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Featured Articles

“Mr. Hymn Sing” Remembered As A Faithful Encourager

Lehmann Maury hi rezMaury Lehman, a long time Christian music executive and for decades a song leader at numerous hymn sings throughout West Michigan, was memorialized in an evening service of remembrance Sept. 11 at Calvary Church in Grand Rapids. He died June 30 at age 96.

"We can remember together, we can smile together and we can sing together. And we're going to sing together a lot tonight," said Bruce Huseby, Calvary Church pastor of senior adults who officiated at the service.

Music of the faith was a lifelong pursuit of Lehmann, who for many years served as an executive and producer with Grand Rapids-based Zondervan Corp. In the company's musical heyday of the 1960s and 70s, it had a strong musical presence. Its music publishing arm was called Singspiration, and on the recording side was the Diadem record label. Diadem later became Milk & Honey, which produced the national debuts of several contemporary Christian music heritage artists such as Michael Card and Twila Paris.

The Declining Influence of Christianity On American Culture

rexsat7Dr. Rex M. RogersThe United States of America has been called a Christian nation.

While the accuracy of that designation has been frequently debated, there is no question the founding and history of the USA was influenced by biblical Christianity like no other nation on earth.

A Nation With the Soul of a Church

The USA was founded upon principles of liberty, many of them drawn from an understanding of Scripture. In time, the core values of the Founders: self-evident truths that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and then property and free enterprise, equality before the law, justice, moral responsibility, no established religion nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof, freedom of the press and peaceable assembly became the American creed.

Profile: Brian Elve

Brian Elve 1Serving as director of Guiding Light's Recovery program, Brian Elve has helped develop and hone an effective long-term program that helps men struggling with addiction learn a different way of life – and a new way of being in relationship with the world.

As an intensive drug and alcohol treatment program, Guiding Light Recovery is designed to give men structure and opportunity to engage in positive and transformative change. With an emphasis on spirituality, staff works with each individual to begin or renew men's journeys to lifelong abstinence and develop caring relationships with people who have traveled a similar path along the way.

Elve is one of those people. Like many of Guiding Light's team, he knows the differences between an effective program and the revolving-door nature of others because he's actually been there himself.

The Unique American Experience and Christianity

rexsat7Dr. Rex M. RogersAmerica has been called a Christian nation, though this description has been hotly debated.

America has been called “the first new nation ” by eminent sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset.

America has been called “The Great Experiment ” by no less than George Washington.

America has been said to be great because it is good, and that it would cease to be great if it ceased to be good .

This observation has been variously attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville and others, but whoever said it the phrase captures America’s sense of itself as the land of opportunity, the land of the free and the home of the brave, ideas rooted in the Judeo-Christian moral consensus that gave meaning and destiny to the American people their first two hundred years.

Terry’s Picks for September 2020

EVENTS2Wow. In this year of COVID-19, it's been months since I've been able to give any kind of a preview of upcoming events that are reasonably certain to happen. There have been concerts and other events from last spring that were rescheduled, but subsequently had to be either "re-postponed" or canceled outright.

QAnon Seducing the Church, Anonymous No More

rexsat7Dr. Rex M. RogersIf you haven’t heard of QAnon, you will soon. It hasn’t been around long, but QAnon is bona fide, it’s here, and it’s “no longer fringe.

At its most basic, QAnon is a conspiracy theory whose followers believe an underground cabal of liberal elites are in control of everything globally, including the “deep state” clandestinely running the US government. The elites are Satan worshipping pedophiles who run a human trafficking sex ring. Donald Trump and his allies, QAnon believes, are working to expose, stop, and bring these elites to justice. Q, the mysterious, anonymous—hence QAnon—intelligence or military insider with secret knowledge of this cabal, provides clues to followers, helping them know the truth and build a resistance.

Followers of QAnon also believe that there is an imminent event known as ‘The Storm,’ in which thousands of people, members of the cabal, will be arrested, possibly sent to Guantanamo Bay prison or to face military tribunals, and the U.S. military will brutally take over the country. The result of The Storm (or The Great Awakening) will be salvation and utopia on earth.”

