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Archive | Church Connection

Sarah Ann Coulson


C-OBIT-CoulsonSarah Ann Coulson, 45 of Allendale died Monday, July 13, 2015 at her home. Sarah was born April 8, 1970 in Grand Rapids, MI the daughter of Richard and Ruth (Sims) Cain. Sarah grew up in Wyoming, MI and  graduated from Rogers High School in 1988. She went on to college and graduated from Michigan State University with a bachelor degree. She was very outgoing, had a lot of friends, a quick smile and was very giving to others. Surviving are her husband, Scott; children, Sasha, Zane and Zoe; father, Richard Cain of Charlevoix; brother, Shawn (Tammy) Cain of Cedar Springs, sister, Stacie (Francisco) Ramirez of Grant. She was preceded in death by her mother, Ruth (Sims) Cain and brother, Stephen Paul Cain. A graveside service was held Tuesday, July 21 at East Nelson Cemetery, 8700 18 Mile Road, NE, Cedar Springs. Pastor Bruce Chapman officiated. In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate help with the funeral expenses. You may contribute at www.thecoulsons.com/funeral

Arrangements by Bliss-Witters & Pike Funeral Home, Cedar Springs.

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True Freedom

Pastor Darryl Miller  

Sand Lake UMC, 

65 W. Maple, Sand Lake

South Ensley UMC, 

13600 Cypress, Ensley Township



We have just celebrated the independence of our country and the freedom that it has afforded us as a result. But what is freedom? What is true freedom? Paul wrote four letters from a Roman prison, in which he suffered much and longed to be with his friends again. Yet, his words seem to be unreasonable. He speaks of joy, of being thankful and of being set free. How can he feel these things while in prison, where he was placed for preaching the gospel?

The simple answer is that God is the source of real freedom—the freedom to be at peace wherever we find ourselves and in whatever situations we face. The Bible says that we have been given a spirit of “carelessness.” Now this does not mean that we can skateboard off the roof and see ourselves on one of those “Bad Idea” TV shows. In this context, the word “carelessness” means to be without care. In other words, to quote our Australian friends—“no worries!” True freedom is when we can face our lives without care, without worry—even in prison. A prison with bars, a prison of illness, a prison of depression, or any other kind of prison. Paul even spoke of how being in chains has helped his ministry to grow and to be heard—a sure sign of the presence of God even in the bleakest times.

True freedom is being able to say “Praise God!” even when we don’t feel like it or when we aren’t sure what the next day may bring. The Bible refers to sin as bonds, chains that restrain us. Our sins keep us from experiencing the freedom and grace offered us by Christ. When we repent of our sins, God breaks those chains of sin and frees us to a life of thanksgiving and joy. And when we accept Christ as our Savior, we welcome the very author of freedom into our hearts. Then and only then will we experience true freedom, finding a peace that goes beyond the world’s understanding, no matter what we may be facing—the peace of Christ Jesus. If you want to learn more, there are many wonderful churches in our community and many wonderful pastors who would love to help you. Check them out!

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The Illusion of Control


“Control is an illusion, you infantile egomaniac.” So said Nicole Kidman to Tom Cruise. It was a fictional movie scene, of course, but I’m sure it’s a mantra she repeated often over the course of their decade-long marriage. Digression aside, the quote itself is absolutely the truth. Control—over others’ behavior, personal circumstances, world events, the universe—is a fantasy.

It was Dr. Ellen Langer who wrote the book on the subject. Her work is entitled,“The Illusion of Control.” She believes, and her research backs this up, that human beings have a delusional sense that they can influence the outcomes of certain events, even those events over which they have no command.

Summarizing one of her observations, Dr. Langer discovered that drivers feel that they are much less likely to be in an accident when they are driving versus sitting in the passenger’s seat. No surprise there, but here is where things get interesting: Move that front seat passenger to the back of the automobile, and that individual’s feelings of anxiety completely skyrocket!

In fact, the further removed from the driver’s seat he or she was placed, the more the test subject felt an accident was inevitable. Why? He or she was not the one in control of the situation. This is one reason why I recoil from the bumper sticker, “God Is My Co-Pilot.” Oh, for heaven’s sake.

