News & Updates

Making a Difference Day at Benton Harbor

  News Benton Harbor Updates
Monday, November 3, 2014

On Saturday, October 25 four members of Westminster Presbyterian Church left the south parking lot at 8:00 am : destination Benton Harbor; to work at the annual "Making a Difference Day " with FPCBH and  the surrounding neighborhood.  The members which volunteered were Dick Hubbard, Pete and Patricia Land and Brian Spangelo.

We arrived in Benton Harbor a 1/2 hour early, so we and decided to drive to down town area of Benton Harbor to look around.  At the same time we looked for a place to have coffee and maybe a snack. Fortunately, I saw the "Mosaic Store" which I remembered from years past. It is a non profit store staffed by local churches, selling used goods , coffee drinks , and snacks. We enjoyed a great cup of coffee and white chocolate cookies.  At ten on the hour , we arrived at FPCBH , and we were greeted by Julie Brien, pastor Laurie Hartzell, and community coordinator, Corey Bell. Other members of the church and community were also present.

Before we left for our tasks, Julie Brien opened in prayer and gave instructions of were our groups were going to work. Julie and Corey had it well organized and everybody knew what their jobs entailed. Particia Land and Julie Brien and others went to the Morton School to patch, sand , and paint an office. Dick Hubbard and I went and worked on Mr. Green's house ; to put trim boards around  and install a mail box post, and mail box.

At twelve thirty we stopped working and had a fantastic lunch . prepared for by Laurie Hartzell and Corey Bell. It was pulled pork, macaroni with cheese, potato salad, and various desserts. What a great lunch, especially the amount work that went into it.

After lunch every one returned to their particular jobs which were proceeding along quite nicely. However, I did have to buy some extra trim boards and a mail box for Mr. Green's house. In the late afternoon , the painting crew came and painted the trim around Mr. Green's house, while the others put finishing touches on to Morton School's office.

It was a beautiful, sunny warm Saturday for working. All the work was completed before we went home. It was a real blessing to work with FPCBH members, the staff, and the community members. Every one enjoyed the work and fellowship in volunteering their time to help the neighborhood. It was a real blessing.

A Life Given By God - Stewardship 2015

  stewardship News Updates
Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Life Given By God - Stewardship 2015

Stewardship—this care-taking, this using ourselves well—is an essential part of responding to Jesus, an essential part of being Christian. Stewardship is about how we use our gifts well. 
This year our Stewardship theme is A Life Given By God. Two our our members (Roger Nelson & Paul Karsten) and I have written to the congregation about what Westminster means to us. Here are the links to those letters.

Roger Nelson Paul Karsten Rev. Chandler Stokes

As you have heard on Sunday mornings and as you can read in the letters linked above, pledging is how we make responsible plans for Westminster's future. We invite you to be a part of those plans! If you haven't already sent in or carried in your pledge for Westminster's ministry in 2015, you may do so online through the following link:

Pledge Online


Thank you for your amazing and faithful support of Westminster's work.

Family Bonfire and Potluck Dinner

  News Updates Family Bonfire
Monday, October 13, 2014

Come celebrate fall at the WPC Family Bonfire and Potluck Dinner.  Saturday, October 18 at 5:00p, hosted by the Calderon/Shupe family, 7170 2 Mile Rd., Ada, Michigan.  Hot dogs, beverages and s’mores provided.  Bring lawn chairs, table-settings, and a dish to pass. We’ll share in yard games, fun, and fellowship.  Everyone is welcome. RSVP by signing up in the Gathering Place or contacting Jen Kotchenruther at, or 974-9018.

WPC Deli

  News Updates WPC Deli ArtPrize
Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The WPC Deli will be Sunday, October 5 following the 11:00a service in the dining room, or you may get your lunch “to go.” The Middle School youth will once again be offering a deli style lunch in conjunction with ArtPrize. Suggested donation is $8; the money raised will go toward the MS youth group summer trip. Contact Shelly at with any questions.