Adored Boutique: A Ministry with a Storefront Helping Women Break Free from Human Trafficking, Heartless Working Conditions

Cutline No. 1-99Emily Smith is dedicated to showing women just how much the Lord adores them.When women purchase casual contemporary garments from Emily Smith's Adored Boutique, they're not only enhancing their wardrobe.

They're helping women from around the world break free from the clutches of human trafficking and working in sweat shops that force them to earn as little as 3 cents per hour, working up to 100-plus hours a week, according to https://www.theworldcounts.com/.

"The whole industry is designed to hold people down, oppress people," Smith says.

Smith on the other hand is doing her part to give that grime reality a knockout punch by showing women just how much their Creator adores them.

WMCN News Briefs 8/28

nbGR area hospice adds 2 physicians to handle growing caseload

Holland Home's hospice division, Faith Hospice, has added two palliative care physicians to its staff, Drs. Kayla Andres and Michael Dozeman With these additions, the organization now offers seven physicians trained in hospice and palliative care to serve the organization's 3,500 patients. The move strengthens the organization's commitment to providing expert physician services to its patients at home, in the community and inpatient settings, which allows more hospice patients to receive physician care and symptom management visits at home. Faith Hospice is a Christian faith based organization that ministers to patients of all faiths, as well as those with no expressed faith and serves over 3,500 patients annually through its hospice and palliative care programs.

Muskegon Pregnancy Services receives new ultrasound machine

Muskegon Pregnancy Services has received a new a Samsung HS50 ultrasound machine valued at $90,000 that is capable of both 2D and 3D imaging, made possible through the fundraising efforts of the Knights of Columbus Prince of Peace Catholic Church Council #15337, local businesses, churches and donors.

The ultrasound machine shows pregnant women the undeniable first signs of human life, movement and human form even at its early stages of gestation. 80% of women who see an ultrasound of their baby's heartbeat will choose life, as will 90% of dads who see an ultrasound of their baby's heartbeat.

WMCN News Briefs 7/30

nbBack to God Ministries International renamed

Grand Rapids-based Back to God Ministries International has been renamed Reframe Ministries, effective 2021. The decision was made at a special meeting of the Christian Reformed Church in North America Council of Delegates. Its new tagline is "God's Story. Today's Media." The new name better introduces the ministry and its ongoing purpose to people who don't know Jesus yet, according to BTGMI director, Kurt Selles.

$1 million tuition assistance offered

Grand Rapids Diocese Bishop David Walkowiak announced that up to $1 million in tuition assistance is available for returning and new families whose finances have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Tuition assistance is available for the 2020-21 school year. Families may apply at CatholicSchools4U.org. The additional $1 million in COVID-19 tuition assistance is possible through diocesan savings.

Gospel Stories Come to Life in “40”

Tanis led children come pageArtist Joel Schoon-Tanis’ conception of the gospel account “Let the children come…”There's more than one way to complete a book project.

And with some side-stepping in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Holland artist Joel Schoon-Tanis used a kickstarter effort to help produce his latest art-filled book "40: The Gospels."

"Like a lot of us in (this year) 2020, I had to pivot," said Tanis, 53.

The artist had spent the better part of the last year painting scenes depicting stories from each of the four gospels. He had lined up an exhibit/tour of churches throughout the Midwest, showing the artwork and garnering pre-sales to be used for publishing costs for a forthcoming book.

But then the pandemic mushroomed, and the entire tour had to be cancelled.

Collaborative 70x7 Life Recovery Provides Mentoring and More to Those with Criminal Records

Cutline No. 1-88Sought after and received forgiveness. From left: Benjamin Rosa, Marybeth Sims and Beniam Johnson.Beniam Johnson defies the ex-convict typecast.

The city of Wyoming resident is articulate, focused and determined to make something of his life following his release from prison for a sex offense.

Johnson credits his new outlook on life to an enduring relationship he's gained with Jesus Christ and the mentoring and support services he received from 70x7 Life Recovery, a local Christian nonprofit that imparts guidance and employment opportunities to men and women released from jail or prison.

