December 2020 Newsletter

Ionia First Presbyterian Church, 125 East Main Street, Ionia, MI 48846

On Sunday, November 15, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) issued new restrictions in the ongoing effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer held a press briefing to make the announcement. Currently, the restrictions are in force for three weeks—from Wednesday, November 18 through December 8.

In view of these restrictions, the session made the decision on Tuesday, November 17, to suspend in person worship services, effective November 22. Potentially, we could resume December 13, provided that the new restrictions prove effective in reducing the number of new cases and curbing community spread. But we are not in a position to make that determination now. We will continue to monitor the conditions closely to see when it is reasonable to resume our public worship schedule. In the meanwhile, video recordings containing the prayers, the lessons, and the sermon for each Sunday will be made available on our Facebook page, as usual. Archived recordings are also available on our website.

The disruptions that the pandemic has caused in our life together have been difficult to bear, to say the least. But let us persevere, bringing to God all our petitions and requests, with thanksgiving. We are confident that there is nothing that can derail his purposes for us and for his church, not even the coronavirus.

Lord Jesus,
     keep us alert to the needs
     and caring in our deeds,
of the sick,
the prisoner,
the hungry,
the friendless,
     that at your going again
we may be ready,
—Bruce Prewer 1931-2018

Message From Pastor Chris

Christ and Consumerism 

This is the time of year when we hear about Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and even Giving Tuesday. Of course, these days are created for the purpose of encouraging people to step up their shopping and spending in preparation for the Christmas season. After all, this is the season for the exchange of gifts. Indeed, these activities are so entrenched in our culture that many vendors rely on this season to meet their bottom line. 

Most of us have fond memories of the Christmas season. And if we have the means, we find joy in spending our hard-earned money on gifts for our loved ones. But we have to be aware of a spiritual danger accompanying these activities of which our culture seldom warns us. To be sure, spending and consuming is necessary, but when they become an end in themselves, when they become activities through which we try to fill an emptiness, a felt lack, they can become an addiction, which can wreak destruction in our lives and those around us. 

How is it that we fall prey to this addiction? Author Lorraine Cavanagh tells us that consumerism thrives on the assumption that the vendor can always persuade us about a product or service that is likely to improve how we feel about ourselves. Now persuading people that they can feel better about themselves is not necessarily a bad thing. The problem comes when our emptiness, our lack, is used by the vendor, or more broadly speaking, the market to persuade us about products and services that promise what is not in their power to deliver. In this connection, Cavanagh points out that advertising relies on fantasy to achieve its end. We are more easily persuaded that this car, these clothes, or these cosmetics will turn us into the person we desire to be when they are displayed alongside or on beautiful people smiling and laughing and enjoying themselves. Of course, these are fantasy images. Cavanagh perceptively points out that the greater the sense of our emptiness, or the more painful our sense of lack, the greater the pull these images tend to have on us.  

Our redemption in Christ, however, challenges and ultimately undermines the influence consumerism exercises on us. Belonging to Christ releases us to become the true selves that God created us to be. In Christ, we are not empty, but full persons. The Apostle Paul prayed for power for the Ephesian believers to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that they might be filled with all the fullness of God (Eph. 3:19). Conscious of our worth in the eyes of God and of his love in Christ for us and for the world, we feel less and less the pull of the fantasy that promises to fill us. 

Let us exchange gifts this holiday season. Let us enjoy the delight in our loved ones when they receive from us a gift for which we spent our money. But let us not get caught up in our consumer culture. What it promises cannot fill us. Let us instead enjoy the gift that can. That gift is Jesus Christ, who came into this world in humility, born of a young peasant girl named Mary. He fills our emptiness with all the fullness of God. 

I wish you and your loved ones a blessed Christmas. 

Pastor Chris

Mission News

First Presbyterian recently presented Friends of Jesus with a contribution of $1,000.00. This was the second contribution of $1,000.00 that has been given for funding this year.      

The Friends of Jesus fund was established by Ionia area Churches to help filter all of the numerous requests’ churches receive from people in our community in need.  By combining funds that are available and appointing Adam Rewa, parish administrator of SS. Peter & Paul, to oversee them, we can successfully screen and prioritize each situation with no duplication by each church. Friends of Jesus also work with other agencies to ensure no duplication or abuse of funding. 

Mission Committee is working to help our community survive these trying times. It is with the congregation donations to Mission offering the first Sunday each month that makes it possible for our Church to continue to do God’s work in our community. We send prayers for those in need and thanks to our congregation for supporting the mission of this church.

Presbyterian knitters…

Many of you may be familiar with the Blue Star Mothers. This is a group of mothers who have sons or daughters in the active military. Every year they collect items to fill boxes to send overseas to our troops for Christmas. This year the knitting group from our church donated eight knitted blankets to be used in this project.