Can any phrase in our lexicon be more descriptive of our neurotic need to be in control, and yet tip our hat to The Maker in case we get into a situation that is just a bit too much for us? Even then, we want to remain firmly ensconced in the driver’s seat; we want to remain the gods of our universe.

Critics of faith often argue that belief in God defies the evidence. God cannot be “proven,” goes the reasoning, so ceding command of life to such a hypothetical Being is simply foolish. Philosophically, I understand and appreciate this argument. Yet, I counter that we all have confidence in something, in some foundational truth or principle that guides our lives.

So, if you find faith in God to be illogical, I respect that. But, surrendering the management of the universe to a Higher Power makes a lot of sense when there is so little we can personally control. After all, control is an illusion, and the evidence on that matter is irrefutable.

Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, blogger, pastor, and author of multiple books. Visit his website at www.ronniemcbrayer.net.


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Della May Michaels, 95, of Cedar Springs, died Monday, July 13, 2015 at Arbor Rose Senior Center, Mesa, Arizona. Della was born October 12, 1919 in Grant, Michigan, the daughter of John and Cora (Kennedy) Lamb. Following graduation from high school she attended Western Michigan Teacher’s College and began teaching in one room schools in 1939. She later received her bachelor degree from Western Michigan University and her master’s from University of Michigan. She taught the majority of her years for Grand Rapids Public Schools. Della enjoyed gardening, and along with her husband enjoyed square dancing, ballroom dancing and traveling. Her greatest passion was her family. She was preceded in death by her husband of 72 years, George in 2014. Surviving are her children, Mary Nunnaley, Gene (Linda) Michaels, John (Carolyn) Michaels; three grandchildren; 10 great granddaughters; several nieces and nephews. Cremation has taken place and there will be no service. Interment will take place at West Cemetery, Big Rapids.

Arrangements by Bliss-Witters & Pike Funeral Home, Cedar Springs.

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Leona J. Sheppard, 67, of Sand Lake, passed away Monday, July 13, 2015 at Spectrum Health United Memorial Hospital, Greenville. Leona was born August 29, 1947 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the daughter of Eddie and Orvena (Woolston) Johnson. She loved her family and grandchildren and enjoyed knitting, needlepoint, reading and camping. Surviving are her husband, George Sheppard Jr. whom she married on May 7, 1976; children, Lisa (Bruce) Westbrook, Scott (Darci) Harig; grandchildren, Alec, Courney, and Nicole Westbrook, Stephanie, Isabella, and Annalise Harig; sister, Caroline Timmerman. A celebration of her life will be held at the Scott Harig residence. 11274 W. Briggs Road, Trufant, on Thursday, July 16 at 3:00 pm.

Arrangements by Bliss-Witters & Pike Funeral Home, Cedar Springs.

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28C-obit-Inman28C-obit-Inman-2-webDionna Angeline Inman, age 74, was peacefully escorted by angels into the arms of her Lord and Savior, while surrounded by her loving family, July 9th, 2015. Born in Grand Rapids and a life-long resident of Cedar Springs, Donie was crowned Red Flannel Queen in 1956. A seamstress by trade, her handiwork has clothed many a child, drama team members, and Halloween enthusiasts. Best known for her unconditional love for everyone she met and warm, welcoming smile. She was preceded in death by her parents, Dio and Virginia Shaffer; her husband, Russell Inman; son Stanley Levanduski; and brother, David Shaffer. She will be lovingly remembered by her children, Dawn (Ken) Brecken, Ronda (Lee) Olds, Sherry (Bill) Kerr, Russell (Chris) Inman, Stacy (Paul) Thrasher, Charlie Roberts; grandchildren, Zachary Rogers, Kia Ribic, Paige Rogers and Russell Inman, and many great grandchildren; as well as many other extended and honorary grandchildren; sister, Judy (Keith) Hemmila; and brothers, Phil (Ruth) Shaffer, Doug (Judy) Shaffer, Jeff (Lisa) Shaffer; and sister-in-law, Karen Shaffer; numerous nieces and nephews, and beloved puppies Bella and Misty Bear. A time of visitation was held on Sunday, July 12, 2015 from 2:00 to 4:00p.m. and 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at Pederson Funeral Home, 127 N. Monroe Street, Rockford, MI 49341.The service celebrating Donie’s life was held at 2:00 p.m. on Monday, July 13, 2015, at Pederson Funeral Home, with   Rev. Keith Hemmilla officiating. Interment will be in Solon Township Cemetery. Those wishing to offer an expression of sympathy are encouraged to make a memorial contribution to Faith Hospice – Development Office, 2100 Raybrook Street SE, Suite 300, Grand Rapids, MI 49546.