Applying a Christian Worldview to Race and Racism

Rex-2017b-300x242Dr. Rex M. RogersThe tragic death of George Floyd, May 25, 2020, at the hand of a police officer and resulting nonstop social unrest plaguing American cities have created a milieu in which it is almost impossible to conduct a deliberative conversation about race, racism, police brutality, and police actions.

So much angry momentum fogs the air that anyone questioning the wisdom of what's taking place does so at risk of reputation, maybe employment, and in some cases personal well-being.

That is, the risk is there if one disagrees with the accepted narrative being endorsed by much of Big Media, Big Social Media, corporations, various celebrities, and other cultural opinion elites.

You can test my observation empirically. See if it stands up.

Sidewalk Prophets Take the Virtual Route

Sidewalk Prophets 4some 2020lead singer David Frey (2nd from right) and Sidewalk ProphetsWith a brand new album in the fold, Sidewalk Prophets decided to introduce it with a virtual tour.

"We can't physically be going all over the country with it," said lead singer David Frey of COVID-19 restrictions on travel and concert events. "But we want virtually to try to give people an experience as if they were there."

From a stage/studio north of Nashville, the inspirational pop band is presenting a virtual tour, a series of unique performances for markets across the country. Friday July 17 is tailored for the Grand Rapids area (see details below).

"We have a seven-camera set up, pro audio and video, 3D elements and interactive stuff with fans voting on a song we play later in the set," listed Frey, 38.

WMCN News Briefs 6/26

nbCalvin, Kuyper, plan for reopening in fall

Calvin University and Kuyper College are among the local Christian Reformed Church in North America-affiliated institutions that plan to welcome students back to campus this fall. Both educational institutions suspended allowing in-person classes and their campuses when the COVID-19 pandemic began sweeping across North America in March.

Calvin University has partnered with the health-care testing company Helix Diagnostics giving Calvin access to 5,000 tests, thus ensuring faculty, staff, and students will be tested and screened for COVID-19. This ensures anyone who tests positive will receive proper care before integrating with others on campus.

Faith and Arts Still Connecting at Calvin U.

Jack Droppers and the Best IntentionsJack Droppers (2nd from left) & the Best IntentionsJack Droppers knows music from all the angles – backstage, on-stage and audience.

So the Grand Rapids native is a natural as he settles into his new role as executive director of the Calvin University Student Activities Office (SAO).

"I heard from a friend about the potential of this job being open," said Droppers, 30, from his home on the city's southeast side. "He told me: 'You need to apply for this.'"

Calvin's SAO organization books music artists and films for the campus, with input from an advisory board. Most of the events are open to the wider community.

A Graveyard for Churches? Hardly. Redemption Church in Grand Rapids is Where People Meet Jesus

Cutline No. 21Redemption Church Grand Rapids is at 1535 Cambridge Dr. SE.Why launch another church?

That's a question the pastors and elders from Redemption Church in Grandville heard over again when they were mulling the prospect of opening a house of worship in Southeast Grand Rapids.

Actually, some of the comments were downright bleak when area ministers learned the location of its Grand Rapids church plant.

Stars Heading to Town to Film Mel Trotter Story

Dennis-Van-Kampen-Mel-Trotter-CEO-PresidentDennis Van KampenGrand Rapids will soon host well-known film and television star Dean Cain to bring to life the mission and vision of Mel Trotter Ministries, celebrating its 120th year.

Scheduled to film in late June, "One Life at a Time" chronicles the journey of a modern, privileged young man who gets into trouble and as part of his sentence must work at Mel Trotter Ministries (MTM). Flashbacks reveal the story of the real Mel Trotter, an alcoholic petty criminal who decided to, in the winter of 1898, take a train to Chicago, get drunk, and throw himself off a pier.

WMCN Briefs 6/11

nbGrand Rapids ministers decry racism

The Grand Rapids Association of Pastors (G-RAP), a coalition of pastors committed to work towards unity, reconciliation and justice, held a press conference June 4 on the front steps of Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church, 510 Franklin St. SE, to decry the murder of Minneapolis resident George Floyd.