Fall Women’s Retreat

  Women's Retreat News Updates
Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Hebrew word bara suggests the idea of shaping or creating.  It names the way in which we are invited into partnership with God in the shaping of our own lives and those around us.  During our retreat time this year Rev. Katie Baker will help us explore the biblical foundation of that invitation and some of the many ways that we embody that creative agency.  We may not be poets or painters, singers or actors but there are, in fact, countless ways that we see, process, and then respond creatively to our world, to one another, and to our God.  Come share your own experience and try out a new form!  There will be a number of workshop opportunities to learn and practice creativity via cooking, mandala-making, choral reading, knitting/quilting, photography and yes—painting and writing!  These will be led by members and friends of WPC.  Registrations are available NOW in the Gathering Place, by calling the church office, or by downloading the form here

Here are the details:
October 10—11, 2014
(late Friday afternoon through 4:00p Saturday)
Friday/Saturday fee is $51, Saturday only is $24. Partial Scholarship help available as needed
Please contact Susan Jennings regarding registration or with questions!, 717-5542

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County Wide Food Drive

  News Updates food pantry
Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Westminster Food Pantry is gearing up for one of their most important days of the year. The County Wide Food Drive is on the horizon, and will take place on October 11, 2014. We are seeking donations of non-perishable food items from now until that date. Donations can be brought directly to the church.

During this drive alone, Westminster’s Food Pantry receives several months’ worth of foods, including items such as canned vegetables and canned fruit. These donations are an enormous help in our quest to serve our clients. Please contact the Westminster Food Pantry with any questions by calling 616-717-5581.

Below is a list of suggested items to donate.


  • Canned meats
  • Beans & rice
  • Cereal
  • Pasta Sauce (no pasta at this time please)
  • Canned fruits & vegetables
  • Peanut Butter
  • Jelly
  • Beef Stew
  • Soups
  • Low fat/sodium foods
  • Personal care items (shampoo, deodorant, toilet paper, etc.)
  • Household items (laundry soap, dish soap, etc.)

Flu Shot Clinic on Sunday

  Updates News
Wednesday, September 10, 2014

We have an opportunity to obtain flu vaccines for you and your family at WPC, Sunday, September 14. The flu clinic will be held from 9:30am to 12:30pm in the dining room. The injections will be $30. Cash, check or insurance is accepted for payment. Please bring your insurance or Medicare card with you this Sunday. Please consider this preventative measure for your health and the health of those around you. Help to minimize the outbreak of the flu for WPC this year.

Two Week Update from Benton Harbor

  News Updates Benton Harbor
Thursday, September 4, 2014

A new youth group leader has recently been hired at First Prez and is scheduled to begin work on September 14th. Gentry Phillips, the coordinator of the summer youth leadership program that ended in July, will meet regularly with our youth twice a month for Sunday school and once a month for youth group. We are excited for his arrival and our continued partnership with him.

In celebration of a new principal at Morton Montessori, a 1st-8th grade located across the street from First Presbyterian Church, colorful walls have been painted in the office by First Prez staff members Lee Ann H. and Julie Brien. The change of leadership has brought much joy into the community and enrollment has increased in the school. First Presbyterian Thursday night’s prayer group had the opportunity to walk around and pray throughout the school for two weeks in anticipation for a great school year. Praying with the principal and secretary was a remarkable time of joy, hope and love. We are all excited for this new partnership to grow and bloom throughout the year.

Presbyterian Women of Westminster: Mexican Potluck Dinner

  News Updates
Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Have you ever wanted to know the woman sitting in the pew ahead of you or meet other women of Westminster?  Join us for a Mexican Potluck Dinner Wednesday, September 10, gathering at 5:30 pm, with dinner at 6:00 pm in the dining room.  Please bring a Mexican-type dish to pass.  It will just be good food and fellowship!  We hope you can join us.

