November 2020 Newsletter

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

Thank you from Pastor Chris

Many of you appreciate that pastors have been under strain in these past several months. The pandemic
has a record number of clergy preparing to leave their churches. I am very grateful to you for the care and
support you have shown to me, your pastor, as we have sought ways to cope with these extraordinary
circumstances together. Nowhere was your care and support on greater display than in the very generous
gift that you gave to me Sunday, October 18 in recognition of Pastor Appreciation Month. Though small,
we have been truly growing in the Spirit into genuine community, where we learn “to give as well as to
receive.” And in this I find joy. Thank you for your generous gift. With love, Pastor Chris

Thanks From Our Church Families

We continue to make a grocery delivery to several of our church families. We are once again back to four families. We are now making deliveries every three weeks. With the holidays and winter weather closing in, it will be a little less hectic every three weeks as opposed to every other week. Because of the increase in need, any donation will be greatly appreciated.

Thank you to David & Sarah Jane Hanson, Jen Furman, Barb Furton, Lee Hunsberger & Barb Klenk and David & Lavonna Hoover for monetary support. A huge thank you to Margaret Gregory, Sue Thompson and Marilyn McKay for all of their help. I could not do this without their support. Also, thank you to Margaret and Pastor Chris for accompanying me when the groceries are delivered.

This Christian project is very much appreciated by these families and they never fail to express their

A message from Pastor Chris

The Church in a Society in Crisis 

That American society has been shaken to its foundations by our political dysfunction is a commonplace observation. We are living in troubled times, and many are anxiously wondering whether the forces unleashed by our toxic politics will succeed in tearing us apart.  Chloe Valdary, distinguished for developing an antiracism program that actually fights bigotry instead of spreading it further ( observed recently that the two opposed political groups—the “woke left” and the “reactionary right”—both emerge from the same problem. It is a problem that has plagued the 21st century and arguably constitutes the root of the crisis of our time. That problem is alienation.  

Valdary notes that alienation happens as persons and groups disengage from civic institutions (e.g. marriage, family, church, etc.). As this process unfolds, they soon fail to see the point of society at all and drop out. And unless the process is arrested, its eventual outcome is the obsolescence of institutions and the disintegration of society.  

Since human beings are social animals, the resulting loss of a sense of belonging will prove destructive. Author Timothy P. Carney found in the 2016 election cycle that many rural poor communities had been suffering from the predictable symptoms of alienation: deaths of despair, alcoholism, opioid addiction, and other social maladies. We all have had the occasion here in Ionia to witness these same realities before our own eyes.   

These communities tended (and still tend) to identify with the “reactionary right.” But what about the “woke left?” In the forthcoming edited volume Belonging Through a Psychoanalytic Lens (2021), several authors reflect on the mass protests of this past year. They hypothesize that underlying these actions is a sense of wishing to belong, of wishing no longer to be alone. This is not to deny that many or perhaps even most of these protests were undertaken for justifiable causes; it is to suggest, however, that a lack of sense of belonging to a family, a peer group, a religious community, or a nation-state provides one of the enabling conditions for them. We might add here that the destruction of monuments that has accompanied the protests also has significance in this regard: the rejection of the symbols of the social order represents the rejection of the social order itself, from which the protesters are alienated. Thus the alienation of the “woke left.”   

Valdary notes that these things happen in ordinary times when institutions are in decline. She invites us to consider how the Covid-19 pandemic has amplified them. In a way, the pandemic presents us with an impossible dilemma: on one hand, we have to “socially distance” for an extended period of time if we are going to overcome it; on the other, we are only going to overcome alienation if we (re)learn how to be social with each other. She adds that recent studies warn of neurobiologically adverse effects of long term “social distancing.” Those under 25 are especially at risk, since the prefrontal cortex of their brains has yet to develop fully.    

How do we endure this crisis? There is a twofold answer to consider here. 

 First, it seems to me that we should adopt the practices that Valdary prescribes for as long as the pandemic lasts. These include making phone calls with loved ones a ritual; limiting our time on social media; and meditating. Among the many reasons this last one is important is that it enhances slow and deliberate thinking, improves decision-making functioning, and heightens rational ways of thinking. These are invaluable in a time of crisis, which can cause panic and mass hysteria. 

