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Archive | Church Connection

HAROLD R. BITELY

Harold R. Bitely age 76 of Sand Lake died Monday, April 12, 2021 at StoryPoint of Rockford. Harold was born October 3, 1944 in Grand Rapids, Mi the son of Roy and Luella (Purdy) Bitely. He enjoyed fishing and farming on his 40 acres where he grew hay, corn and always had a big garden. Surviving are his wife of 56 years, Arlene (Straus) Bitely; sons, John (Annette) Bitely, Mark (Dana) Bitely; 7 grandchildren; 1 great-granddaughter; sisters, Estella (Ray) Fessenden, Linda (William) Bronkema and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents and sister, Ellen Trumble. Visitation will be held Thursday, April 15 from 6-8 p.m. at the Bliss-Witters & Pike Funeral Home Cedar Springs. A public graveside will be held 2:00 p.m. Friday at Algoma Cemetery. Pastor Greg Buchner officiating. Memorial contributions to Rockford United Methodist Church 159 Maple St. NE Rockford, MI 49341 and the Michael J. Fox Foundation P.O. Box 5014 Hagerstown, MD 21741.

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

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CYNTHIA ROSE CALDWELL

Cynthia Rose Caldwell age 83 of Cedar Springs passed away on Friday, April 9, 2021 at Spectrum Health Butterworth Campus. Cindi was born March 29, 1938 in Grand Rapids, MI the daughter of Lem and Adda (Carrick) Gross. She was a labor relations specialist for the U.S. Government for 25 years. She was a member of the Cedar Springs Women’s Club and Lovin Stitches at the United Methodist Church. Cindi loved working in her yard and crocheting. She made hundreds of stocking hats for Santa Claus Girls and the hospitals. Surviving are her husband, Thomas whom she married on September 15, 1956; children, Tom & Nouri Caldwell, Jr., Tara Caldwell & Charles Dyer, Tylene & Phillip Cooley; grandchildren, Thomas III, Jacquelynne, Jay, Rachael and Olivia; one very special great-granddaughter, Rose. A time to remember her life will be 10:00 a.m. Wednesday, April 21, 2021 at the Cedarfield Community Room, 3592 17 Mile Rd. Cedar Springs. Private interment Pierson Cemetery. Memorial contributions may be made to St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital 501 St. Jude Pl  Memphis, TN 38105.

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

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PASTOR JENNINGS ELEREY JOHNSON

Pastor Jennings ‘Jay’ Elerey Johnson age 78, of Cedar Springs, MI passed into the arms of his Savior, on Wednesday, April 7, 2021 at his home. Jennings was born in Lakeview, MI on November 8, 1942 to Reverend Vernon & Ruth (Kebler) Johnson. He was a 1961 graduate of Edmore High School where he played the clarinet in the band. He also ran track and he held the school record for the mile run. On May 11, 1962 Jennings met the love of his life, Suzanne Ilene (White) Johnson. The two married one year later, on May 11, 1963. Jennings Johnson was a devoted servant of the Lord and an exceptional husband, father, grandfather and uncle. In 1995, after a 32-year effort, Jennings graduated from Spring Arbor College. He worked a full-time job, a part time job, took classes and always made time for his family. Jennings began preaching at the Sparta Free Methodist Church in 1996 and retired from there 12 years later to become the Pastoral Care Pastor at The Springs Church in Cedar Springs, MI. In 2005 he was set apart by the Free Methodist Church as an Elder of the church. He has married many couples over the years, baptized and dedicated many precious lives and presided over many funerals as well. The outpouring of love & support from his parishioners and friends since Jennings was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease is a testament to how very loved and treasured he was by all who knew him. Jennings was preceded in death by his parents; in-laws, Donald and Audrey (Brownell) White; brother-in-law, James McGillen; niece, Kelly Jean Brophy. He is survived by his wife, Suzanne; sisters, Leah McGillen, Neola (David) Rendel; sister-in-law, Bonnie (Tom) Reynolds; brother-in-law, Donald C. White Jr.; children, Scott E. (Michele) Johnson of Hanover, PA, Brian C. (Julie) Johnson of Grand Rapids Charter Township, MI, Julie A. Johnson of Cedar Springs, MI; grandchildren, Donald (Debbi) Johnson, Tamara (Jon) Wesoloski, Chad (Rachel) Johnson Keefer, Charles (Amanda) Johnson, Kathleen (Blake) Michael, Josephine Ellen Johnson and her significant other Luke Sanders, Celine Johnson, Gavin Johnson, Emma Johnson, Mitchell Jennings Lee Johnson, Lindsay Ilene Johnson, special adopted granddaughter, Trinity Hatten; seven great-grandchildren and he was happily awaiting the eighth, several church grandchildren; many cousins, nieces and nephews, and his beloved Tabby cat. The family greeted friends Tuesday, April 13 at the Bliss-Witters & Pike Funeral Home, Cedar Springs. The service was Wednesday, April 14 at The Springs Church, 135 N. Grant St. Cedar Springs. Pastors Dallas Burgeson and Barry Briggs officiating. Interment Solon Township Cemetery. In lieu of flowers the family would like to donate to The Springs Church, to the benefit of missionaries, Shane & Katie Jewell.

