December 2023

   The Presbyletter

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

December 2023

Words from Pastor Chris

The Meaning in the Waiting 

Before long, Christmas will be here. I remember when I was a little boy during the Christmas season. I, my brother, and later my sister, were thrilled when our dad brought home the tree, retrieved the stand from a shelf in the basement, and set it up in a corner of the living room. We promptly hung the decorations, but only gradually did the presents begin to accumulate under the tree. This was the time of waiting. How we looked forward to the day when we would gather around the tree and tear open all the gifts we had been eagerly waiting for! 

Christmas is a season of waiting—a reality certainly impressed on me as a little boy. But when I got older and learned to contemplate the “reason for the season,” I came to understand “waiting” in a deeper sense. For Christians, the waiting is for the One whom the prophets foretold: the Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior of God’s people. “Unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). Christmas is about the coming, the “advent,” of the long-awaited Savior, Jesus Christ, into the world. 

But Advent also makes sure we understand that this birth was no ordinary event, one that happened in the distant past, preserved only in the collective memory of an odd people still inspired by the charming story in this advanced technological age. It is only because this event opens a future for us, for the world, that it is worth remembering at all. It is only because the appearing of the Savior in our world in the past is a pledge of the second coming of the Savior in our world in the future that it is worth celebrating. 

Let us then enter this season of waiting together. And as we do, let us not only look back, reliving with the prophets the anticipation of the birth of the Christ child; let us also look forward to the event still to come, the coming of Christ the King in the clouds of heaven. For he came first to bear the sins of many, and he will appear a second time, not to bear sins, but to bring salvation to those who are eagerly waiting for him (cf. Hebrews 9:28). 

Advent Blessings to you, 

Pastor Chris

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

Fellowship Time
immediately following worship in
the Memorial Room


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

Holy Communion
First Sunday of the Month

Session Meeting
December 19, 2023
2:00 p.m.

Joint Christmas Eve

December 24, 2023
6:00 P.M.

Zion Community Food Pantry

During the past year, the Zion Community Food Pantry has seen a surge of new patrons due to inflation, which has caused food prices to spike. This increase in numbers, unfortunately, has coincided with a decline in support. Both Meijer’s Simply Give program and Feeding America of West Michigan, on which Zion has depended heavily in the past, now contribute less because of the rising demand from other pantries they support. This affects what Zion is able to give out and how much. Zion remains very grateful to their generous supporters, both those who give cash and in-kind donations. To make an online donation, go to

Grocery Mission

A Thanksgiving Dinner complete with turkey, all the trimmings including pumpkin pie, was delivered to three of our church families.  A very big “thank you” to Marilyn McKay for her help.

The grocery items being collected during December are:

  • Cereal/oatmeal
  • Canned fruit
  • Canned vegetables
  • Toilet paper

Thank you to all who contributed to date.  We have a good supply of a variety of things we can provide to our families.

Upcoming Events for December

On Sunday, December 10, during our fellowship time we will be having a cookie exchange. We are asking that you bring a dozen cookies and in turn you can take home a dozen assorted cookies which others have baked. If you are not a baker yourself, please feel free to purchase some for the exchange. 

Since the exchange will be during our coffee hour, please bring an extra half dozen cookies to be enjoyed with your coffee or tea. Thank you in advance for your contribution!

If you have any questions, please contact Mary Williams at 269-838-6671.

December 24th at 10:00 a.m.
Fourth Sunday of Advent

During our morning service, we will celebrate the last Sunday of Advent
as we await the birth of the Christ Child.

December 24th at 6:00 p.m.
Candlelight Service

We will gather with fellow Christians from First Christian Church and Zion Methodist Church for a service in our sanctuary. With shepherds and angels, we will hear the story of Jesus’ birth. Christ has come, and we welcome him into our hearts and minds at this candlelight service.

Choral Concert

On Sunday, December 17, at 3:30 p.m. The Lakewood Area Choral Society will present  its December concert, The Music of Christmas. 
This year the concert takes place at First Presbyterian Church of Hastings,
405 N.M-37, Hastings, Michigan

Four members of our congregation sing with this excellent chorus.
We hope many of you will make the trip to our sister church
for this musical event!

Sunday Worship Volunteers


December 3

December 10

December 17

December 24

December 31


Barb Klenk

Kathy VanSyckle

Lee Hunsberger

Cindy Rozich

Maylin McKay


Margaret Gregory, Norma Kilpatrick

Carol and Lew Campbell

Margaret Gregory, Cindy Rozich

Jen Furman, Norma Kilpartick

Judi and Duane Emlinger

Communion Preparer/Server

Kathy VanSyckle, Judi Emlinger

Advent Wreath Lighting
Week 1: Carol and Lew Campbell
Week 2: Linda Hood and Jen Furman
Week 3: Margaret Gregory and Norma Kilpatrick
Week4:  Sunny Pennington Fariya Hubbard

Budget and Financial News

This report covers income and expenses for October and Year-to-date (YTD) for the first ten months of 2023.

                      Month             YTD
Income         $5,736             $73,762
Expenses      $8,019             $86,726
Summary    ($2,284)           ($12,964)


Cash Flow 

To continue to do business, an organization must have a break-even cash flow. It feels harsh to apply a business model to a spiritual endeavor.
In a viable organization, revenue pays the bills each month. When cash flow is negative, assets are liquidated to pay the bills. 
To cover anticipated expenses in November and December, $10,000 was taken from the Edward Jones money market account and deposited in the church checking account.

Session Highlights

These are highlights from the October session meeting: 

  • Pastor Chris and Elder Margaret Gregory served in-home communion to two members who are unable to attend church 
  • The clerk reported attending a webinar “Understanding the Legalities about Protecting Houses of Worship” 
  • The pastor intimated that making no decision is deciding to do nothing. This church is at a decision point. Do we continue to float or try to find a different course? 
  • We are exploring a shared Christmas service with whomever wants to join a community celebration of Christ’s birth. 
  • Presbytery will fund ministries that can show some hope, up to $5,000. Funding comes from sale of failing congregations; not failing from lack of faith; just not enough money to support a space and minister.  
  • A new nursery attendant schedule will cover through the end of this year. You must sign up if you want to supervise the nursery. 

 Special Dates         

  • First Sunday of Advent, December 3, 2023
  • Second Sunday of Advent, December 10, 2023
  • Third Sunday of Advent, December 17, 2023
  • First day of winter, December 21, 2023
  • Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 24, 2023
  • Christmas Eve, December 24, 2023
  • Christmas Day, December 25, 2023
  • New Year’s Eve/Watch Night, December 31, 2023

Maranda Morris 2
Rev. Jean Mulder 2
Marcia Ross 9
Max Hyland 24
Joan Colter 27
David Hoover 29

Lord Jesus,

Master of both the light and the darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.

We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day. 

We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us. 

We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom. 

We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.

We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.

To you we say, “Come Lord Jesus!”        -Henri J.M. Nouwen 1932-1996

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
Email: [email protected]
Church Office Hours – By appointment
Ph# 616-527-2320

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