Second, we need to embrace the church. We need to regain an appreciation for what God gives us in the church. The three girls and I have been studying the church in Sunday school these past few weeks. We have learned, among other things, that the church can be compared to a body. Just as a body has a head and members, so also the church. Christ is the head of the church. As head, he orders and governs and directs the members of his body in ways that are good and healthy for the whole body. Each member of the body is organically related to the other. Each needs the other for the proper functioning of the whole.  

Pause to consider the body as a metaphor for the church for a few moments. Is there a better metaphor by which to convey that deep sense of belonging to one another that is God’s plan for the church? If there is one, it hasn’t occurred to me.  

 If we have been baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ, we have been made members of his body, the church. That means we belong to each other. That most of us have not been able to meet together for in-person worship on Sunday due to the pandemic does not change that fact.  

 To conclude on this note is appropriate for this month. For November 1 is All Saints Day. This is a day about the church. The church is a communion, a mutual belonging to one another, that extends through space and time. There is a living link between the church militant (the church on earth) and the church triumphant (the church in heaven), which we acknowledge when we name those who have made the transition from the former to the latter during the past year. We await the day when the two will be united in the new heavens and the new earth, which Christ has promised to make. This is our hope in these troubled times.      

May God bless you and keep you during these troubled times. 

Pastor Chris

Steve Slaughter 11/2
Carol Campbell 11/12
Judi Emlinger 11/13
Bonnie Hadder 11/17
Susan Reglin 11/25
Linda Hood 11/29
Sarah Jane Hanson 11/29

Attention All Active Members:

As we get close to ending the calendar year, if you haven’t yet paid your own per capita for 2020, it isn’t too late.  For 2020, the per capita for each active member is $35.20 (General Assembly $8.95, Synod of the Covenant $3.25, Presbytery of Lake Michigan $23).  Along with each church’s shared mission pledge, the per capita finances the General Assembly, the Synod of the Covenant and our Lake Michigan Presbytery.  For 2020, our total is $2,428.80.  This is based on 69 active members as of 12/31/18 and was paid in full January 20, 2020.  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 pay your own per capita, please indicate your $35.20 is for your per capita.   Thank you very much.    

Session Higlights

These minutes are of the September 15, 2020 meeting in the conference room and Zoom electronic technology.

  1.     For our devotional time, Pastor Chris read the twenty-two signs of a healthy church.

These were discussed.  It was agreed that some of them we do well and some of them not so well.

  1.     Using prepackaged cups and wafers, communion was served on September 6, 2020.
  1.     Otis Elevator Co has agreed to credit our account for $135.75 for one quarter from May 1-July 31, 2020 due to the pandemic closing the church. 
  1.     In his report, Pastor Chris covered the church in the time of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the renewal of his contract with the church, memorial funds, the Lyons-Muir church, and substance abuse in Ionia Co.  Pastor Chris has agreed to continue to be our pastor for the next year.  Rev. Jonathan Bratt-Carle, pastor at the First United Methodist Church next door and the Muir-Lyons church will be on paternity leave the month of November.  He has asked Pastor Chris to fill the pulpit for him at Lyon-Muir.  The session approved this request. Pastor Chris will need to leave our church no later than 10:45AM.  Miranda Tase, a substance abuse counselor, who works in Lowell, was our guest speaker Sunday, September 13th.  The impact of the lockdown on the mental health of people in the community is especially difficult on those addicted to substances.  Plans are for her presentation to be uploaded on our website.  Guidelines were presented for the use of memorial funds.     
  1.     Lee Hunsberger, Co-Chair of the Budget and Finance Committee, reported that expenses are flat but giving is down.  Our original budget anticipated a deficit of around $15,000.  Now we should anticipate around $40,000 as a deficit.  We will need to use CD funds that recently matured.  Session agreed to place these funds in the general checking account rather than commit to the CD rate of about ¼ of 1%.  At the end of the year, what is not used will be placed in the Edward Jones account.  Lee is exploring different accounting systems to replace QuickBooks. 
  1.     Dr. Warren Thompson, Co-Chair of the Building and Grounds Committee, reported the repairs to the Christian Education wing roof have been completed.  Repairs to the roof of the main building will be scheduled in September or October.  This past week, there was a problem with the lights in the administrative office.  Electrician Chris Bredice replaced the fixtures with LED bulbs. 
  1.     Judi Emlinger, Co-Chair of the Christian Education Committee, reported it is hoped we can still have some kind of graduation celebration honoring our high school graduate, Shelly Reglin.  Pastor Chris began a Sunday school class in the conference room this past Sunday, September 13th.  This is a pre-teen class.  
  1.     Beginning September 16th every three weeks through donations, Mary Williams will continue to coordinate and purchase the majority of the food and other necessities for two of the families of our children.  One family has indicated they no longer need the help.   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 Rev. Linda Male, our Presbytery liaison, informed him there are no funds available through Presbytery to supplement Pastor Chris’ contract.  Pastor Chris is willing to write a grant for $5,000, which the church would need to match.  Session was agreeable to this.
  1.   Lee Hunsberger provided a written report for the Memorial and Investment Committee.  He provided a list of memorial accounts and the current balance.  He presented the memorial guidelines that were developed when he met at an earlier zoom meeting with Pastor Chris, Norma Kilpatrick and Marilyn McKay.   There are twenty named memorials and three not associated with a name (music enrichment, church chimes, landscaping).  Session will be working to identify people to contact to determine the status of the fund, and desires of the family as to how the memorial can memorialize their loved one. 
  1.   Cindy Rozich, Worship Committee chairperson, reported the COVID teams have been doing a great job keeping everyone safe.  In Michigan, the COVID cases have gone up.  Ionia PS will start Monday September 21.  She and Pastor Chris continue to watch the numbers closely. There is a continuing need for supplies.  More people are needed to help on Sundays as it works best to have three people.  
  1.   The church By-Laws were amended to allow for electronic Zoom meeting technology for session, congregational and committee meetings. 
  1.   Lee Hunsberger, Stewardship chairperson, reported stewardship letters would be mailed in October. 
  1.   The next meeting is October 20, 2020 at 7:00PM in the church conference room and via Zoom.   