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

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TONY LEE KIMBALL

Tony Lee Kimball age 57 of Grand Rapids, died Tuesday, April 6, 2021 at his home. Tony was born June 26, 1963 in Lakeview, MI the son of Alan and Joan (Steinman) Kimball. Tony was hard working, very caring and a friend to all. He had a huge heart and always saw the best in everyone. Surviving are his life companion, Michelle Wang; daughters, Gina Kimball and Marie Kimball; mother, Joan Kimball; brother, Paul Kimball; niece, Kamal Kimball. He was preceded in death by his father. Services were held Sunday, April 11 at Bliss-Witters & Pike Funeral Home Cedar Springs. Memorial contributions may be made to Hospice of Michigan.

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

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Living water

Father Lam T. Le, Pastor

St. John Paul II Parish

3110 17 Mile Rd • Cedar Springs

616 696 3904

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water” (John 4:10).

On Easter Sunday, the faithful walk into a Catholic Church and are sprinkled with holy water. One might ask: Why is there the custom of blessing with holy water and why is it on Easter?  

Why the use of holy water? Being an age-old custom, water is one of the things that the Church often uses in blessing the faithful and things that are important to us in this earthly life. This reminds us of the conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman: “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (Jn 4:13-14). So, the holy water reminds us that Christ, who called Himself the living water (Jn 4:10), and who has given to us the supreme divine blessings, in water established baptism for our sake as the sacramental sign that brings salvation. 

One of the prayers of blessing of water explains succinctly: “Blessed are you, Lord, all-powerful God, who in Christ, the living water of salvation, blessed and transformed us.  Grant that, when we are sprinkled with this water or make use of it, we will be refreshed inwardly by the power of the Holy Spirit and continue to walk in the new life we received at baptism. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen” (see Book of Blessings, no. 1396).

This leads us to why sprinkle holy water on Easter Sunday? At the Easter Vigil, the most solemn liturgy of the Church, the water from the baptismal font of the Church is solemnly blessed. And from this font, we baptize our brothers and sisters. On Easter Sunday, for those who cannot attend the Easter Vigil, “let this water call to mind our baptism into Christ, who has redeemed us by His death and resurrection” (see Book of Blessings, no. 1396). Being sprinkled with holy water is thanking the Lord who renews all in Christ through His death and resurrection. Alleluia! Alleluia, Alleluia.

May these 50 days of Easter be a joyful time for all of you because Christ is our living water.

(Father Lam also is the Pastor of Mary Queen of Apostles Parish, 1 West Maple St, Sand Lake, Michigan 49343 phone: 616 636 5671.)

