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Chandler’s Holy Land Travelogue: Day 1

 
Monday, January 29, 2018

This week, Rev. Chandler Stokes is traveling to Israel with other local faith leaders. He will be sharing his thoughts here and on our social media pages in the coming days.

SATURDAY

The first time the four of us clergy got together, we took enthusiastically to Rabbi Michael Schadick’s suggestion to perhaps dispense with our titles when talking to each other. And now already it feels awkward to call Sharif (from the Islamic Cultural Center) “Dr. Sahibzada.” In public, he prefers simply to be called "Sahibzada." And, when you meet him, please use that name for my new friend. We were only perhaps an hour into our first day of the tour and our guide, Uri, inviting us to introduce ourselves, said, "With their complexity and seriousness, these conversations require our being on a first-name basis."

I’m writing from the JFK international airport in New York City on a long layover.  Rev. Bob Linstrom (of Trinity Lutheran Church) is meeting his NY-based son for a time, which left Sharif and me to head to our gate together. Evidently, B41 is whence all the Tel Aviv flights depart. It makes me wonder how holy that gate is for those heading to the holy land. Imagining the thousands and thousands whose lifelong dream has been to finally walk there, it’s not a stretch to think that those steps, even here in New York, have taken on a sacred quality. Imagining the world as already infused with holiness seems already a good place to begin this journey.

On the way to our gate, Sharif and I talked about our mutual experience of the conservative nature of the British educational system, which we have both tasted: he far more than I. We even found overlapping parts of our journeys: Sharif studied in Glasgow for a year; I studied in Edinburgh for a year. We agreed that the English spoken in Edinburgh is in fact decipherable, whereas Glaswegian is a genuine challenge.

But the most eye-brightening part of the easy conversation was about God and religion. Already, before we've even crossed the ocean, I feel like—“why did I get to be on this trip with these gracious souls?”

More soon. Thank you for the privilege of allowing me on this journey.

Grace and peace,
Chandler
 

Sermon: Leading With Hope

Rev. David Baak

Sermon    
Sunday, January 28, 2018

Mark 1.21-28 has Jesus teaching so persuasively that people recognize the intrinsic authority of his words. But, the miracle of casting out the demon from the man who completely disrupts their service makes an equally authoritative statement about the transformative power of hope. It is the kind of hope that, as Bryan Stevenson suggests in Just Mercy, “...that creates a willingness to position oneself in a hopeless place and be a witness, that allows one to believe in a better future….” It is the kind of hope “that makes one strong.” It also makes for compelling leadership.


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Sermon: Called

Rev. Chandler Stokes

Sermon    
Sunday, January 21, 2018

In the second reading this week, two disciples state their bold willingness to follow Jesus. And Jesus asks them, “Can you really walk this path with me?” And they say, “Sure.” little knowing where that path will take them. And yet, their willingness, their partially informed, imperfect, shaky, “Sure,” is enough for God to work with…


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The 2017 Annual Report

 
Tuesday, January 16, 2018

We invite you to take the time to review our comprehensive 2017 Annual Report! Please plan to join us this Sunday for our annual congregation meeting following the second service. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to attend. We'll celebrate our ministries, vote on the election of officers, remember the saints who died in 2017, and discuss finances. Limited print copies of the annual report are available. If you would like further detailed information, please contact David Baak at davidb@wpcgr.org or (616)717-5544.

2017 Annual and Financial Report 

Sermon: Dreamers

Kyle Nolan

Sermon    
Sunday, January 14, 2018

Samuel comes on the scene at a time when "The word of the Lord was rare” and "visions were not widespread.” The emphasis is on the dimming light, the loss of vision, when God shows and speaks a new word. That word has to do with an ending: the judgment of the house of Eli. But sometimes endings are the hardest thing to imagine, and the most necessary thing for a new world to be born.

Sermon: Beloved

Rev. Chandler Stokes

Sermon    
Sunday, January 7, 2018

In the particular way that Mark tells the story of Jesus’ baptism, the information, the message that Jesus receives from the heavenly voice is, at first and for a long time, something only he is given, that only he knows. The voice speaks directly to him; he’s the one that sees the heavens split and the dove. That can be the way we experience that baptismal message too. We are often required to trust something that is not verified by many other source—maybe not everybody thinks that we’re a child of God; we sure don’t get treated like that all the time. It makes it difficult to believe the message, given all the other messages that we are constantly given from elsewhere.


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Sermon: The Art of Undoing

Rev. Jeremy Bork

Sermon    
Sunday, December 31, 2017

In the face of holiday busyness, to-do lists, and New Year's resolutions, our texts this Sunday invite us to resist the temptation of doing so we might simply be. Rather than adding more to our lives this year, what might God be inviting us to release? How might our slowing down lead us into deeper communion with God, neighbor, and self?


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Donate Financially

 
Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Sermon: Not Impossible

Rev. Chandler Stokes

Sermon    
Sunday, December 24, 2017

The sermon in the morning is called “Not Impossible”—it is an awkward, though literal, translation of the angel’s promise to Mary: All things will be not impossible with God. Fred Craddock says that this verse the creed behind all other creeds. “The church should recite it often,” he says, “not only at the manger, not only at the empty tomb, but on any occasion when the church reflects on its own life, joy, and hope.” Join us while we reflect on that life, joy, and hope.


