September 2023

   The Presbyletter

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

September 2023

Words from Pastor Chris

Belonging, Behaving, Believing 

A few of you may have heard of Diana Bass Butler. Popular in many Presbyterian circles, she is an accomplished author and astute observer of current trends in the Protestant mainline. Recently, she commented on patterns of church membership. She pointed out that among the older generations the order in which one became member of a local church was “believe, behave, belong.” That is, when people found a church they liked, they approached the pastor (or elders) to inquire about membership. Once convinced that the people behaved in a manner worthy of membership in the church, the pastor enrolled them in a class for new members. In the class, the people learned the history and doctrine of the church, and at the end pledged their assent to what the church believed. If already baptized, they later had to stand up during worship on a Sunday designated for receiving new members, so that the congregation could acknowledge that they now fully belonged to the community. One presumes that so long as their conduct conformed to the behavioral norms of the group, they maintained their membership in the church in good standing. In this regard, it may be more accurate to say “believe, belong, behave.” But I digress. 

Butler suggests that this order ought to be reversed to address better the spiritual longings of our time. From a recent post in her substack The Cottage, she writes that “instead of believing, behaving, and belonging, we need to reverse the order to belonging, behaving, and believing….This shift is from an external and individual sense of belonging toward an internalized and relational [one]. The shift is also far more biblical than the older model. After all, Jesus said, ‘Follow me,’ ‘not ‘join a church.’ And, as in the New Testament, following comes first. Friendship comes first. Leaving your old self at the side of the lake and discovering who you really are in a community of love, learning, and service is the vision of the gospels. ‘Behaving’ and ‘believing” come as you find yourself on the journey.

Bass makes a good case, though it is no longer clear that a summons to the churches to do this is really needed. Most churches in the Protestant mainline with which I am familiar have already adopted this model willy-nilly. The critical question that we must put to her, however, is whether “behaving” and “believing” just “come” as a result of “belonging.” My experience is that they really don’t. In fact, the inability of Christians to articulate adequately what they believe has been cited as a factor in church decline. One young woman recounted how she became a skeptic because what she heard in her catechism class wasn’t making sense to her. Her questions aggravated the teacher. One night, as she was about to raise another question, the teacher interrupted her and said: “if you have so many questions, maybe you’re not in the right place.” She said she couldn’t agree more and walked out. When she got home, she told her mom she was done with catechism and church. One can’t help but conclude that if the teacher was properly instructed in the faith, he could have answered her questions, or at least pointed her to someone who could. 

By all means, let us embrace the model that Diana Bass Butler proposes, as in fact we already are. But let us also be intentional about helping those who are with us on the journey to learn the deep truths of our faith, truths that transform both our thinking and our doing. 

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

Nursery Care Provided
Children are welcome
to remain in the
worship service

Handicap Accessible
via Elevator

Presbytery of Lake
Michigan Stated meeting
September16, 2023
The Presbyterian Church
2258 Bennett Road

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

Thank You

A special thank you to Dave Williams for creating “desktops” for the pew packets that are available for children that join us in worship. Kids no longer need to juggle to draw or color on a hymnal or pew Bible.

Great job, Dave

Grocery Ministry


Items for collection this month:
Mac ‘n cheese
Bar soap


Before she moved to Ypsilanti several years ago, Joy Prelesnik Mueller was an active member of Ionia First Presbyterian Church.  On May 4, 2023, she passed away peacefully, though unexpectedly.  For those of you that knew her, her obituary can be found on the Janowick Funeral Home Inc. Geer-Logan Chapel Ypsilanti, Michigan.  Please keep her family in your prayers

Pat Gustafson                    5
Libby Hyland                   
Linda Steele                      12
Margaret Gregory             12
Mary Lou Hopkins           18
Alyia Hubbard                  19
Pam Rogers                       21
Sara Hyland                      21
Perry Gregory                   22
Keith Sterner                    22
Ellaina Bowyer                 24
Lena Cox                          27
Nadine Tiejema                28
Laurie Sykes                    29
Amos Morris                    30

July 2023

                          Month                 YTD

Income         $ 4,931                $54,999 
Expenses         $ 6,886            $60,850

Cash Flow

In the last twelve months, we have moved $20,000 from the Edward Jones money market account to the Independent Bank checking account. Donations do not meet our expenses. We can do this for a few years. To survive as a congregation, our cash flow needs to cover our expenses six years out of seven.

Sunday Worship Volunteers


September 3

September 10

September 17

September 24


Marcia Ross
Ernie Ross

Judi Emilinger
Duane Emilinger

Jen Furman
Cindy Rozich

Margaret Gregory
Norma Kilpatrick


Cindy Rozich

Marilyn McKay

Lee Hunsberger

Barb Klenk


Communion Preparer

Lee Hunsberger

Communion Servers

Lee Hunsberger
Jenn Furman

Session Highlights

Session Highlights from July
  • In-home communion was served in June and July to those who are homebound.  Three people were served in June and two in July.  
  • Vacation Bible School, hosted by Restore Church, will be held August 7-11.  Pastor Chris and Pastor Kevin from First Christian Church have volunteered as teachers. 
  • The mission committee will meet and report to session about supporting the Soaring Above teen center. 
  • The church received an urgent letter from RAVE (Relief After Violent Encounter) seeking funds.  RAVE has a wait list. 
  • The Director of Community Services and Housing for Eight CAP met with session in July to encourage community stakeholders to initiate a group to address homelessness. 
  • Pastor Chris attended the Presbytery meeting in Lansing. 
  • Budget and Finance reported that the church continues to dip into assets as current income is insufficient to meet expenses. 
  • Building and Grounds reported that a date has not been set for  stone repairs around the north stained glass window. 
  • Membership and Care volunteers have been visiting some elderly members who have not been attending worship. 
  • Discussion of a church picnic resulted in a decision to have a potluck at church to celebrate the beginning of the school year. 
  • Our administrative assistant completed her Master of Social Work degree and has been offered a full time job at the Right Door. She would like to continue as the administrative assistant (with flexible hours).  Session agreed to try this out to see if it could work. 
  • Session will host the fellowship hour on August 27 to recognize the accomplishments of Sara Hyland in completing her MSW. 
  • A draft emergency preparedness plan was shared with session. 

Women’s Bible study group will begin again in the fall with a
six-week study entitled The Difficult Words of Jesus by Amy-Jill
Levine. The starting date will be determined by those who are
planning to attend. We will meet Wednesday evenings,
beginning at 7:00 p.m. and concluding by 8:30, to accommodate
those folks who work during the day. All women, whether
members of the church or not, are invited to participate. If you
are interested in participating in this study, please contact Carol
Campbell at [email protected] or call or text
419-937-5754. You may also speak to me at church. Thanks!

Continuing Education

In September, Christian education programs are in full swing. How wonderful to see classrooms of children learning about Jesus! But what about the grown-ups? 

Following and learning about Christ are lifelong pursuits. If we are to love God with our mind (as well as with our heart, soul and strength), then we must keep learning even into old age. Plus, when we are well informed about God’s Word and our faith, we can share it with non-Christians and express the reason for our hope (see 1 Peter 3:15).

To love God with “all your mind” (Mark 12:30), find an adult Bible study or small group that dives into Scripture. Then humbly wear the label of lifelong learner, knowing that God still has new things to teach even the most seasoned Christian.


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 – Wednesday 9-3
Ph# 616-527-2320 

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