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Love when all seems lost

Pastor Mike Wittmer

Cedar Springs Baptist Church

233 S Main, Cedar Springs

Joseph of Arimathea performed a necessary though often overlooked role in the Easter story. And next to the suffering of our Lord, his task may have been the most difficult.

Joseph was a wealthy, prominent member of the Jewish council that voted to crucify Jesus (Mark 15:43). He disagreed with their verdict but kept his decision to himself (Luke 23:50-51). He “was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jewish leaders” (John 19:38 NIV). 

There was nothing Joseph could do to stop the council’s trumped-up charges and false witnesses. Their mind was made up. Joseph cringed as his colleagues mocked Jesus’ claims to be the Messiah, spit in his face, struck him with their fists, and shouted that he must die (Matthew 26:65-67). He watched helplessly as they handed Jesus over to the Romans, who promptly crucified his Lord. The kingdom of God had been defeated again (Luke 23:51).

There was nothing left to do. Nothing that would make a difference. But Jesus’ death had freed Joseph from fear. The dream had died. He had nothing left to lose. Joseph’s hopes had been crucified, but he still had love. It was far too late to help Jesus now, but he might do something to express his devotion. Joseph took a deep breath and paid a visit to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor who had condemned his Lord. He asked Pilate for Jesus’ body. Pilate said yes.

Joseph took along Nicodemus, another secret disciple. They gingerly pulled the nails out of Jesus’ wrists and ankles and lowered his body to the ground. They wrapped his corpse in spices and strips of linen and laid him in Joseph’s personal tomb (Matthew 27:57-60; John 19:38-42). 

Joseph’s brave action is particularly praiseworthy because he had nothing left to gain. His heart had fallen to the floor, yet he picked himself up and did what he could for his Lord. Tomorrow would be a disaster, but today he would put one foot in front of the other and pay his respects. 

What if he hadn’t? What if Jesus’ body had been left on the cross, exposed to birds and jackals? Jesus’ body may have been eaten and God’s “holy one” may have “seen decay” (Acts 2:27). There may have been nothing left to rise from the dead. Joseph’s hopeless act turned out to be essential for our salvation.

Are you stuck in a hopeless situation? I’ve got a few. Joseph’s actions inspire me to take the first step, to do what is right, even when I can’t imagine an immediate reward. The empty tomb means it’s never hopeless. Believe in the One who rose from the dead, who promises to return and reward even a glass of water given in His name (Matthew 10:42). It’s never too late to love.

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MARLENE L. NEMECEK

Marlene L. Nemecek age 85 of Cedar Springs passed away Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021 at her home. Marlene was born January 30, 1936 in Belding, MI the daughter of Acie and Helen (Brooks) Loughin. She enjoyed sewing, embroidery, crocheting, puzzles and baking. There was not a baby within miles who hasn’t slept in one of her homemade blankets. She was very loving and understanding and always put others first. She was a loving mother who took care of her family. Surviving are her husband of 63 years Ivan; children Francis (Anne) Nemecek, Dennis (Angela) Nemecek, Theresa (James) Champion, Timothy Nemecek, Jennifer (Tim) August; several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. A private family service will be held at Mary Queen of Apostles, Sand Lake at a later date. Rev. Fr. Lam Le celebrant. Memorial contributions may be made to Helen DeVos Pediatric Cancer Research. 