"The pain of our community is on display — a pain rooted in the sin of racism," said Dr. Timothy Harris of Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church. "As ministers, we believe it is the work of the church to pursue justice in the midst of this pain, and we plan to do this work together, across the lines that have divided us."

Pastors from across the denominational, racial, and economic spectrum spoke at the news conference.

A number of Grand Rapids pastors also took part in a peaceful protest on May 30, praying, providing security and adding their voices to the cries for justice. Others took part in the clean up of downtown on May 31.

Grant enables MTM to offer telehealth services

Mel Trotter Ministries has been awarded a grant for an undisclosed amount by the Saint Mary's Foundation that will enable the nonprofit to offer telehealth services to the homeless. The funds make it possible for guests that stay at Mel Trotter to receive accessible medical care onsite by removing barriers that hinder them from receiving care. Services will be billed through insurance and those without insurance will be guided to resources in the community to receive health insurance.

The COVID-19 pandemic made the lack of proper medical care among the homeless population more clear. Implementing telehealth seemed like the right move, but with so many resources going towards COVID-19 response efforts, MTM turned to the Saint Mary's Foundation for assistance.

"We know now more than ever that medical services are being provided in a different way and many providers have moved to seeing patients through telehealth," says Adrienne Goodstal, vice president of community engagement and advocacy. "Those experiencing homelessness might not have the ability to engage with their doctors in this manner due to a lack of technology, understanding how telehealth works and the lack of privacy to conduct a telehealth appointment. Bringing this service onsite is going to allow our guests an opportunity to either become reengaged with their healthcare provider or get connected to a new provider."

Guests at Mel Trotter Ministries can start seeing doctors through telehealth starting June 16. Staff and volunteers at Mel Trotter will assist guests in scheduling their appointments. Appointments can be scheduled on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and will be held in the medical exam rooms.

Guiding Light maintains Platinum Seal of Transparency

Guiding Light has again been awarded a Platinum Seal of Transparency by GuideStar, the world's largest source of information on U.S. nonprofits.

Nonprofits ranked by GuideStar can qualify for any one of four designations. Of the nearly two million nonprofits the organization tracks nationally, approximately 10,000 are rated Platinum, which is the highest level bestowed by GuideStar. It is shared by less than two dozen of the more than 2,300 nonprofits GuideStar tracks in the greater Grand Rapids area.

"GuideStar is a highly respected organization for measuring and interpreting nonprofits' progress," said Stuart P. Ray, executive director at Guiding Light. "The organization's decision to continue to recognize our commitment to accountability and transparency with Platinum status is an honor."

In the greater Grand Rapids area, Guiding Light joins 19 other organizations in earning Platinum status, including Acton Institute, Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, Junior Achievement of the Great Lakes, Grand Rapids Art Museum, Grand Rapids Civic Theater and a few others.

Founded more than 90 years ago, Guiding Light works to engage God's spirit in partnering with individuals to fulfill their God-given potential through rescue, recovery and re-engagement in the community.

Episcopal churches raise over $200,000 for Michigan food banks

The Episcopal Diocese of Michigan will award $220,000 to Michigan food banks to help them respond to the growing need for access to food caused by the COVID-19 virus. Inspired by their desire to help feed the millions of Michiganders who now must rely on food pantries, hundreds of Episcopalians throughout Michigan helped the diocese exceed its initial goal to raise $200,000. Just over a month after the Rt. Rev. Dr. Bonnie A. Perry was consecrated as the 11th bishop, the coronavirus began spreading and Michigan became a national hot spot.

Moved by reports of historically high demand at local food pantries and soup kitchens, Perry called on the people of the diocese of Michigan to respond by putting their faith into action. The diocese combined money from a fund established in 1940 to assist people with tuberculosis, with gifts from All Saints' Episcopal Church in Pontiac and Christ Church Cranbrook in Bloomfield Hills to create a $100,000 fund, and challenged people in the 76 congregations throughout the diocese to match it.

