Bi-Weekly Brief news & updates
February 5, 2020
We Lift Up In Prayer
The Rev. Ken Hetzel , Honorably Retired, who is battling cancer. Update : While he still has a long way to go there is positive news with recent test results which showed that the chemotherapy is working.

All of our churches currently in transition.

Our Mission Co-Workers:
Lucy Der-Garabedian  serving in Lebanon.
Cathy Chang  and family serving in the Philippines.
Michael and Rachel Ludwig  serving in Niger.
Upcoming Ordination and Commissioning Anniversaries:
Elder Linda Living-Hawley (2/3) - Commissioned Ruling Elder of Fenton-Tyrone
Te Rev. Dawn Russell (2/9) - Pastor of Linden
The Rev. Larry McMellen (2/12) - Honorably Retired
The Rev. Cathy Chang (2/17) - Mission Co-Worker serving in the Philippines
The Rev. Mary Anne Evans-Justin (2/25) - Honorably Retired
The Rev. Chris Moody (2/25) - Member-At-Large
Elder Peggy Ronk (3/4) - Commissioned Ruling Elder of Breckenridge-Emerson
Elder Liz Long (3/5) - Commissioned Ruling Elder of Ithaca-Lafayette
The Rev. Karen Blatt (3/12) - 20 Years - Honorably Retired and Temporary Supply of Houghton Lake-Kirk of the Lakes
The Rev. Hakbae Moon (3/19) - Pastor of Flint-Unity
The Rev. Linda Graham (3/25) - Temporary Supply of Davison-St. Andrews
The Rev. Jan Chambers (3/29) - Honorably Retired and Pastor Emerita of Tawas


From The Lions' Den
Dan Saperstein

We Presbyterians, as Reformed Christians, historically have had an uneasy relationship with art, especially the visual arts. Rooted in its reaction to medieval Catholicism, one of the hallmarks of early Reformed theology was iconoclasm – its rejection of any visual depiction of God or Christ. Scottish reformer John Knox famously incited a riot in Perth, Scotland after a fiery sermon against idols. A whole chapter of the mid-16 th century Second Helvetic Confession is devoted to rejection of “idols or images of God, Christ, and the Saints.” It begins,

"Since God as Spirit is in essence invisible and immense, [God] cannot really be expressed by any art or image. For this reason we have no fear pronouncing with Scripture that images of God are mere lies…. Although Christ assumed human nature, yet he did not on that account assume it in order to provide a model for carvers and painters….

"But in fact in order to instruct [humankind] in religion and to remind them of divine things and of their salvation, the Lord commanded the preaching of the Gospel…. Moreover, he instituted sacraments, but nowhere did he set up images." ( Book of Confessions, 5.020-5.021)

Presbyterians today are more accepting of art as an aid and inspiration to faith. Nevertheless, we need to be careful not to confuse the image with the reality. For example, Sallman’s Head of Christ , found in nearly every PCUSA church with its blond-haired, blue-eyed, Aryan Jesus, not only misrepresents Jesus’ ethnic identity, but reinforces an image of God that is narrowly white and European.

Artistic depictions can limit our understanding of God and faith (as with Head of Christ ) but art can also expand our understanding. One of the most spiritual of all painters only painted three works depicting biblical scenes, but nevertheless was thoroughly theological in his work. Vincent van Gogh wanted to become a minister and spent time both as a minister’s assistant in England and as a missionary in southern Belgium.

It was in Belgium that he took up drawing, and his early works show a Christ-like empathy for the poor coal miners and their families. His most famous early work, The Potato Eaters has a sacramental quality to it. He depicts the poor family as truly human (literally, made of dirt) in dark shades; the composition evokes the Last Supper, and the bread and coffee are the elements. Here is depicted a counter-image of Christ’s church, not in the splendor of cathedrals, but in among the humble, honest working poor.

His later work reflected themes of darkness and light; suffering and joy; and life and death. His famous depictions of olive groves, near the sanitarium in Auvers where he spent his last days, reminded him of Christ’s suffering in Gethsemane. The one here includes tiny red flowers suggesting the drops of blood which Christ was said to have sweated. The tortured trunks reflect Christ’s own suffering and torturous death. Van Gogh believed, in fact, that Gethsemane was a truer depiction of faith than Calvary, because it was the point in which Christ made a conscious choice to suffer in order to accomplish our salvation.

Van Gogh’s work, as truly great art, is less a representation than an interpretation of Truth. Like a good sermon, it gives us new eyes to understand God and the gospel.

This summer, the Detroit Institute of the Arts is hosting a major exhibition of Van Gogh’s work. A digital “immersive” exhibition is coming to Toronto this spring. I plan to see both, and I hope you will try to make at least one as well.    


Dan Saperstein, Executive Presbyter

All images are courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
2020 Directory
The 2020 Directory is now available on our  website . Click on the Directory link on the left side of the page.

Download and print as many copies as you need.
For everyone's privacy the page to access the directory is password protected. You will need the following information to access the directory:

***** The login information was included in the version sent to our mailing list. For privacy, we have not included that information on the version we post online. For the Username and Password, please contact the Presbytery Office at 989-799-7481 **** 

Parish Paper
The latest editions of the Parish Paper are now available on our website. As a reminder these may be used by all of our congregations free of charge under the presbytery's subscription. Topics this time are:

March What Is The Emerging Church?
April Enlist Specialists To Improve Outreach Ministry

Click here to download these or any of the issues from the previous decade.
Annual Statistics
Information regarding the 2019 Annual Statistics was sent to all Clerks of Session last month.

A copy of the letter and other relevant information may be found on the Annual Statistics page of our website.