September Chimes

  Chimes Updates food pantry roof
Thursday, August 28, 2014

The September issue of Chimes is now available. In this month's issue:

  • Fall holds great promise: Education, Music & Programming
  • Confirmation & fall preaching series
  • Meet our new staff
  • Sanctuary roof project updates
  • WCDC support opportunities
  • Summer at Benton Harbor
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Notes on Benton Harbor’s Summer

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Summer has been an overflowing season, full of the glow of not just the sunshine, but of God’s goodness and grace here in Benton Harbor. By the grace of God, enough money was raised to send 10 beautiful and energetic youth to Camp Henry. The tears and hugs on departure day was only a small indication of how transformal this week has been to all of them- it is a week they will forever treasure in their hearts. 

The summer youth leadership program, a class dedicated to helping and encouraging middle schoolers to stand up to peer pressure, instilling good values, and discovering God in new ways through art, new experiences and Bible lessons, came to a close and seven bright youth stood up during worship on Sunday July 27th to be recognized for their accomplishment in graduating the course. Now, a fun outing to Michigan Adventures is being planned for all the youth as we partner with a church in Niles and continue to build bridges and create lasting memories and relationships. 

Many service learning groups have also stepped foot into our community and church during the past few months, leaving behind beautiful footprints that demonstrate their love and dedication to our humble community- a roof of a dedicated family was repaired, flower beds were weeded at a local community garden, walls were painted, and lives were touched as helping hands, steadfast feet, and giving hearts shared their time and gifts with us.

One Saturday in the month of July had special significance, as 20 local churches came together at a park and put together a Community Explosion- an afternoon of food, fun, music, face paint, prayer, worship, speakers and raffles. It was a witness that we were not going to let the gangs run the streets of Benton Harbor and that other alternatives for the youth are available. It was a true joy to witness so many inspiring moments throughout the summer months.

Now, the air is bustling as a new pace is set with kids going back to school, summer vacation coming to an end, and the season slowly beginning to show signs of a new and beautiful change. The community of Benton Harbor continues its journey too, as each individual and each story is weaved into God’s bigger picture. Here at First Prez, we are gearing up for the fall season as we face many big decisions that cannot be taken lightly. There is a growing number of youth involved in some way or capacity in our church and it is our hope, desire and dream to not let this spark fizzle out but instead continue to nurture and feed this little flame. God is up to something, and with time, we will see what this beautiful change will boom into. Funding and resources are limited, but with God, all things are possible and I believe something transformational is going to soon take place.

In addition, please keep our building, session and church family in your prayers. Our church body is strong and full of life, yet the structure that is supporting us is in great need of repair and some very costly decisions have to be made in the near future. Please pray for guidance, peace and love as we discern what God wants us to do with the gifts He has given us.

Thank You for your continued support and prayers. May the God that holds us all in the palm of His hands continue to lead and guide us all through His grace and mercy. Amen.


-Julie Brien, Resident in Mission


July 27th- Praying together on the Sunday that we recognized the graduation of the youth leadership program participants, all the while being blessed with volunteers from First Presbyterian Church in East Aurora, New York who came to serve in our community for the week

Wanda Tillery, Julie Brien, Gentry Phillips and Cherrie Okonski- a great team of leaders, teachers and artists who led the Summer Leadership Program 2014

A number of the pastors in and around Benton Harbor who made the Community Explosion on July 26th possible. Pastor Laurie Hartzell of First Presbyterian Church of Benton Harbor is 5th from the left.

Worship Schedule for August

  Updates Worship Worship Blog
Friday, August 8, 2014

August 10: The 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

One Service at 10:00a

Music: Janlee Richter & Family

Sermon: “What’s Next for the Church: Embodied Faith” - Reverend Katherine Baker will deliver this week’s sermon and will be exploring our call to embodied faith--What does it mean? How is it demonstrated? Why does it matter? At the forefront of our congregation, what's next for the church? We’ll look to the greatest commandment to aid us in answering these questions.