Wedgwood Christian Services Traces 60-year Heritage

Cutline No. 1 Jean  Jim BoelkinsJim Boelkins with his mother, Jean, who co-founded Wedgwood Christian Services when it was known as The Christian Home for Boys.Wedgwood Christian Services (WCS) is celebrating its 60th anniversary thanks to two women who firmly believed there was a better way to reform boys who were placed in the juvenile detention system.

LaGrave Christian Reformed Church members Jean Boelkins and Dorothy Huizenga decided in 1960 to launch The Christian Home for Boys, and make it a place that would provide grace-filled care and hope.

"They asked their pastor, Jacob Eppinga, to tour this facility and find out what it looks like it in," says Vivian TerMaat, WCS's chief advancement officer "He went there and he couldn't sleep for two nights. 'It was miserable,' was his words. Jean and Dorothy said, 'Let's come up with something better and staff it ourselves and have a healthy home life and teach them basic skills to succeed in life and talk about their faith.

Terry’s Picks for June 2020

EVENTSThis is the monthly column in which I offer three "picks" from inspirational concerts, arts, or other enrichment opportunities happening through the month.

As you know, the last few months have been challenging in tracking a revolving landscape of cancelled, postponed, rescheduled, or re-rescheduled events: The calendar has been a rolling wave of various COVID-19 related announcements.

Here's the latest at press time for a sense of what June is bringing...... and a touch of beyond:

WMCN Briefs 5/19/2020

nbWest Michigan Christian News Briefs

Editor's note: Manna Media/West Michigan Christian News continues its new feature of reporting topical information related to the regional Christian community.

Our Daily Bread Debuts Podcast for Christian Women

God HearsHerPodcastGod Hears Her, a new podcast from Our Daily Bread Ministries, offers Christian women a place to connect and explore the truth that God hears, loves, and sees them. Hosted by Elisa Morgan, former president of MOPS International and cohost of the radio program Discover the Word, and Eryn Eddy, founder of the lifestyle clothing brand So Worth Loving, God Hears Her debuted May 11.

The first season includes 12 episodes released each Monday on all podcast platforms including Google Play, Spotify, and iTunes, as well as via the website www.godhearsher.org. Each episode runs about 30 minutes and features personal stories from the cohosts and occasional guests. Season one will include guest appearances by Christian thought leaders Margaret Feinberg and Philip Yancey.

Unity Festival Rescheduled for Next Year

UnityLogoSeveral factors combined to lead officials to call off the 2020 Unity Christian Music Festival.

"It became clear that we were not going to be out of the woods with all the social restrictions anywhere close to festival time," said Unity director Kevin Newton of the four-day Muskegon event originally planned for August.

"The reality is there's no way we could do an event like Unity this summer."

Newton had hoped to wait until June to make a final decision. But to delay making that call would tie up vendors, suppliers, technicians and others who would quickly need to find other options.

WMCN Briefs

nbEditor's note: Manna Media/West Michigan Christian News introduces a new feature to its website that will report topical information related to the regional Christian community.

Terry’s Pics for May, 2020

EVENTSOnce again, the scrambling of the calendar by COVID-19 has caused havoc in attempting to list coming events.

For May let's mention some events which were originally scheduled for this month and have been either cancelled or postponed. Some have been re-scheduled.
There are some events – especially near the month's end – which were still up in the air at press time and are not listed here.

Everything-Is-Politics Is No Way To Live

rexsat7Dr. Rex M. RogersIt is now virtually impossible in the U.S.A to make a statement—about almost anything—without someone assigning it political or ideological or partisan bias or intention. In other words, everything-is-politics.

This reminds me. A few years ago, on a Middle East trip I engaged in a What if? discussion considering how a Christian ministry should respond to several hypothetical regional incidents. How could a Christian ministry maintain its testimony and advance its mission in its response to current events?

For example, what if—God forbid—the child of a Middle East/North Africa (MENA) country leader suddenly died? What should or could a Christian ministry say publicly about this kind of heart-wrenching development?