If you know of a person that would like a knitted blanket, please contact Mary Williams or Nancy Bronsema.  We have blankets for infants to adults.

Church families…

We continue to deliver groceries every three weeks to four church families. This month we delivered all of the fixin’s for a Thanksgiving dinner, complete with a turkey and pumpkin pie.

As always,  if you would like to make a monetary donation to this project,  we will be more than happy to accept it. This month our thanks go to Jen Furman, Shalyn Ralston, and Warren, and Sue Thompson for their donations to this project.

We would like to thank the Ionia VFW Post for providing Thanksgiving dinner for two of our church families. Even though we delivered a complete Thanksgiving dinner last week, we were able to freeze the meals and will deliver them after the first of the year. We are truly grateful for the VFW’s support. No offers will be refused.

Pamela Robinson     6
Marcia Ross             9
David Hoover         29

Session Higlights

These minutes are of the October 20, 2020 meeting in the conference room and Zoom electronic technology.

  1. For our devotional time, Pastor Chris read Psalm 62. This is a Psalm of David. When things are going well, it is easy to say we trust God. But what about when things don’t go well?  David had two reasons to trust God.  God is the source of power, and God is just.
  1. Using prepackaged cups and wafers, communion was served on October 4, 2020.
  1. The names of elders (who died between October 1, 2019, and September 30, 2020), James McKay (DOD 2/24/20), and William Fuhrman (DOD 4/6/20) were submitted to the Presbytery of Lake Michigan, for the Celebration of the Saints. They will be honored at the December presbytery meeting.    
  1. In his report, Pastor Chris covered the church in the time of the coronavirus (COVID-19), Ionia Ministerial Association, our church website, digital marketing, and the Presbytery of Lake Michigan Zoom meeting on September 19th. The number of COVID-19 has increased both nationally and in Michigan. Pastor Chris watches the numbers closely to make sure worshiping is as safe as possible. The Ionia Ministerial Association is concerned about the widespread substance abuse problems in the Ionia community. Their aim is to develop a plan for networking with community services and agencies to address the problem on multiple fronts. Pastor Chris has been working with Julie Adgate to further develop our church website, which now includes a new tab on the home page entitled “Community Resources.”  We also revised what is stated to promote donating online. Pastor Chris has been exploring Digital Marketing with Makayla Mitchell, who is with Valynt Digital. Along with Pastor Chris, members of the Membership and Care Committee will attend a free 60-minute Zoom session with Makayla and this company.  Pastor Chris attended the Presbytery of Lake Michigan Zoom meeting on September 19th. 
  1. Lee Hunsberger, Co-Chair of the Budget and Finance Committee, reported that the 2020 income through September was $55,029 while expenses were $75,623 for a cash flow deficit of around $20,594.  As of September 30, there is $135,327 in readily available assets, which includes a general fund CD maturing in January for $37,148 and over $98,179 in GF checking.  There is an outstanding check to Spartan Roofing for $7,074. This check will be deducted from the Capitol Building Fund.  A motion was made and passed to move the investment surplus in the general fund checking to Edward Jones Investments after it is known what amount is needed to pay the bills for the rest of this year. As of September 30, the Edward Jones Memorial Investment account was valued at $177,427.  Of this total, about $110,000 is attributable to specific memorial accounts. The rest is interest. In early, 2021, a CD for over $37,000 will mature.  Lee reported he has continued to explore alternates to QuickBooks. He recommended Church Windows.  Session gave him the approval to pursue the following plans: determine what information should be in a new system, see if Church Windows would meet our needs more easily and accurately, use the free test time to load data we need in any system, and plan to switch January 1, 2021, or stick with QuickBooks depending on test results.
  1. Dr. Warren Thompson, Co-Chair of the Building and Grounds Committee, reported because the central air conditioners were not used this summer, they were not serviced. The three furnaces and boiler were serviced in September. Because of COVID-19, there is little weekday activity in the building; therefore, the heat setting will be 55 degrees instead of 60. The timer broke on the exterior lights at the central entrance, and a replacement unit was found, which was installed. Because one of the two light fixtures in the administrative office failed, both fixtures were replaced by LED fixtures that are less expensive to operate and require no maintenance. Spartan Roofing has repaired the flat roof and plans to repair the leaks in the main roof in October. Warren and Perry trimmed the bushes in June and cut them back in October. We continue to use the lawn service arranged for a discounted rate with an occasional spot spraying by us as necessary. Thank you Sue Thompson for taking care of the four planters at the main entrance. Phase 2 of the plan to update and top dress the lava rock will be done in 2021.
  1. Judi Emlinger, Co-Chair of the Christian Education Committee, stated Pastor Chris continues his Sunday school class in the conference room from 9:20 AM until 9:45 AM. There are usually three students. Pastor Chris stated provided they continue to meet, the idea is to move to a new format beginning the first Sunday in Lent. With their parent’s approval, the purpose would be to prepare them for baptism on Easter Sunday. 
  1. The Membership and Care Committee met on October 7th in the conference room. Pastor Chris also attended. The process of reviewing the membership rolls began. David and Brenda Bosley attended our worship service on October 4. Mary Williams continues to coordinate and purchase the majority of the food and other necessities for the families of our children. Anyone wanting to assist financially can send their contribution to Mary Williams. Margaret usually goes with her.     
  1. Dr. Keith Sterner, Personnel Committee Chairperson, reported Lee prepared the pastoral agreement, which all session members and Pastor Chris signed. Pastor Chris has agreed to provide services as outlined in the part-time pastor position description. For these services, the session agreed to the following compensation (which meets presbytery minimum) on an annual basis for a half-time position (20 hours); combined salary and housing of $33,485 (Note that this includes a $5,000 grant and $5,000 matching funds from the congregation). If either the grant or the match are not forthcoming, compensation will be reduced by the shortfall, retirement fund $3,683.35, medical coverage $11,742.50, disability coverage $334.85, up to $1,500 travel reimburse at the federal standard, up to $800 for professional development, up to $300 for books, videos, on-line membership fees or other alternatives approved by session. Per presbytery requirements, he is entitled to 30 days of vacation including 4 Sundays. He can also claim 2 weeks of professional development including 2 Sundays. This agreement can be abandoned with a thirty (30) day written notice by either party. This agreement becomes effective by approval of the session on October 20, 2020.
  1. Lee Hunsberger provided a written report for the Memorial and Investment Committee. On September 15, Lee, Norma, Linda Steele, and Perry Gregory met with Paul Lentz at Edward Jones for an annual review. Lee reported there is $181,000 in memorials, $80,000 in memorial interest, and $113,000 in the Kosbar account. The proposed memorial guidelines were presented. Session will work to identify people to contact for each memorial to determine the desires of the family on how the memorial can memorialize their loved one. 
  1. All Saints Day is Sunday, November 1. 
  1. Lee Hunsberger, Stewardship chairperson, reported stewardship letters would be mailed in October. 
  1.   The next meeting is on November 17, 2020, at 7:00 PM in the church conference room and via Zoom.   

