The Presbyletter

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

March 2021

Message From Pastor Chris

Patience is a Virtue

There is an old story, which I hesitate to relate here, since it has been used countless times as a sermon illustration, and will doubtless be familiar to many. Nevertheless, it is both entertaining and thought-provoking, and so worth repeating.   

Once upon a time, there was a Chinese farmer whose horse escaped from the barn and ran away. That evening, his neighbors came over to commiserate with him. They said: “We are sorry to hear your horse has run away. That is most unfortunate.” The farmer said: “Maybe.” The next day, the horse came back bringing seven wild horses with it. In the evening, the neighbors returned and said: “Oh, isn’t that fortunate. What a great turn of events. You now have eight horses!” The farmer again replied: “Maybe.” The following day, his son tried to break one of the horses and while riding it, was thrown off and broke his leg. The neighbors went to him again and said: “Oh dear, that’s too bad” and the farmer again responded: “Maybe.” The next day, military officers came to conscript people into the army and rejected his son because he had a broken leg. Once again, the neighbors came over and said: “Isn’t that great!” Again, the farmer said: “Maybe.”  

In this story, there is content certainly worth contemplating from a Christian point of view. But perhaps first a caveat is in order. The stoic reserve with which the Chinese farmer reacted to the misfortunes that befell him is not necessarily healthy. In the Bible, God’s people lament individual and collective misfortunes. They express their grief to God and cry out to him to deliver them in their distress. The alternative is to repress the negative emotion. But this can have devastating effects on the health of our bodies, as Gabor Maté has shown in his fascinating book, When the Body Says No. The Bible does not sugarcoat the realities of this world. It teaches us to call them by their proper names and react to them accordingly.   

However, the Bible teaches us also that this world and all the events that happen within it are providentially ordered by God and serve ultimately to advance his purposes for his people, purposes that are good. In this connection, the Apostle Paul tells us in his Letter to the Romans that God makes all things work together for the good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose (8:28). Since our minds are finite and our perspective is limited, it is not at all clear to us how this is possible, especially in a world like ours.   

But the fact remains that this world belongs to God. Our response is to trust that God knows what he is doing when he disposes over its affairs. Here is where the Chinese farmer can perhaps instruct us. He is patient. He resists attributing to events a meaning that will emerge only when they find their place in a chain whose beginning he cannot see and whose end has not yet come. Are we able to adopt his posture? Can we too be patient? We can, especially when we combine our patience with a trust in God’s goodness. We can wait patiently when we are confident that God is behind the scenes working together things we cannot see for a good end.  

Pastor Chris

Return to In-person Worship

At its meeting on February 16th, the Session decided that the decision to resume in-person worship will be made at the March 16th meeting. The goal is to return to in-person worship Palm Sunday, March 28th, at the earliest, or Easter Sunday, April 4th, at the latest. Of course, the COVID numbers will be watched very carefully, and they will be taken into consideration when making this decision. Our safety and health is the most important factor. Until then, stay safe, healthy and warm.  Margaret Gregory, Clerk of Session

March Birthdays

6       Vince Russo
24     Jacob VanSyckle
26     Lew Campbell

Per capita dues

With the beginning of a new year, it is time to once again pay our per capita to the Presbytery of Lake Michigan.  For 2021, the per capita for each active member is $35.23 (General Assembly $8.98, Synod of the Covenant $3.25, Presbytery of LM $23.00).  Our total of $2,360.41 is based on 67 members as of 12/31/20.  As in the past, the Budget and Finance Committee is always very appreciative of members paying their own per capita.  If you are able to do so, please indicate your $35.23 is for your per capita.  Thank you very much.

Mission News

We delivered groceries to three of our families on February 17.  As always they were very appreciative. 

A big thank you to Lee & Barb, Carol & Lewis, Warren and Sue, and Jen Furman for their generosity in donating money so we can keep this program going. I know I  sound like a broken record,  but any donation will be greatly appreciated.   

I  often take homemade cookies, cupcakes, etc., when we make our delivery. If anyone would like to help by volunteering to make something, please let me know. Thank you so much to bakers Warren Thompson and especially Marilyn McKay. Marilyn has been my go to gal to help with baking.

I am so appreciative to all of you for your help and aid. I could never do this alone.  God bless all of you.

January Session Highlights  

Once again this year we were able to report to Presbytery, in response to their request for “Church Indebtedness”, that we have “No Debt”.  

Session approved a motion to suspend communion until in-person worship resumes.  

Budget reported that in 2020 we spent about $6,000 more than we received.  The deficit was covered by savings.  

We continue to inch toward implementation of Church Windows.  In addition to replacing Quick Books, the new program will keep member information, record donations, provide an automated calendar and keep mailing lists updated.  

While Covid statistics and vaccination data are looking much better, the virus is still cause for concern. Consequently, we will continue to attend church virtually.  We hope to resume in-person worship for Easter. Session will decide at the March meeting. 

Budget & Finance Update

In January, we started the new year with a surplus of around $4,000.  Will the trend continue? Church income and expenses fluctuate more from month to month than our family finances.  We tend to receive large donations early and late in the year.  Don’t fret about month to month fluctuations. We are on solid ground.


Longtime member David Hanson died unexpectedly while recuperating from abdominal surgery. David, who recently turned 90, was the senior member of the congregation, joining the church in 1941 at age 11.  He was one of those steady members, always contributing quietly.  He was honest, compassionate and always spoke his piece as a leading elder.  He will be missed more than words can say. Keep his wife Sarah Jane and the rest of the family in your thoughts and prayers. 


If you phone or drop by the church on certain days, you will hear a new voice or see a new face in the administrative assistant’s chair.  Her name is Sara and she is in the process of acquainting herself with the office routine.  Lee Hunsberger is providing training and orientation.  Sara also works part-time for Community Church in Muir so we are coordinating her work schedule with them. Currently we expect she will be in Ionia on Monday and Wednesday from 9 to 2.  Upon occasion, Sara will have a two-year-old helper named Sam.  Please welcome Sara and Sam when you get the chance. 

God be in my head, and in my understanding.

God be in my eyes and in my looking.

God be in my mouth and in my speaking.

God be in my heart and in my thinking.

God be at my end and at my departing.

An old English prayer.

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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