At first glance it seems obvious. Shouldn’t we attempt to demonstrate Christian love by grieving with those who grieve? Wouldn’t we share the family’s sadness and communicate public condolences? —Even if the ruler involved was an autocrat or ruthless dictator, clearly not a friend of human dignity, freedom, or the Church?

Penchant for Drawing Illustrates President of AMDG Architects’ Resolve to Help Others

Cutline No. 1-81Peter Hugo Baldwin: “The premise that all lives, all people, matter to God, resonates with how Michelle, my wife, and I understand God’s view of the world.”There are people whose lives have been changed for the better because Christians in Peter Hugo Baldwin's life encouraged him to engage his imagination and create visuals in some out of the ordinary places.

His continual need to sketch could have been frowned on during elementary school and at the church his father was pastor of, Christ Church Presbyterian Church in America, but he was fortunate in more than one way.

On Sundays, Baldwin took with him a "huge" roll of paper that his grandmother sent to him as a present, so he could take it to church and draw on it when his father started to preach his sermon.

And draw he did, to his heart's content, despite askance looks by some parishioners. Today, Baldwin realizes growing up as a preacher's kid has shaped his Christian faith as an adult, and provided him with insights the average person sitting in a pew doesn't ever see.

Game Show Network Ventures Into Faith-Based Territory

master Minds long shotBrooke Burns (center) hosting the game show “Master Minds”The Game Show Network (GSN) has taken another step connecting with faith-based TV viewers by shouldering a major sponsorship of the new podcast by Christian music maven Bill Gaither.

"More Than The Music," hosted by the Grammy-winning artist, debuted online April 20. It features interviews by the Grammy-winning artist of figures whom he has collaborated with or been inspired by in his long career.

And in previous moves - over the last several months the TV network has welcomed church-affiliated contestants and inserted Bible and similarly-themed questions throughout its original programming line-up.

Music Artists Pitch In for Bethany

Schultz Mark at BethanySinger Mark Schultz performs in his garage as part of the multi-artist “Not Alone Live” benefit for Bethany Christian ServicesJuan Fernandez of Bethany Christian Services knew it would be lot of work to plan and produce a "virtual" fundraising concert for his non-profit organization.

"We started making music artist contacts," said Fernandez, vice-president for marketing and communications for the Grand Rapids-based family service agency.

"My first call was to Mark Schultz," he said of his inquiry of the popular Christian singer-songwriter. "I got three words into it and his agent said, 'We're in,'" Fernandez recalled.

The grand result of all the work was ten different music artists and guest presenters joining in for the April 14 unveiling of "Not Alone Live," an online concert benefitting Bethany's COVID-19 Emergency Fund.

Access of West Michigan’s Shared Mission Provides Essential Aid to Churches’ Neighbors. Walk For Good Food is May 3-13

Cutline No. 1-8aWalk For Good Food will be accomplished with social distancing in mind.The coronavirus pandemic has produced seismic changes in the way people live. But what remains a constant are low-income people's continued need for the basics in life, a reality heightened these days through a loss of income and access to food. The Christian nonprofit, Access of West Michigan (AWM), is working to meet the challenge in helping the vulnerable living in Kent County.

Even so, AWM also has had to make changes of its with its annual Walk For Good Food, scheduled May 3-13.

The former Grand Rapids Area Center For Ecumenism founded the Walk For Good Food when it was known as the Hunger Walk. AWM took over the fundraiser 2011, which sees an average of 700 people to lace up their shoes to hoof it for this worthy cause.

Big Ticket Shifts Festival Dates

4Kac center stage at BTFFor King & Country performed at a previous Big Ticket Festival In what could be termed a "proactive" move, the organizers of the Christian music Big Ticket Festival (BTF) in northern Michigan have moved the calendar for their event from June to Labor Day weekend.

"The way it's going right now, most all of the major events in June are being cancelled or postponed," noted festival director Drew Spanding of actions to curtail the spread of the coronavirus.

"We were blessed to have the last weekend of the summer still open here (Otsego County Fairgrounds in Gaylord), giving us the flexibility to move the dates," said Spanding.