Arrangements by Pederson Funeral Home Pedersonfuneralhome.com

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In Memory Of



July 17, 2013

We will miss you day and night

We will always remember your kisses and hugs

You will be missed all day long

We wish you would come to hear our song

We wish you were here forever and now

There is no time for a hip-hip hurray

We will be sad for the rest of today

You are now gone and out of our lives

We wish we weren’t in so much pain and strife

Sadly missed by

Mom & Tom

Shae, Justin & Austin

Mark & Nicki & Family

Great Grandpa, and all family & friends

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Farewell to Red Flannel Town

Solon-Center-Wesleyan-webPastor Tom Holloway

Solon Center Wesleyan Church

15671 Algoma, Cedar Springs (just north of 19 Mile)


As I sit here to write my last “From the Pulpit” article, I am trying to find a way to say goodbye to the city I love and try to tie it into some scripture passage, but I can’t.  I think I actually could, because there are many examples like Paul wanting to finish well, and how Joshua had to be courageous when he took the mantle from Moses. But the reality is, I want to express my gratefulness and use every word to say goodbye to the community I love.

My family and I moved here in 2003 from East Lansing, when I left my job at Michigan State University, and took a job in Rockford, as a part-time youth pastor. It was a huge step of faith for my wife and I to go from a career that we loved, in coaching gymnastics, to a career that I knew very little about and had almost no experience in. We left the comfort of a good salary to go to a profession that prides itself on shunning the things of the world, for a life of submission. God has provided through the ups and downs of ministry, and he has allowed us to be in a good place.

In March, things began to change for us. We felt God calling us to explore the option of planting a church in South Carolina.  I don’t have enough space to describe that whole process, but God has put us in a position of leaning and trusting on Him. So, it is with much fear and trepidation (but also great excitement) that we will be taking a small church in South Carolina, on August 1.  My last Sunday at Solon Center Wesleyan Church will be July 26, and I would love to have you in attendance to say goodbye to me, my wife Kim Holloway, and our three children, Taylor, Christian, and Jackson.

When I first came to Cedar Springs I didn’t know much about it. I was pastoring in Rockford, but we liked the feel of Cedar Springs and we really liked our neighborhood. We first fell in love with the community, when my daughter came to school as a first grade student with Mrs. Cook and she explained to us that Taylor was far behind in her reading. We thought she was doing well in East Lansing, but that was not the case. Taylor moved quickly into the GATORS program, (which my wife taught for a few years later,) and she began to accelerate her reading abilities and soon became a great reader. It was then that my wife and I knew that Cedar Springs Public Schools really cared for my daughter, and that would continue for the next 11-1/2 years. Our family has grown to love the schools, sports, and the community.

I have been fortunate to be a part of this great community by starting the En Gedi youth center. It has seen hundreds, if not, thousands of kids have a safe place to be after school or on a Friday night after a ball game. It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost seven years since CJ Maurer and I met together to find a place for students to be refreshed. I have also been a part of our awesome ministerial association that loves our community so much that they sacrifice their own ministries at times to better the community. This will be the first “United” service that I won’t be leading worship at on August 23, and I am going to miss it so much. That kind of unity is rare, and I pray that our community never takes that for granted.

