April 30, 2023             Cindy Rozich 

Usher/Greeter                                                                                                                       Nursery Attendant

April 2, 2023              Margaret Gregory & Norma Kilpatrick                                             Marilyn McKay 
April 9, 2023              Marcia & Ernie Ross                                                                         Margaret Gregory
April 16, 2023            Duane & Judi Emlinger                                                                     Norma Kilpatrick
April 23, 2023            Margaret Gregory & Jen Furman                                                      Cindy Rozich
April 30, 2023            Lee Hunsberger & Barb Klenk                                                          Kathy VanSyckle 

God’s gifts of grace come in many forms. Each of you has received a gift in order to serve others. You should use it faithfully.
1 Peter 4:10



The Souper Bowl of Caring was a wonderful success! We had a great time of fellowship, tasting delicious soups, eating desserts, and bidding for items at the 1- pound auction. Congratulations to Jan Arnold for winning the soup contest with her Creamy Chicken Gnocchi soup. Thank you to Marilyn McKay and the mission committee for hosting. Thank you to the many people who donated soups, desserts, and items for the auction. We raised $324.25 for the Friends of Jesus Fund. (Soup recipe follows on last page)


We will be delivering books to the 81 children in the Ionia Head Start Program this April during our Spring Into Reading Program.  For the past several years, we have collected new and gently used books for the children in Head Start.  Our goal of providing a book for each children to have for their own, will promote their reading skills and they have pride in having their own book for others to read to them.

This year we will not be asking the congregation for book donations.  Fortunately, we have enough books from a late donation last year, and books that we purchased at sale prices last year also.  Our thanks to the congregation for always generously supporting this worthy program.  Continue to pray for these little folks as they begin their school education years.

The items being collected during April for our grocery mission are as follows:

      Peanut butter
     Pancake mix

The items suggested each month are exactly that, a suggestion.  Any and all items will be accepted.  Recently some of our girls needed shampoo.  Fortunately one of our members provided shampoo and conditioner.  Personal hygiene items are always appreciated.


We had our first Youth Sunday on February 26 and will continue them every fourth Sunday.  

Camp Greenwood registration forms have been mailed.  We have eight of our youth attending camp this summer.

Terri DeBoer to Speak at First Presbyterian

On Wednesday, April 12, 2023, Terri DeBoer (a morning meteorologist from WOOD-TV) will be presenting a short program on her most recent book, entitled Brighter Skies Ahead.  This program will be held in the Fellowship Hall in our church basement. We will have coffee and cookies available at 4:30, and the program will begin promptly at 5:00. There will be books available to purchase and have signed by the author.

This program is sponsored by the Sigma Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma. Carol Campbell and Laurie Sykes are both members of this organization. Members have been encouraged to invite guests, so we are hoping that many of the women in our congregation would like to join us for this program. If you are available and would like to attend, please R.S.V.P. Laurie by Saturday, April 8th. You can call or leave a text message at 616-560-1695. If you have any questions about this event, please do not hesitate to call and ask! We hope to see you on Wednesday, April 12, 2023!

Member Spotlight Lee Hunsberger


It was suggested that the newsletter might highlight some of our long time church members in an article every so often. So this month our featured member is Lee Hunsberger. (editor)

Q: How old were you when you first started attending First Presbyterian in Ionia?

Lee:  My family moved from Plainfield Township (northeast of Grand Rapids) to RR#3, Ionia in September 1952. Prior to that, we attended the North Park Presbyterian Church. I don’t remember much about North Park since I was four when we moved, but I do remember that there seemed to be a lot more kids my age when we landed in Ionia.

Q:  What are some memories you have of your Church School years? Youth fellowship?


Lee: I remember sitting in worship at age four. I thought the minister was tall; as an adult, I learned he was five foot four. I attended a country school where there were only two others in my class; so Sunday was pretty exciting, because I would see many other kids my age or close.

The existing children’s wing did not exist when I was a kid. Sunday school was held in the four rooms by the fellowship hall. Moveable dividers separated the rooms. Older kids met upstairs in the two rooms next to the kitchenette and a chapel where the men’s room is. The only restrooms were in the basement. There was no elevator.

Q: Were you confirmed as a youth, or did you join the church later as an adult?

Lee:  Church was my favorite place to go downtown until I was a teenager. The youth got together at least once a week to talk and gawk and feel awkward. When I was about 14, I started to feel pressure to join the church. I wasn’t ready for an eternal commitment then, so I started attending less and less. We lived on a farm so it was convenient to stay home and help Dad milk the cows rather than go to church with Mom. I did not stop altogether, but I did not join either. Then I went to college.

Two decades passed. I got married and divorced and married again. One Sunday morning, my wife Barb (Klenk), was going to church as I was going to my workshop. She said, “I’m having lunch with your Mom after church. She won’t live forever. When she is gone, you will wish you spent more time with her.” What Barb said made sense. I started going to church again with Mom and Barb in Ionia; it was 1987.

Q: Who have been the influential people in your Christian faith development and your continued involvement in the church?

Lee:  When I think of people who revived my faith in Jesus and God, I think of Mom and Barb and Reverend  Bob Nixon. You could ask Bob any question. He might ponder for a while, but he always had an answer. When Bob retired, Mark Keeley took the pulpit. He asked if I had ever considered being a member. I lied and said I had not. Barb and I completed a new membership class and joined the church around 1990.

Around 2000, my mother broke her leg and moved in with us for a few months. About this time, living in Portland, Barb and I thought we would go to a church closer to home, since Mom could not longer attend. 