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Sermon: Longing with Expectation

Rev. Chandler Stokes

Sermon    
Sunday, December 17, 2017

There’s a little airstrip in Garberville, California, where we used to live. The runway is maybe 3,500 feet long. Cessnas and Piper Cubs could land on it easily. The runways at San Francisco International Airport are some 12,000 feet long. You can land any com­mercial airliner on them. You would not want to land a jumbo jet in Garberville. And, as long as there is no way prepared for those jets, we don’t have to worry about one landing there. But if you want to let something big in, you’ve got quite a runway to prepare.


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Sermon: Longing for Love

Rev. Chandler Stokes

Sermon    
Sunday, December 10, 2017

Three years ago, Westminster introduced the Mental Health Referral Panel, which is a community resource for finding appropriate mental health support. After three years that program has grown significantly, and I want to remind us of this valuable resource for both members and non-members. There is money available and therapists, whom we deeply trust.


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Sermon: Longing

Rev. Chandler Stokes

Sermon    
Sunday, December 3, 2017

This story always seems to come to my mind, when Advent rolls around. In Robert Altman’s film “Grand Canyon,” the comedic actor, Kevin Kline, drives his car into a run-down neighborhood, and breaks down. It’s the dead of night, he can’t get his car to re-start, and he calls for a tow-truck, and, while he is waiting for it to arrive, a gang of thuggish characters shows up. They get up in his face, and the fact that Kline usually plays comedy gives the scene a little extra jolt. When they threaten him with a pistol, it’s shocking—what we expect might be a light-hearted escapade becomes very sober. Danny Glover shows up in this tense scene as the tow-truck driver. He keeps up a casual-toned, but cautious, and hopefully distracting, conversation with the thugs while he, one “feigned casual” step at a time, attempts to hitch Kline’s car to his tow-truck. Push comes to shove with the mugger and, when Glover is confronted, he says to the hoodlum, Man, the world ain't supposed to work like this. Maybe you don't know that, but this ain't the way it's supposed to be. I'm supposed to be able to do my job without askin' you if I can. And that dude is supposed to be able to wait with his car without you rippin' him off. Everything's supposed to be different than what it is here. (Script by Lawrence Kasdan, available at http://www.script-o-rama.com/movie_scripts/g/grand-canyon-script-transcript-kasdan.html)


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Sermon: Family

Rev. Chandler Stokes

Sermon    
Sunday, November 26, 2017

This Sunday is the last Sunday in the “liturgical year”—the week after becomes Advent and annual the build-up and preparation for Christmas. The text is a well-known one about the separating of the sheep and the goats in the fullness of time. It’s a curious story: faith in Jesus is not as important as seeing him—seeing Christ in those who suffer.


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Sermon: Turning the Corner: Fear, Protest, or Thanksgiving

Rev. David Baak

Sermon    
Sunday, November 19, 2017

Life is a series of turning corners—as we walk along life’s pathway we easily abandon the past after we’ve turned the bend, especially if it’s been difficult. We’re certainly not able to see the future around the next turn. So, we live in the present. But, we should not forget the meaning of the past nor fail to anticipate the future with hope. Matthew 25 pairs with the Thanksgiving reading of Deuteronomy 8 and they show a way to live with thanksgiving. Rev. David Baak preaching on “Turning the Corner: Fear, Protest, or Thanksgiving”


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A Message from Westminster

  News Updates Security
Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Hello,

We are reaching out to let you know that Westminster Presbyterian Church received a threat of violence that led us to close our doors yesterday. However, in close collaboration with law enforcement, we are fully open as usual today.

Late Monday afternoon, the Grand Rapids Police Department informed us that Westminster was listed as a primary “target” alongside other faith communities within a suspicious package discovered in Dearborn Heights, Michigan. We did not open our building yesterday (including Westminster Child Development Center) until we could learn more about the nature and severity of the threat. At this point in the open investigation, local and federal authorities have told us that Westminster does not appear to be in ongoing danger.

As we recently shared with you, Westminster is making every effort to be proactive in preparing for and responding to critical incidents. For a year now, Westminster has worked closely with Secure Education Consultants, a firm that designs customized emergency and critical incident response plans and training. Our staff and volunteers recently completed a lengthy, interactive safety training; WCDC staff did the same training specialized for their space. As of last week, printed emergency plans are posted around the building detailing various emergency responses, and we encourage you to review them. We also have trained volunteers serving on a security team every Sunday morning.

We are a downtown congregation with our doors open to our community during the week, always mindful of a balance between hospitality and security. We are steadfast in our commitment to creating a hospitable and gracious environment for our city and neighbors, while doing everything we can to ensure the safety of our staff and daycare families.

If you have any questions, please contact Heather Colletto, Director of Communication and Mission, at (616)717-5536 or heatherc@wpcgr.org.

A personal message from Rev. Chandler Stokes:

I’m in Texas leading an event for the denomination, but staff have kept me actively in the loop. My confidence in them has only grown through this incident, but it’s not easy to be away from you now. You are never far from my heart, and you have the prayers of the people here. I will be glad to be reunited with you. This type of threat is something that other perpetually marginalized faith communities have dealt with for a long time, far too often. We pray to continue our witness undeterred in our commitments to interfaith solidarity, justice, and peace among people. By God’s grace, we will continue to go into the world in peace, have courage, and hold on to all that is good.

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