August 17: The 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

One Service at 10:00a

Music: Frank Van Haven and New Revival Jazz Band

Sermon: “Rocks and Words” a sermon by Rev. David Baak on Exodus 2 and Matthew 16 — two conversations that we overhear; words about important events, but also stories that are critical points in our faith history:  Moses is rescued by his sister’s quick words for the Princess who takes him from the river and it is he who later delivers his people; Peter the disciple says out loud who he believes Jesus to be—the one who will deliver his people.  These are stories that help us “check our words” and help us explore the will of God, challenging each other to understand what following Christ means.   

August 24: The 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

One Service at 10:00a

Celebration of the Ministry of Jackie Schoon

Music: Viviana Kloostra, Soprano

Sermon: “Trace Evidence” Rev. Chandler Stokes will be preaching on Matthew 11:2-6. This is one of those sermons back by request. By reflecting on a story by Jorge Luis Borges and the work of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, we will look for the trace evidence of the world changed by Christ’s presence “…not through proofs or arguments, not by ceasing to question or doubt,” but by listening for and following that voice that seems out of place in this world, listening for and heeding that discrepant note: the tenderness and exaltation, the silence and the mitigation of this often harsh world.

August 31: The 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

One Service at 10:00a

Labor Day Weekend

Music: Al Exoo, guitar and voice

Sermon: “No God in There?” Rev. Chandler Stokes will be preaching on John 1:1-14. This is the last of the sermons back by request. In the midst of tragedy and suffering, we often struggle to find where God is. We will explore the hopeful meaning of the Incarnation in the midst of a world of hurt.

Worship and Communion at Camp Henry

Music: Sanctuary Choir

Sacrament: Communion

Sermon: “Lost and Found” a sermon by Rev. David Baak on Exodus 3 and Matthew 16.21-26.  Losing and Finding each produce strong emotions and interesting behaviors.  The mundane looking through the camp dining hall for that elusive shoe can be a metaphor for the sublime theological attempt to understand how losing can be finding a whole new life—and both are strengthened by community.

August Chimes: Westminster Buildings Through the Years

  Chimes Updates food pantry roof
Thursday, August 7, 2014

The August issue of Chimes is now available. In this month's issue:

  • The building through the years
  • Welcoming our new friends
  • Downtown Food Pantry notes
  • Roofing project moves forward
  • Music - summer projects in motion
  • WCDC receives surprise gift
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June Chimes: Summertime in the City

  Updates Camp Henry Chimes
Thursday, June 19, 2014

The June issue of Chimes is now available. In this month's issue:

  • Information on our Feasibility Study
  • Staff picks for summer reads
  • Sanctuary roof updates…it's time for slate tiles!
  • Welcome to our new members
  • Camp Henry happenings
  • Youth and Music Ministries summer activities and trips
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Grand Rapids Pride Festival

  Updates Pride Festival
Tuesday, June 3, 2014

One of the things that makes Westminster such a special community for all of us is that it values inclusion of every person - including those folks in the LGBT community.  Every year Grand Rapids has a Pride festival to celebrate the LGBT community.  Many churches, including Westminster, host booths to let the LGBT community know that God loves them and that there is a faith community for them right here in Grand Rapids.  For several years now, Westminster has hosted a booth at the festival.  Emerging Westminster will be coordinating our church's booth for the second year in a row.
The 2014 Pride Festival will be held on Saturday, June 14 at Calder Plaza.  We are looking for volunteers to staff the booth for one hour between 1:00 and 6:00p.  The volunteers will be asked to represent Westminster, talk a little about our church to festival attendees who stop by the booth, and answer any questions they may have about the life of our community. They are looking for three volunteers each hour during the afternoon.
If you are interested in supporting this special event and are willing to donate one hour of your time on June 14, please e-mail A.J. at and let him know which time slot between 1:00 and 6:00p you are interested in volunteering.  If you have any questions, please contact A.J. at  616-531-4653.
Thank you for considering supporting Westminster in this event!

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