For a while we attended a Congregational Church in Portland where Bob Nixon was interim pastor after he retired. Then we had occasion to come back to First Pres. for a funeral. There was a new pastor; he was OK. But we realized we missed our church family. Ionia First was our home church. So we came back, and we have been here ever since and will be until neither of us can drive the 20 miles one way.

Q: What leadership roles have you had during your years as a member of the church?

Lee:  Around 2000 or so, I was asked to join the Session. It was a hard decision for me. I had already attended too many meetings. But I agreed and was elected and ordained an elder. I was chair of the Worship Committee in my first stint on Session. I tried to do every task related to worship (including nursery duty). I believe it is important to experience first hand if you can. My opinion is that Worship and Mission are the two most important standing committees of Session. I currently chair Budget and Finance, definitely my easiest assignment; since Covid, no meetings. The toughest part of being chair of budget and finance is avoiding the temptation to influence policy based on my personal opinion. My job is to oversee bookkeeping and accounting; pay quarterly payroll taxes, review insurance coverage, report monthly to the session, report annually to the congregation and try to answer questions.
There are days when I have doubts. Certainly there are days when I would deny what I believe if it would save my life. I can tell you this: faith makes me a better person than if I had no faith. And if you see me in church, it is because of Mom and Barb and Bob and God.

Cindy Rozich                1
Shelly Reglin              11
Mary Williams            12
Emily Rozich              15
Duane Emlinger          21

Update on Jeremiah Helsius 

Many of you know Jeremiah because when he was in high school he was a member of our church and attended worship. He is a graduate of MSU and is now in his last semester of his Master’s Program in Microbiology at the University of Florida. He lives in Okemos and works full time for Neogen Corporation doing food safety testing. If you are friends of his on Facebook and see his many pictures posted, you know that he spends summers and winters traveling to various parts of the world. Our best to you Jeremiah, and we hope to see you soon.

Session Highlights, January 2023 Meeting  

These are highlights from the February 2023 Session meeting:  

*  Pastor Chris and Elder Cindy served in home communion to three members who are unable to attend church. 

*  New elder training will occur at the March meeting. (Note: training was postponed until the April meeting.) 

*  Our elevator is due for a comprehensive maintenance review required by the state every  three years. We paid half the charges and will not pay more until the inspection/maintenance is  complete. 

*  Electric and natural gas prices have risen. So even though we are vigilant about turning down the heat and turning out the lights, our energy costs are rising. 

*  Session thanks the anonymous donor who paid the annual cost of our website host and maintenance. God bless you. 

*  In his report, Pastor Chris highlighted the Soaring Above Teen Center as an opportunity for outreach. 

*  Vacation Bible School will be six days in August. The theme is spiritual warfare. 

*  The pastor recommends holding a joint Maundy Thursday service with downtown churches. 

*  The budget chair reported problems related to updating this year’s bookkeeping software. However, the payroll module is working and bills are being paid. 

*  Building and Grounds presented an extensive report of repairs and maintenance which needs to be done. 

*  Christian Education reported that eight youth will attend Camp Greenwood this summer. Our church pays $100 per camper. Grand Haven Presbyterian has a donor who covers the remaining costs. 

*  Youth Sunday will resume on the fourth Sunday of each month. Youth will assist with greeting, announcements and offertory. 

*  The Kosbar fund is below the base amount. Funds in excess of the base amount as of March       31 may be used for scholarships.  

*  Mission reported that half the balance of the mission fund will be donated to Friends of Jesus to help meet local needs. 

*  Easter lilies will adorn the church. Look for the order form in the Sunday bulletin. 

*  The newsletter will list items accepted as donations for families in need. In addition to food, personal care items (shampoo, soap, toothpaste etc) are acceptable donations.

Creamy Chicken Gnocchi Recipe

3 T butter,    1 T. Olive oil
1 C diced celery,    1 C diced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 quart chicken broth
1 C shredded carrots
1 C chopped spinach (thawed frozen)
2 C diced cooked chicken thighs
1/4 C all purpose flour
2 C half and half
1 16 oz. pkg potato gnocchi
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning

  1. In a large pot saute onion, celery & garlic in oils.
  2. Add broth, carrots, spinach, chicken & Italian seasoning. Simmer 10 min, then add gnocchi and simmer 10 min more.
  3. With a slotted spoon remove all ingredients from broth.
  4. Mix flour & half and half, add to broth stirring constantly until thickened. Read vegetables, gnocchi and chicken.
  5. Serve when gently rewarmed.

Session Members / Ministry Team Chairperson / Committee Member

Judi Emlinger*   –  Christian Education, Nominating
Jen Furman*  –  Membership and Care
Perry Gregory   –  Building/Grounds
Lee Hunsberger*  –   Stewardship/Budget and Finance
Norma Kilpatrick*  –  Treasurer/Budget and Finance
Norma Kilpatrick   –  Memorials and Investments
Barb Klenk  –  Treasurer

*Session Members

 Marilyn McKay*   –  Mission
Linda Steele* – Memorial / Investment
Cindy Rozich*    –  Worship
Warren Thompson*  –  Building/Grounds
Mary Williams*  –  Christian Education
Margaret Gregory  –  Clerk of Session
Keith Sterner*   –  Personnel

First Presbyterian Staff

Rev. Dr. Chris Dorn
Sara Hyland
Steve Slaughter

Pastor Tel. 616-610-5982
Administrative Assistant

Newsletter, Calendar and more at 1stpreschurchionia.com
Email: [email protected]
Summer Church Office Hours – Wednesday 9-3
Ph# 616-527-2320 

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