Third Annual Restorative Justice Conference: A Reflection

By Dr. Chris Dorn

About two months ago I announced to the congregation an event organized by the Calvin Prison Initiative at the R.A. Handlon Correctional facility and the Catholic Dioceses of Grand Rapids. It was named the Third Annual Restorative Justice Conference, with the theme “radical forgiveness.” Two from our congregation expressed to me interest in going, and so early on Saturday morning, October 19, the three of us made the trek from Ionia to Cathedral Square Center in downtown Grand Rapids to attend the event.

None of us knew quite what to expect. After we registered, we found a seat at one of the several round tables arranged in a rather large hall. Once all the registrants were settled, one of the organizers stood up and addressed the group. He told us about the history of the conference, what its aims are, and what to expect in the hours to come.

Soon after he finished speaking, another organizer stepped forward to introduce the keynote speaker, whose name is Kate Grosmaier, author of the book, Forgiving My Daughter’s Killer: A True Story of Loss, Faith, and Unexpected Grace. She held us all spellbound as she recounted the tragic story of the brutal murder of her nineteen-year old daughter Ann at the hands of her daughter’s boyfriend, Conor. We found her courage and determination to obey the gospel’s mandate to forgive those who have sinned against us admirable. One of the many high- lights of her story that stood out to us as we discussed the presentation on the ride home is the following:

Kate refused to let Conor, her daughter’s killer, whom she knew and loved and anticipated one day having as a son-in-law, be defined by his worse moment. That theme came up more than once in the course of the activities of the day. No doubt, it is challenging to adopt that perspective, to say the least. For me it raised the questions: Is it possible for us to see beyond the injury done to us into the face of the flawed and broken individual who committed it? Put otherwise, is it possible to hate the sin, but to love the sinner? Of course, none of this is possible apart from God’s grace; we cannot do it in our own strength. But God’s grace doesn’t necessarily make it any easier for us to face these questions in our moment of truth.

Between the speakers and panel discussions were video presentations. These were taped in the prison, where inmates involved in the Calvin Prison Initiative appeared to share their own stories about forgiveness. I confess I have a stereotype of a criminal sentenced to life in prison for murder: he is cold, heartless, and hardened. He has no remorse for his past because he has no con- science. That stereotype was shattered for me when watching the interviews of these men serving their life sentences. One told of the mother of the young man he’d murdered. She had found faith, and ten years after her loss, wrote a letter to her son’s killer. In the letter she told him how her faith had motivated her to reach out to him and offer him forgiveness. As he related the shock he’d felt in reading the letter, the inmate broke down and wept. He could scarcely recover his composure to continue.

Others spoke of the regret over their past. One of us expressed surprise at hearing how hard these inmates found it to forgive themselves for what they had done. In finding forgiveness from God and in some cases those whom they had harmed, they found a new beginning. Even though they’d forfeited their lives, and deserved nothing more than to languish in jail for the rest of their lives for their crimes, they found grace.

I cannot imagine how it must feel to lose one dearest to me at the hands of a murderer. And, to be honest, I cannot even imagine how I’d find the courage as Kate Grosmaier did to extend forgiveness to the one who murdered my loved one. But I can say that the conference impressed on me ever more deeply how great, how all-embracing is the grace of God shown to us in Jesus Christ. That, it seems to me, ought to be our focus, whether or not we are ever in the excruciating place where we have to come to terms with someone who has wounded us badly. That grace changes everything—both for sinner and sinned-against alike.