Holland Couple Emerges as a Musical Duo

Lady  GentlemanNecia and Jon Ornée are Lady & Gentleman His band AG Silver went on hiatus eight years ago. But singer-songwriter Jon Ornée finally has another musical enterprise. And he didn't have to go far to find a new collaborator.

Jon and his wife Necia have formed Lady & Gentleman, a pop-folk-rock duo which has already debuted its first new song and music video. And they've just released a follow-up tune.

"I just can't not write music," said Ornée, 38, of his artistic orientation. "I've written a lot of songs that are relatable to everybody, but now they impact my own family," noted the father of two.

Master Arts Theatre Goes “Off Script”

Van Bruggen TimothyMAT executive director Timothy Van BruggenLike many other non-profit organizations, Master Arts Theatre (MAT) has been scrambling in the wake of non-essential business closings and shelter-in-place guidelines, thanks to the coronavirus.

One of the casualties: the faith-inspired company's spring production of "Enchanted April" will not take the stage.

"We had a beautiful cast and had just started rehearsals," noted MAT executive director Timothy Van Bruggen. "It's one of the most touching plays I've ever read."

The theatre group, with offices/performance space in Byron Township, had already been forced to cancel its March 20-21 Lenten presentation of the play "The Seven Last Words of Christ."

Movement West Michigan Serves to Unite Christians to Combat ‘stubborn’ Spiritual, Social Problems, including Coronavirus Pandemic

Cutline No. 1-8Lynn Kotecki: “This is about relationships, this is about trust, it’s about authentic conversation.”Lynn Kotecki, executive director of Ottawa County-based Movement West Michigan (MWM), believes in the power of unity.

"What the Movement is attempting to do is unify the Christian body," Kotecki says. "He (God) told us 2,020 years ago to come together. It can take us a long time to learn. And everything our Lord tells us is to come together and we're doing that. The key is: Can we continue and sustain that relationship to move forward to transform the community."

MWM's vision is to have every community in West Michigan flourish spiritually and socially. Leaders serve as the catalyst to spiritually and socially impact their communities through rigorous research, uniting prayer, unified local leadership and powerful collaboration between diverse sectors.

Local Duo Offering Kids Weekly Learning Videos

kevinkWimee, a popular robot-like character who visits schools with creators Kevin Kammeraad and Michael Hyacinthe, is making his video debut just in time for kids to tune in from home. Wimee's mission is "helping kids build vocabulary skills through creative storytelling."

"We were scheduled to do 100 workshops featuring Wimee and the book 'Wimee's Words,' but Covid-19 hit and we had to suspend our engagement directly with kids," said Hyacinthe, CEO of Wimage, LLC and a veteran working with veterans at Habitat for Humanity. "So, we developed a web series that continues to engage with kids while schools are closed."

Worship the Focus of Collaborative CD Project

Marialke Nate-1Nate MarialkeNate Marialke is standing on the edge of a new creative venture.

"Resound" is the title of a five-song CD collection crafted by Marialke and worship leader colleagues.

"Water's Edge Worship is really a family of worship leaders and (song)writers, explained Marialke, worship arts leader at Central Wesleyan Church in Holland. "And our church is kind of the hub for that right now."

Leaders from at least ten churches around the world are connected to Water's Edge, although just area artists are part of the new live recording.
The all-original release is the second for the working group, which issued a studio project "Forever Overcome," three years ago.

The songs were to be formally introduced in a CD release concert this month at Central Wesleyan, although that has been put on pause by COVID-19 virus concerns.

Terry’s Picks for April 2020

EVENTS2Here's the column in which your faithful West Michigan Christian News writer usually surveys the landscape for the area's faith-inspired arts/entertainment/enrichment events over the coming month.

But one of many persistent effects of the coronavirus COVID-19 is: for the entire month of April there are simply no events appropriate to the list that I can be sure will go on as scheduled.

So the "April Picks" headline is a misnomer.

The People of West Michigan Need Not To Fear!

fear8In this time when the world is plagued by fear and is searching for something they do not have, we believe we have an unusual opportunity to lead eyes upwards, and we want to take advantage of the opportunity.