Submitted by:  Margaret Gregory, Clerk of Session


Real Budget = Revenue + Savings – Expenses 

The Oxford English Dictionary defines budget as “A statement of the probable revenue and expenditure for the ensuing year, with financial proposals founded thereon.” We would probably all agree with that.  But something is missing from the equation – savings. 

 Take our church for example. Our 2020 budget anticipated revenue of $81,752 and expenses of $95,611 for a deficit of $13,859. How will we cover that deficit!  

 WAIT! The story gets worse if we expect revenue to meet expenses.  For the first three quarters, giving is down and expenses are up! And we could expect a deficit approaching $30,000. 

 Fear not. The gap is made up by savings. About $14,000 of the deficit will be roof repairs. Many years ago, Jon Clifton encouraged us to create a building fund. The building fund exceeds $23,000, more than enough to cover the roof. 

What about the rest of the deficit? In Genesis, the pharaoh has a dream. Joseph interprets it to mean that we should put away grain in fat times to see us through the lean. Whoever preceded me in crafting a budget saved enough grain to see us through lean times (bless you, Lavonna).  

We are spending more than we are receiving but we have savings to see us through the lean times.  Praise the Lord!

Stewardship 2021 


Stewardship requests for 2021 were mailed to members and friends in the last week of October. 

Like many things, this is an unusual year for stewardship: we won’t have a day of corporate celebration and fellowship. 

A positive change is the opportunity to donate matching funds to help the church obtain up to $5,000 as a grant toward ministry and pastoral care.  Your first option on the pledge form is to donate to help the church obtain this grant. You can designate a portion or all of your pledge to this matching fund effort. 

You will also have the opportunity to pledge in the usual way.   

Please complete your form and return it to the church.  Or, if you wish, email your pledge to with Pledge 2021 in the subject line. 

Feel free to ask Lee Hunsberger if you have any questions.  Thank you.

Special dates


All Saints’ Day, November 1, 2020
Daylight-Saving Time ends, November 1, 2020
Election Day, November 3, 2020
Veterans Day, November 11, 2020
Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 2020
First Sunday of Advent, November 29, 2020

A meaningful month


Consumerism can prevent us from noticing needs, writes Walter Brueggemann (The Prophetic Imagination). A culture steeped in materialism and greed can “block out the cries of the denied ones … so that no one discerns misery alive in the heart of God.”

In November, we celebrate Thanksgiving, Christ the King Sunday and the start of Advent. What does it mean that Christ is our King? How can we truly give God thanks and prepare for Jesus’ coming? It’s a good time to ponder what hurts God’s heart — and how we can help.

If someone is lonely, perhaps we can invite them to Thanksgiving dinner. If we sense inequality saddening God, we might advocate for fair policies. If God is in pain because some of his children have too little, we can share our resources. In so doing, we welcome Christ the King among us, and give him meaningful thanks.

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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