On the Calendar this month…

11/3 Daylight Saving Time ends—set your clocks back one hour

8:30 A.M. Harkness Handbells

10:00 A.M. Worship, Missions offering, Sunday School

11:00 A.M. Fellowship and Refreshments 11:30 A.M. Children’s Choir practice

11/6 9:30 A.M. Quilters

11/7 10:00 A.M. Presbyterians on the Go Travelogue

1-3 P.M. Prayer Shawl Group

7 P.M. Bible Study

11/10 8:30 A.M. Harkness Handbells practice 

10:00 A.M. Worship. Sunday School

11:00 A.M. Fellowship and Refreshments

11:30 A.M. Children’s choir practice

6 P.M. Veteran’s Day Salute

11/11 Office closed in observance of  Veteran’s Day

11/13 9:30 A.M. Quilters

11/14 1-3 P.M. Prayer Shawl Group 

7 P.M. Bible Study

11/17 8:30 A.M. Harkness Handbells practice 

10:00 A.M. Worship, Sunday School

11:00 A.M. Fellowship and refreshments

11:30 A.M. Children’s Choir practice

3 P.M. Dr. Chris Dorn’s ordination at Christian Reformed Church, Holland

11/20 9:30 A.M. Quilters

11/21 1-3 P.M. Prayer Shawl Group 

5 P.M. Soup Kitchen, Team #3 Captain Chris DesGranges

7 P.M. Bible Study

11/24 8:30 A.M. Harkness Handbells practice 

10:00 A.M. Worship, Sunday School

11:00 A.M. Fellowship and refreshments 

11/24 11:30 A.M. Children’s Choir

11/27 9:30 A.M. Quilter

11/28 1-3 P.M. Prayer Shawl Group

November Birthdays

2 Steve Slaughter

9 John McKay

12 Carol Campbell

13 Judi Emlinger

17 Bonnie Hadder

25 Susan Reglin

27 David Furman

29 Linda Hood

30 Sarah Jane Hanson

Soup Kitchen

November 21, 5:00 P.M.

Team #3

Captain, Chris Desgranges


     Mark your calendar and invite your family and friends to this event.
More information to follow in bulletins and in next month’s FPC newsletter.

You’re invited!! 

St. John Lutheran Church’s Annual German Style Chop Suey Supper.

When: Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Where: 617 N. Jefferson St., Ionia

Time: Serving from 4:00 to 7:00 pm

Cost: Adults $8.00, Children 6 to 12 years old $4.00 5 & Under Free

Take out available 616-527-1250

1st Presbyterian Church Ionia - Dr. Chris Dorn

Celebrating the Ordination of
Pastor Chris Dorn

November 17, 2019

Time:  3:00 pm

Where: First Reformed Church
630 State St.,
Holland, MI

All Are Welcome!!

Gas and Electrical Expenses for September

Gas  –  $91.09
Electric  –  $170.94

Income and Expense

Income $13,775.40
Expenses $7781.83
Monthly budget needs $5437.08

Worship Stewards

November 3—All Saints Day—Liturgist: Keith Sterner; Ushers/Greeters: Linda Hood, Pat Gustafson, Shelly Reglin 

November 10—Liturgist: Sue Reglin; Ushers/Greeters: Bill Robinson, Lavonna and David Hoover; Children’s Message: Children’s Choir 

November 17—Liturgist: Jim VanSyckle; Ushers/Greeters: Keith and Lynn Sterner, Marilyn McKay; Children’s Message: Sue Thompson 

November 24—Liturgist: Marilyn McKay; Ushers/Greeters: Norma Kilpatrick, Warren and Sue Thompson; Children’s Message: Dr. Chris Dorn

New Bible Study

Plans for a women’s Bible Study group are underway. We will begin in mid October with a five week study using the book The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henry Nouwen. We plan to meet in the evenings, beginning at 7 PM, to allow those who work during the day to attend. Wednesdays or Thursdays are being considered with members meeting in homes of those wishing to host.
If you are interested in being a part of this beginning study, please sign up in the fellowship area or call/text Carol Campbell at 419-937-5754. Indicate which night would be preferable to you, and we will select the one when the most people can attend! Once we know how many interested folks there are, books will be ordered. It is hoped that this will be the beginning of one or more Bible Study groups in the church! Let us hear from you!

Please note

The Presbyterians on the Go will continue meeting the first Thursday of each month at 10:30 A.M. for a travelogue. Everyone is welcome to come, young or old. 

There will be no travelogue on September 5th, instead we will go to the Commission on Aging for lunch. 

All Saints Day

Please join us for worship on November 3, when we celebrate All Saints Day. We will honor Oscar Johnson who left this earth to join his Heavenly Father this past year.

Can you please help Carter? 

Carter is a 14 year old boy who has autism and attends Saranac school. His grandmother is helping him by asking people to collect plastic caps/tops from bottles, laundry containers and any other item that has a plastic top. His goal is to obtain 250 pounds of these items to build a recycled bench by the time he graduates. He will begin the 8th grade soon and this is a class project. 

He is very excited about this and I have permission from his mother to ask our congregation to help him reach his goal. Could you save any plastic top and put them in our shopping cart? Carter thanks you for your help. 

