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Partnerships and passion power this Michigan congregation’s outward focus


First Presbyterian Church of South Lyon uses collaboration to care for its neighbors

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

The session of the 130-member First Presbyterian Church of South Lyon, Michigan, voted last week to accept the Matthew 25 invitation. (Contributed photo)

LOUISVILLE — A few years back, the 130 or so members of First Presbyterian Church of South Lyon, Michigan, decided to turn their focus outward into their community about 40 miles west of Detroit.

That suited their temporary pulpit supply — and now installed pastor, the Rev. Mike Horlocker — to a T.

“The church’s main mission had been keeping up the historic building,” which dates back to 1883, Horlocker noted. “There was a lot of pride around the sanctuary and the (stained glass) windows. We made the decision to get more involved in the community, and there were areas we wanted to target,” including health care, hunger and education.

Did they ever.

Once each year, First Presbyterian Church of South Lyon, Michigan, hosts the nonprofit Capernaum Health Clinic. (Contributed photo)

Five years ago, First Presbyterian Church — which accepted the Matthew 25 invitation last week — joined five other South Lyon churches to form Capernaum Health Clinic. The nonprofit clinic, for which Horlocker is president, offers three weeks of free services each year at three South Lyon churches, including First, where a member coordinates scheduling both for patients and service-providers. The variety of free services offered include mammography screenings, dentistry, medical, optical, podiatry and audiology.

“Some of our seniors needed dentures but didn’t have the means,” Horlocker said. “We found a dentist willing to provide dentures for patients if (the clinic) would pay for materials and lab fees.”

First members saw what they could do when they joined with other churches. “It got them excited about mission again,” Horlocker said. “We’ve jumped into other areas of ministry — some our own, some collaborative.”

First Presbyterian Church members prepare about 100 hot meals monthly and transport them 40 miles east to Detroit, where they serve the meals and enjoy visiting with the people who receive them. (Contributed photo)

Members “who are passionate about feeding people” joined Presbytery of Detroit’s “Everyone Eats” ministry. Four South Lyon churches, including First, take hot meals to Detroit residents who need it.

“We have the passion,” Horlocker said. “We just wanted to fit that passion into a program that already existed.”

First Presbyterian Church undertook the Office of Vital CongregationsNew Beginnings assessment and process two years ago to help members decide where else to reach out. Members decided they might attract more young families by tutoring students at a nearby elementary school, joining Kids Hope USA to meet students’ emotional, social and academic needs. Nine members work an hour each week with at-risk students.

The church partners with Kids Hope USA to provide mentors for students at a nearby elementary school. (Contributed photo)

“Their job is to be a friend to help them with any issues they are having,” Horlocker said. “It’s been a real successful ministry.”

“This year I had a second-grader who wants to teach history when he grows up,” said Anne Lyke, a longtime pharmacist and lifetime First Church member who’s now attending theological seminary with ministry as her second-career goal. “If we get a kid in second grade, as long as their parents agree we can follow that kid all the way into middle school.”

Part of the church’s anti-poverty work is around its commitment to fairly-traded goods, including hosting a consignment “store” during Advent.

This fall, First plans to join other nearby churches in a new ministry around foster care. Church members will construct beds, collect sets of sheets and provide backpacks to the 600 or more children in the regional foster care system.

“There seems to be a lot of excitement around this ministry,” Horlocker said. “The attitude now is, if we can imagine it, we can make it happen. We have been in discernment for quite a while now, listening for the voice of Holy Spirit and finding where the Spirit is leading us in South Lyon.”

Members have also used Gil Rendle and Alice Mann’s book “Holy Conversations: Strategic Planning as a Spiritual Practice for Congregations” to help answer the “who is our neighbor?” question.

“That question has been a big key for our congregation discerning how we share the love of Christ in our community,” Horlocker said. “It has forced us out of our comfort zone. We now have conversations with the police department, the fire department, the mayor and social workers about how we can help. We are intentional about how we can make a difference in our community.”

Following the session’s decision to accept the Matthew 25 invitation, Lyke said she was thinking about what it means to do mission. Then she answered her own question.

“It’s visiting the lonely and the mourning,” she said. “It’s going out and doing what you can to help other people.”

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