Submitted by: Margaret Gregory Clerk of Session

November Stewardship Update 

By the day before Thanksgiving, the stewardship team had received $1.150 in pledges or donations toward matching funds for the $5,000 grant that Pastor Chris was awarded. Our matching goal is $5,000 so we have a way to go. Any grant money that is not matched by the end of October 2021 will be returned to the grantor.  You may indicate an amount on your pledge form if you want to contribute toward the match. Or, send an email to the church if it would be more convenient than returning the pledge form.

Regular pledges received by Thanksgiving totaled $20,630.  We are a little behind this because we usually celebrate at the church on the Sunday nearest Veteran’s Day.  The stewardship team apologizes for the tardiness on their part.  We pray we can celebrate in person next November.

In the meantime, please return your pledge form to the church or email your pledge to 


November Budget and Finance News 


Our church will have enough money to pay obligations through the end of 2020 if people continue to give at the current pace.  When this became apparent in November, we moved some money from general fund checking to the Edward Jones investment account. 

We will be developing a budget for 2021 in December. A shortfall is expected in 2021 but the amount cannot be estimated until we have more responses from the pledge drive.  Fortunately, there is a general fund certificate of deposit maturing in January which will be plenty to see us through the lean winter months if the winter is lean. 

The church will begin using Church Windows software in January. This software will combine membership information, donations, accounting, payroll, and mailing labels.  The program shares information among the modules which will significantly reduce data entry and inconsistencies.  For example, an address change in the membership module will also change the mailing list. Another example: an entry in the donation module will update the accounting module. Fund accounting will allow us to have one checking account and accurately update memorial funds.  So, we will be able to eliminate the memorial fund checking account for which the church pays a monthly fee even though few checks are written from the account. 

I appreciate that few of you get as excited about accounting as I do.  I understand.  But I want you to know that I am pretty excited about this software.  Please feel free to ask me any questions.  I promise I will try to keep the answers short.

Peace be with you, 


Session Members / Ministry Team Chairperson / Committee Member

Judi Emlinger*   –  Christian Education
 Perry Gregory   –  Building/Grounds
David Hanson*  –   Nominating
Lee Hunsberger*  –   Stewardship/Budget and Finance
Norma Kilpatrick*  –  Treasurer/Budget and Finance
Norma Kilpatrick   –  Memorials and Investments
 Barb Klenk  –  Treasurer

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

First Presbyterian Staff

Rev. Dr. Chris Dorn
Deb Montgomery    
Steve Slaughter       

Pastor Tel. 616-610-5982

Newsletter, Calendar and more at
Church Office Hours-Monday through Thursday
9:00 AM-12:00 PM, Ph# 616-527-2320 

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