Most recently I have been able to be a part of our Community Building Development Team, here in Cedar Springs. The CBDT wants to work with other entities to build the community—not to just build buildings and amphitheaters, but to build our community by sacrificing and working together. Most people in our community don’t realize the generosity that exists in this community.  Unfortunately, we see a lot of negative things about the ways that we can’t come together instead of the ways that we can work together. We are much better together than we are divided.

I wish I had time to thank all of the people who believed in me and gave me a chance to succeed, but I’m afraid that I don’t. I do look forward to returning to the community and seeing what has been accomplished and you can bet that I will be following all that is going on. We hope to make an impact on our future community, and our next church, but we know that it is going to be nearly impossible to find a community that we will love as much as this one. Know that I will be praying for you as you move ahead, and I hope that you will pray for us as we move to where God has called us. May you go where God is leading you!

With Love, 

Pastor Tom Holloway

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Safer among the Christian savages

By Ronnie McBrayer

By Ronnie McBrayer

The Barna Group, a long-tenured research organization, tracks the role of faith within American culture. One of their recent studies sought to determine “Bible-Mindedness” in this country’s largest cities. Their rubric was simple: Participants who strongly asserted the “Bible to be accurate in the principles it teaches” were considered “Bible-Minded.” Those who did not meet this standard were deemed to be “unbiblical.”

Per the study, the most unbiblical city in America is Providence, Rhode Island. This should come as no surprise, given Rhode Island’s history. The state, founded by Roger Williams, began as a haven for those who had been mistreated by strict Biblicists—“Bible-Minded” people—who embraced a hardened interpretation of the Scriptures.

When Williams arrived in Massachusetts more than a century before the American Revolution, he was part of the Puritan effort to build that famed “City on a Hill,” a divinely instituted nation where everyone would be “Bible-Minded.” But, in short order, Williams became the most controversial figure on the continent.

How so? Williams relentlessly preached liberty of conscience and freedom from state-driven religious conformity, espousing a revolutionary idea that there should be a separation between church and state. Vexed to the point of murder, the authorities made plans against Williams. Warned that he would soon be arrested, Williams escaped into the wilderness where he eventually purchased from the Narrangansetts, the land that would become Rhode Island.

And, it was exactly that: an island, a sanctuary for all kinds of religious dissidents in the earliest years of the American colonies. Jews. Quakers. Baptists. Catholics. Atheists. They came in manifold and variegated expressions, and Roger Williams, this nation’s first Founding Father of toleration and liberty, welcomed them all.

It was no wonder, then, when Massachusetts Governor, John Winthrop, asked Roger to recant of his beliefs, leave the natives of the wilderness and come home, Roger responded, “I cannot; for I feel safer among the Christian savages, than I do among savage Christians.”

Ironically, Roger Williams never lost his faith. To the end of his life, he was a “Bible-Minded” man. Maybe, if he were alive today, he would wish that the city he founded was more “biblical,” but he would never force it to be so. He would say, as he said: “Men’s consciences ought never to be violated…for a religion that must be upheld by violence, is a religion that cannot be true.”

Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, blogger, pastor, and author of multiple books. Visit his website at www.ronniemcbrayer.net.

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50TH Anniversary

27C anniv Harrison 1

27C-anniv-Harrison-2-webPHILLIP & SUE HARRISON

Phillip E. and Sue Ann (Grannis) Harrison of Cedar Springs will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary on Friday July 10, 2015 with a family dinner and a celebration with family and friends on Saturday.

Phil and Sue met in 1962. They attend Cedar Springs United Methodist Church where they were married on July 10, 1965.             .

Phil is retired after working 30+ years as a sheet metal journeyman.  He loves his 1955 Chevy ambulance and 1957 Chevy convertible, is an avid hunter and teaches hunter safety classes. Sue is a retired English and Drama teacher who worked most of her 30 years at Cedar Springs High School. She directs church choir, is active in Women’s Club and Community Players, and sings with the Grand Rapids Sweet Adelines Chorus.

Phil and Sue have two children: Scott (Sherry) Harrison and Amy (Craig) Emenaker.  They have five granddaughters:  Emma Harrison, Jordan and Rachel Ackerman, and Mira and Maeve Emenaker.

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