We have multiple billboards in high traffic locations with the message of hope. Please pray that people that see these billboards will discover new peace in Christ.

Virus Affects Christian Concert Scene

Newsboys UnitedNewsboys United’s concert in April was one of many postponed or cancelledUsually the announcement looked something like this: "To ensure the safety of our fans, we're announcing the postponement of the remaining dates on the_____ tour effective immediately. We are working diligently to reschedule dates as soon as possible, and we will notify ticket holders immediately of the rescheduled dates."

That was the exact wording used by the promoter in the cancellation of the Newsboys United "Greatness of Our God" tour, which had been scheduled April 18 at Fair Haven Ministries in Hudsonville.

That was just one of a host of concerts – both Christian and mainstream – postponed or outright cancelled in the effort to fight the spread of the Corona virus (COVID-19).

Revisiting Martin Luther’s “Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague” Re COVID-19

rex99Dr. Rex M. RogersMartin Luther was one of the greatest Christian reformers, the man who in 1517 called the Roman Catholic Church to account by posting "95 Theses" on Wittenberg All Saints Church door.

But enormously important as this is, though, Luther should also be remembered for his actions and thoughtful response to the dreadful Black Plague – and what his wisdom suggests for us today in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the 1300s, the Black Death, also called the Bubonic Plague, swept across two continents, eventually killing half the population of Europe in a short span of four years. Between 75 and 200 million people died and it took nearly two hundred years for the population to return to former levels.

During the 15th and 16th Centuries, various epidemics took more lives in the known populated world. And worse, the Black Death proved episodic, meaning it would die off only to resurge later.

In 1527, the plague came again, visiting Martin Luther's hometown, Wittenberg, Germany. Luther was instructed to leave by his university elector, but he stayed to minister to the sick. Days later, several around Luther had died, while his pregnant wife and others in his household became ill. Thankfully, they survived, as did Luther, but he was asked, even challenged, about the decision he made not to leave ahead of the epidemic.

Upcoming RandyDon Academy to Shepherd Youth Pastors in Servant Leadership

raydonRandy DonGiovanni: “If there’s ever a time we’ve needed youth pastors, it’s today.”Randy DonGiovanni knows youth pastors of all denominations face similar, uphill struggles. That's what makes the upcoming RandyDon Academy essential.

"I feel leadership today is not being taught in the correct way because everyone wants to be a leader, everyone wants to be a pastor, but no one wants to ... do the biblical principle of serving," says DonGiovanni, who's worked in youth ministry for over 30 years in a variety of capacities and is ordained with Resurrection Life Church in Grandville.

Chonda Pierce: Humorously Speaking Her Mind

chonda headshot 11DcT4Q- 2Please Note: The Chonda Pierce event scheduled for Saturday 3/14 has officially been postponed. Promoters are working diligently to provide a new date ASAP, please hold on to your tickets as they will be honored at the new date. If you cannot attend the new date, refunds can be obtained by contacting This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Chonda Pierce has revealed the secret to her decades-long run as one of the nation's top faith-based comedians.

"Every time I leave my house I kind of always know how I want the evening to end," she said of the approach to her stage show which treads into hilarity yet retains a relevant message. "I've always worked from the ending first. So I start writing the material and work backwards to the beginning. We've done that for 25 years."

Throughout her career Pierce has shared with audiences bits of her own life journey, which includes bouts with depression, family estrangement and the death of her husband in 2014 following his long struggle with alcoholism. Yet woven through is humorous and hope-filled encouragement.

"My story is my story, there are aspects of it that will always show up," she said.

Upcoming Gilda’s LaughFest

Sapp HenryHenry Sapp Comedy veterans and newcomers alike are joining in on the fun at this year's LaughFest.

The annual West Michigan comedy festival was created by and is a benefit for Gilda's Club Grand Rapids, a non-profit that offers free support programs for cancer victims and their families. (This year's festival is March 5-15; www.laughfestgr.org

And area residents - the stage-savvy Henry Sapp and upstart comic Abbie Lemke - are both performing at various LaughFest events.
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