The pressures on human beings, whether they are four- or fourteen- or forty-year-olds, can be enormous. The way we wait for children to come forward on Sunday for the blessings is an attempt on our part to remember to honor children as they areand not as we want them to be. That honoring is a part of how we honor all people.
A link to the live stream of our 10:00a service can be found by navigating to our Youtube feed, or by clicking here. The link will be labeled as 'Westminster Presbyterian Live Stream', and will become available approximately 5 minutes before the service begins. Instructions on how to subscribe to the channel are found here.
Rev. Chandler Stokes
Sometimes the Great Commission has been taken very seriously by the Church. It reads: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. There was an imperative, an almost breathless urgency in the early church: the doors to God’s community had been flung wide open to the world—the nations, the gentiles were all given access to the transforming love of God. After all these centuries, people still wonder if that word is really for them. And yet somewhere along the way we seem to have lost our urgency.
Rev. Chandler Stokes
In the first year of my ministry at Westminster I wrote about the Six Great Ends of the Church. The sixth is the demonstration of the Reign of Heaven to the world—that is, the church is to be a witness to the Reign of God. People are supposed to be able to look at the church and see the way that God intends the world to be. Oh, my. It is an audacious goal—to demonstrate, to witness to the Kingdom of God, to show the way God intends the world to be. There are serious difficulties on the way to this goal. For one, this is a social reality that we are to point to. It is not an individual reality; it’s a communal reality. This demonstration is not simply a matter of personal morality or integrity. It is a kingdom, a commonwealth, a social reality—something we cannot do alone but do corporately. And to make things more difficult, it is not something we do in isolation from the world. And the world is broken, violent, unjust, inhuman—and we do not witness in isolation from that world but in the midst of its infectious bloodshed and banality. In our Reformed tradition we believe that are not directed to construct little enclaves of heaven and let the rest the world go to Hades. We do not allow ourselves that conceit. We don’t create monasteries or build enclaves behind walls of separation in isolation from the world; we live our communal life in the very midst of a fragmented society. We set ourselves right in the midst of it, right in the craters of a war-torn world. We do not even allow ourselves the conceit of thinking that all that brokenness doesn’t affect us—as Paul says, we groan inwardly; we need help in our weakness. We know that we share in that pain that infects the world. The world’s temperament touches our lives; we are not immune. So…, how do we witness to that Reign of Heaven?
A program to celebrate Rev. Chandler Stokes' 35 years in ministry held at Westminster Presbyterian Church on June 3, 2018.
Rev. Chandler Stokes
The Welcome started with a memorial service in Oakland, California, and was offered at a memorial service here at Westminster some years later. And then through the intuition of Susan Jennings became a hallmark of our worship here. It’s Presbyterian through and through, and it has helped us understand ourselves and our place here in West Michigan.
Rev. Chandler Stokes
J.S. Bach was once called the Fifth Evangelist. In his day, he seemed to have touched upon the soul of his age in a such a way that people felt they knew the gospel through his music. I’m confident that many of us have experienced music often in that way, when there is a deepening of trust that can’t be spoken in words.
Rev. Chandler Stokes
1 Peter 3 says: But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence. That will be some of the witness on Sunday at 8.30. However, the emphasis will not be on the "defense" but on the questions themselves. Join us.
Everyone is Welcome to Sign Up for Camp 2018!
Camp has horses for riding or petting, a giant swing, a cargo net, a zip line, lake equipment, boats, magic carpet rides, swimming, fishing, archery, lawn games, ball games, a talent show, relaxing by the lake, free time for leisure choices, arts and crafts, cookouts, campfires, singing, stories, board games, card games, worship, adult conversation, spiritual and intellectual development, and snacks and meals all prepared for you! WOW! It’s an all-inclusive resort! However, most importantly, camp is a time and place when and where Westminster church can be together to laugh, learn, and love each other. A PDF of the registration form is available below.
Rev. Jeremy Bork
The Prophet Ezekiel finds himself in a valley with God and some dry bones. Before this story's wild events unfold, God asks Ezekiel a question, "Can these bones live?" The question is both simple and profound. If God were to ask us that question today, I wonder what it might stir within us. Where in the world would we like to see dry bones live? What dry bones in our own lives would we like to see come alive? Join us on Sunday May 13 to wonder together about the living God who always makes a way.
On Saturday, May 5, we enjoyed An Evening of Stories and Songs with Rev. Chandler Stokes as he answered your questions about his life and ministry. He played a few of his favorite songs throughout the evening while Steve Baron and Joel Schultze moderated the conversation. Chandler shared about his early life in music and ministry, his hope for the next generation, and where he hopes to go from here. We hope you enjoy this approx. 90-minute event.
Rev. Jen Porter
Every time we come to share communion, we prepare our hearts. We look within prayerfully at what the Spirit draws to our attention. What do we long for? What do we bring? This week we can prepare by answering this question: Where have we been abiding? How have our lives been abiding in God? Even as we pause and listen, we remember that God welcomes us. There need be no fear of what we might see, from God only deep and abiding love.
Rev. Chandler Stokes
From my colleague Doug King: Eugene Peterson draws an interesting juxtaposition between the two wisdom books, Song of Solomon and Job. He suggests there is a polarity between the alienation in the book of Job and the intimacy of the Song of Solomon. In the final exchange of the lovers we are told, “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If one offered for love all the wealth of his house it would be utterly scorned.” How would those words have run in Job’s ears as he sat there in ruin?