Deadline for reporting is February 20, 2020.
Celebrating Excellence
New bulletin insert designed to celebrate Black History Month

February marks the month when black excellence is celebrated across this country. Each year during Black History Month, Americans celebrate and commemorate the extraordinary contributions African Americans have made and continue to make to the United States of America.

To acknowledge the contributions of African Americans in the Presbyterian Church, the Presbyterian Mission Agency has created a new bulletin insert that can be used by congregations during Black History Month. The insert, “Historical Firsts: African Americans in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.),” is available for immediate use.

Click here  to continue reading and to download the insert.
Update From Cathy Chang
Mary Jane Veloso’s Traffickers Are Convicted

Mary Jane Veloso, on death row in Indonesia for more than nine years, is finally celebrating at least a partial legal victory. The two Filipinos who recruited her, Cristina Sergio and Julius Lacanilao, were recently convicted of large-scale illegal recruitment. Three other women who lived in the same neighborhood as Veloso spoke against them in court. Their team of lawyers has been working with Veloso’s legal team. The hope is that their conviction results in full justice for Veloso. Originally, Veloso traveled from her home in the Philippines to Malaysia to fill a job as a domestic worker. She was told the job was no longer available in Malaysia, and the recruiters rerouted her to Indonesia. Veloso was carrying a suitcase her recruiters provided lined with heroin. She denies knowing anything about the drugs. She was sentenced to death in October 2010 but... continue reading .
You're Invited
Ithaca-First invites you to join us for our 150th Anniversary Celebration on Sunday, February 16th.

Service of Thanksgiving at 4:00pm with dinner following in the Fellowship Hall.

If you are planning on joining us for dunner, please RSVP the number of people attending to 989-875-4437 or by Friday, January 31st.
A Service of Installation for Rev. Dr. H. Leigh Holder will be held Sunday, February 16th at 3:00pm at the First Presbyterian Church of Croswell . Refreshments will be served after the service. All in the Presbytery are invited. 
On Wednesday, February 26th, there will be a reflective worship in the tradition of Taizé in the sanctuary of Second Presbyterian Church in Saginaw at 7:00pm. This worship will include meditative music, scripture readings, silence, and the imposition of ashes. We invite all to spend a quiet hour as we begin Lent with this introspective style of worship. Childcare will be available.
Every Tuesday in Lent (March 3—April 7) Lapeer-First is hosting an evening class on A People’s History of Christianity: The Other Side of the Story, by Diana Butler Bass. There will be a soup potluck dinner from 6:00 to 6:30 PM, followed by a class from 6:30 to 7:30 PM. Together we’ll learn about historical figures and events overlooked by most church histories and how their examples of prayer and faith can enrich our own spiritual journeys today. To learn more or sign up, email our office (  
Education and Scholarship Opportunites
McCabe Charitable Foundation Scholarship

Applications are now being accepted for the McCabe Charitable Foundation.

Applicants must:
  • Be Jewish or Presbyterian students from Bay, Saginaw or Midland County
  • Show financial need
  • Plan to enroll or planning to enroll in full-time undergraduate studies at Delta Community College or Saginaw Valley State University for the upcoming academic year

Deadline to register is March 16, 2020. Click here for more details and to apply.
Dear Friends,

Greetings from Westminster College in New Wilmington, PA. I am excited to share with you a new partnership opportunity between Westminster College and Pittsburgh Theological Seminary .  This coming summer we will be the host site for Summer Youth Institute North.  This program will be part of The Rev. Dr. Roy F. Miller, Ph.D., and Mrs. Florence Lantz Miller Summer Youth Institute at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary that has been part of PTS since 1997.
SYI North at Westminster College will provide an opportunity for individuals and youth groups to experience ministry, mission, and study on our campus.  Each day there will be time set aside for study.  Each participant will be enrolled in a 1-hour college credit course – Introduction to Christianity.  The class will be taught by Dr. Lisa Hickman, one of our adjunct religion professors.  The day will include time spent working at various mission sites such as Habitat for Humanity, Our Hands Ministry, The Mission Barn (which builds handicapped ramps), Don Services (building a shed for a family in New Castle, PA), learning about environmental issues at the college Field Station, and learning about the Amish community. Evenings will be spent enjoying some recreation and relaxation in the area.  This experience is designed to take the best of a typical work trip experience and education.  
We feel this will be a wonderful time for faith development, individual growth and group development. Please share this information with churches and youth leaders that you think would be interested in a program like SYI North at Westminster. If you would like printed materials, please contact me at the email or phone number listed below. Space is limited and the deadline to register for this year’s program is May 15, 2020.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. 

Peace Like A River,
Rev. James R. Mohr II
Westminster College
Chaplain and Director of Church Relations
Office: 724-946-7116
Cell: 724-813-5894
Join Us
NEXTChurch National Gathering 2020

Witness, Power, and Hope
Cincinnati, OH
March 2-4, 2020
Joshua 4:1-9


The twelve stones placed in the middle of the Jordan River served as a memorial to God’s faithfulness. They witnessed to the trials and tribulations overcome by the people of God. The stones also testified to future generations that God, who made a way where there was no way, will once again lead us to redemption and transformation.

We are called to remember our forebears, the great distances they covered and the faith that carried them. Their memory inspires us and challenges us to move forward in our own faith journey. Their memory calls us to stay the course, to wade in the waters of life, to continue to struggle for the Kin-dom of God where justice, love, and peace flow freely. When we are willing to sacrifice the comfort of what we know for the gift of new life promised by God, we become living stones that witness and testify to God’s provision, promise, and power that transform our hope into reality.

Let us meet by the river in Cincinnati for the 2020 NEXT Church National Gathering, to remember, pray, sing, and testify to God’s power that transforms us and our work to reflect God’s faithfulness.

Click here for more information and to register.