Sue Thompson 


The Children’s Christmas program will be December 15th, during church.

Please note that Rev. Jon Clifton has moved.

His new address is:

5785 Somerset Drive #B4
Bath, MI 48808

 A minute for Session

Session Highlights These minutes are of the June 17, 2019 meeting. 

  • The 2018 Session minutes were approved without exception May 4, 2019 at North Park 
  • Presbyterian Church in Rockford. 
  • Oscar Edward Johnson, member #611, died April 29, 2019. His death has been recorded in the official membership rolls. On July 13, 2019, a Celebration of Life service will be held in the church sanctuary.
  • Rev. Havlik gave a report of the June 11, 2019 presbytery meeting at the First Presbyterian Church in Hesperia. Rev. Linda Rubingh from New City Kids gave the morning message entitled Message of Abundance. There was a Faith Journey statement from Barbara Schreur as she is being examined for ordination. Lynne McQuown talked about the Youth Triennium. There was a liturgy and prayer to honor the works of the First Presbyterian Church in Albion, which was recently dissolved. Rev. Alice Ankutse gave the Ghana mission report. The presbytery has decided to add more churches to the Vital Congregation Initiative.
  • A motion was passed to open a share account at the Portland Federal Credit Union. 
  • A motion was passed to approve a fundraiser for September 7, 2019. 
  • A motion was passed to accept Linda Kaufman’s offer to put together a pictorial directory.
  • Lee Hunsberger, Co-Chairperson of the Budget and Finance Committee, has moved funds in low interest savings accounts to CD’s paying higher interest. The proposed budget reflects a conservative estimate of income and a realistic estimate of expenses. Currently, a deficit of nearly $4,000 is anticipated. Once the contract with Dr. Dorn is settled, it is anticipated there will be a bigger deficit.
  • Dr. Warren Thompson, Co-Chair of Building and Grounds, reported the Girl Scouts have planted their community garden on the south side of the parking lot. A motion was approved to spend $350 for new lava rock to be added to the landscaping in the front of the church. After many attempts to fix the perpetual leak over the central entrance. 
  • Perry Gregory and Mr. Roof seem to have finally gotten it fixed. Rick Steele deter- mined the foundation was leaking from all the water coming off the roof, which was directed into the foundation drains. This was causing water in the furnace room. Darrell Curtis of Gutter Wizards of Ionia redid four downspouts to direct water away from the build- ing. He did the work at no charge. A thank you note was sent to him. Members of the committee are mowing the lawn, edging the sidewalks and applying fertilizer and crabgrass preventer to the lawn. Warren is checking into replacing the outdoor security lights with LED lights. It was discovered that our purveyor for the church’s gas was not Consumer’s Energy. Perry changed the gas back to Consumer’s Energy. 
  • The Membership and Care Committee has revised and updated the prayer chain.
  • Church organist/pianist, Mike Kaufman, was placed on immediate leave until September 30th.
  • Stewardship this year will included an explanation of Qualified Charitable Distributions. QCD’s are for anyone 70 1⁄2 with an IRA. 
  • The Pastor Nominating Committee, which is the 2017 session, on May 9th accepted Dr. Dorn’s proposal to continue at our church as our pastor. He will continue the process toward his ordination in the Reformed Church of America. 
  • A motion was passed to approve the 2019 budget. 
  • The next meeting is June 16, 2019. 

Submitted by: Margaret Gregory, Clerk of Session 

Please note our new website address and email address!!

First Presbyterian Church
125 E. Main St.
P.O. Box 125
Ionia, MI 48846

Phone 527-2320


Church Office Hours – Monday through Thursday 9:00 A.M. – 12:00 P.M.

Newsletters, Calendar and more at

 Sunday Services are at 10:00 A.M. 

Parable of the Dead Church

Parable of the Dead Church

A person once called a pastor to say he wanted to join the church. But, he went on to explain that he didn’t want to worship every week, study the Bible, visit the sick, witness to non-Christians, or serve as a leader or teacher.
The pastor commended him for his desire to join, but told him the church he sought was located in another section of town. The man took the directions and hung up.
When he arrived at the church, the man came face to face with the logical result of his own apathetic attitude. There stood an abandoned church building, boarded up and ready for demolition.