Rev. Chandler Stokes
My Feast colleague, Leanne Pearce Reed writes: Our discipleship must be vulnerable. So, as Dorothy Soelle puts it, “You can put your neurotic need for security behind. You do not need to defend your life like a lunatic.” We must be willing to be touched—touched by text, touched by a power from on high, most of all, touched by another who is flesh and bone as we are. There is no safety or security in this. There is only perhaps that peace found on the other side of fear.
When Rev. Chandler Stokes announced his retirement from congregational ministry, his letter was accompanied with a letter from Steve Baron, our elder for personnel, offering his best wishes and the next steps for us as a church family in this new season of growth. For a PDF version of the letter, click here.
April 10, 2018
While we are saddened by Chandler’s announcement, I’m confident that each of you will join me in wishing him God’s richest blessings as he transitions into retirement. We’ve truly been blessed to do ministry together in this place and in these times.
As another chapter in Westminster’s rich history draws to a close, we look ahead with hope and anticipation to the season God will call us to next. It will also be a time for remembering and celebrating Chandler’s 10 years of ministry as our senior pastor and head of staff, as well as his 35-year career as a Minister of Word and Sacrament.
The Presbyterian Church (USA) Book of Order outlines the procedures for pastoral changes in our denomination’s congregations. In the weeks leading up to and following Chandler’s departure, the Personnel Committee, the Session, and the Presbytery of Lake Michigan will work through many of these steps. The congregational Nominating Committee will identify members for a Pastoral Nominating Committee, or PNC. The PNC’s responsibility will be to find the person God is calling to join us as our next senior pastor and head of staff.
As you can imagine, it is difficult to predict a timetable for any search. Past experience has shown that we can expect approximately 18- 24 months. You can be confident the PNC will invite your input and provide regular updates. We ask for your patience and prayers.
Westminster’s interim periods have historically been fruitful times for us as a church family. We should look at this time of transition as an opportunity for reflection, examination, and challenge for individual and corporate growth. It is a Holy time to receive the gifts of the Spirit. It’s also important to remember we will continue to be fed and cared for by our very strong and loving staff—and certainly by each other. Please pray for our staff, your elected leadership, and the congregation.
As members or friends of Westminster, many of us may be asking, “What can I do during this transition?” Chandler has often shared his hope that Westminster may thrive and continue to be the face of God in and beyond our community. To that end, the best answer to our question is this: continue supporting the work of this church, attend worship, maintain financial support, stay involved, hold each other in the Light, and trust in God to lead us forward.
God bless you and God bless Chandler.
Together we serve,
Stephen W. Baron
Elder for Personnel
Rev. Chandler Stokes has announced his retirement from congregational ministry. Below is his letter to the congregation in mid-April sharing about his decision and next steps into retirement. For a PDF version of the letter, click here. Chandler's letter was also accompanied by a letter from Steve Baron, our elder for personnel,offering his best wishes and the next steps for us as a church family in this new season of growth.
Dear beloved members and friends of Westminster Presbyterian Church,
This letter will come as a surprise to most of you. After much discernment in prayer together with my family and longtime friends in ministry, I’m writing to announce my retirement. My last Sunday with you will be June 24, 2018.
I am deeply content with my time as your senior pastor. You are such a healthy church. When I tell people about you, I say, “They simply don’t know how to turn a molehill into a mountain.” You constantly look toward the future. You truly care about the world beyond the church. You show up. I cherish worship with you, surrounded by your singing. And I’ve personally experienced the grace and compassion you offer when, with great kindness, you saw me through the loss of my parents.
Although many of you have been through changes in pastoral leadership before, some of you have not. I remind you that the church is its people and not its pastors. There is no rogues’ gallery of former pastors on the walls of Westminster. This is a congregation who understands that pastors serve with their particular gifts, and then they move on. Jack Stewart, Bill Evertsberg, Riley Jensen—our most recent senior pastors—were great leaders of the church. They all moved on and Westminster has thrived. It will happen again.
I always wondered if I would know when to retire from congregational ministry. I know of preachers who died in the pulpit. That’s not me. Though quite recovered from my stroke in 2016, my brush with mortality inspired me to reflect on my next chapter of life. I’m curious and confident about a new pace and a new life. Karen and I plan to stay here in Grand Rapids near the kids, and I plan to do more singing and playing. I also look forward to continuing my work with CREDO, mentoring early- and mid-career pastors in intensives around the country.
I have loved serving as your senior pastor. I am deeply grateful for what you’ve invited me to be a part of here for ten years. Although I didn’t expect to feel such clarity at this point in my life, I feel a sense of closure and completeness about my ministry. I am, as ever, excited about Westminster’s future and feel clearly that it’s a good time, the right time, to invite new leadership to head this amazing team.
With special gratitude to the members of the Pastoral Nominating Committee who invited me to Westminster and to all of you for affirming my call to the most rewarding season of my 35 years in ordained ministry: Thank you.
And now, as the earliest of letters in the Church always concluded, I say, Grace and peace,
Rev. Chandler Stokes, Senior Pastor and Head of Staff