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

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PATRICIA L. GUILES

Patricia L. Guiles age 81 of Grand Rapids died Monday, April 5, 2021 at her home. She was born November 13, 1939 in Grand Rapids, MI the daughter of Howard and Jenny (Vandermullen) Tate. She met Floyd while roller skating which they loved to do. They were able to travel a lot in their motor home and also spent many wonderful times on their 20 acres at Hardy Dam. Pat is survived by her husband of 63 years, Floyd Guiles; sons, Terry Guiles, Todd (Elizabeth) Guiles; daughter, Tammy (Darin) Guiles; grandchildren, Brooke and Jake Hendrickson, Jared Guiles, Jessica Guiles, Jenelle Gonyon, Angela Gonyon; great-grandchildren, K’saan Barrington, Jailah Einig, Kavien Einig, Blake Hendrickson and Charlie Rose Hendrickson. Per her wishes cremation has taken place and a private family service was held. In lieu of flowers memorial contributions may be made to Grace Hospice 3355 Eagle Park Dr. NE Ste 102 Grand Rapids, MI 49525 or St. Jude’s Hospital 501 St. Jude Place Memphis, TN 38105. 

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

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Dean Richard Chapman

In Loving Memory of 

Dean Richard Chapman

October 24, 1966 to April 10, 1986

“Music speaks what cannot be expressed

soothes the mind and gives it rest

heals the heart and makes it whole

flows from heaven to the soul.”

It’s been 35 years since that tragic day, and we still remember all the good times and look forward to making music with you again in God’s Kingdom.

We all miss you!

Love Your Family

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Keep digging

Rev. Bobby Gray

Solid Rock Worship Center

11862 Shaner Ave NE, Cedar Springs


Years ago, I heard a pastor rehearse a unique story about an acquaintance. The man had been country-born, country-bred, and, as he said, “When I die, I will be country-dead.” The gentleman had a unique spin on life. He left the farm and pursued higher education and went on to become a very wealthy entrepreneur. Late in life he decided to go back and purchase the old home place. The house his father built many years before was now in disrepair. Weeds and debris covered the yard as well as the entire acreage that had once been the family farm. He hired the finest architects to design the restoration.

While they were busy with the renovation and restoration of the home place, he secured some local well-diggers to re-dig the old shallow well on the property. The man remembered when he was just a small boy that his father had dug this well himself. Through the years of his growing up, it had served the family. Yet, now, it had long since been filled with all kinds of rubbish and rubble. Many years had passed since it had been functional.

After several days away from the work himself, the gentleman revisited the site. The men informed him the well had successfully been re-dug. He went over and looked at the pile of debris tdhey had excavated. He turned to the foreman on the job and said, “Sir, I regret to inform you that the task is not yet completed. You have not actually dug to the bottom yet. Please keep digging.”

He went back to the city for several days and upon his return was again told the well had been re-dug, additional refuse had been removed from the old well. Again, he passed the foreman and said, “Keep digging. You still have not reached the bottom.”

On his third visit back to the home place, the foreman told him, “Sir, we have completely re-dug this well. We simply cannot dig any deeper.” Upon inspection of the dregs last hauled out with this last excavation, the owner nodded his head in agreement.

The foreman, almost in jest, said, “You never looked in the well. You only looked at the trash heap. How do you know we really completed the job this time?”

The old gentleman walked over to the top of the most recent pile of debris and picked up the old rusty and dilapidated remains of a teakettle. He said, “You see this teakettle? I was just a little boy the day my father completed this well and told us it was filling with water. For some mysterious and mischievous reason, I slipped out and threw this teakettle into the well to hear it splash at the bottom. Needless to say, I was in trouble with my mother when she discovered her teakettle was gone. When the digging began, I knew this simple fact: since that teapot was the first thing that fell into the well, it would be the last thing that came out.”

I wonder what the teapot is in our well that needs to be extracted.

Ephesians 4:31-32: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Maybe we have dug several times trying to get “to the bottom of things.” Life has a way of sometimes stepping on you. It has its own rhythm of “catch and release.” Things can get in our spirits. God’s kids sometimes have a way of getting under our skin. If they stay there, they will fester, and then there is trouble. How do we clean out our well? There is nothing to do but keep digging until we get to the teapot. If it does not get in our spirit, it cannot control our destiny.

 The point of the story and verse: Keep digging!

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