Kim-Marie Coon


Marie Monville at FPC

What would you do if the person you loved committed the most heinous of crimes? How do you pick up the pieces and go on? In October of 2006, Marie’s then husband, walked into an Amish School House in Nickle Mines, Pennsylvania and held it hostage, forever changing life as she knew it.

“When all other lights go out, He still shines!”


This became the anthem of Marie’s life. On her darkest day, Marie simply chose to believe that HE IS. This act of faith radically propelled her into a future she could not have hoped for or imagined.

Marie will be speaking here at FPC on Sunday, March 13 at 6:30 PM. This is a free event, with plenty of free parking. This will be a powerful witness to faith and the healing power of God, so invite your friends and neighbors.


As We Begin the Lenten Season

From Pam Bush

Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” Mark 1:14-15.

In other words, fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms (Mere Christianity, 59)

As we enter the season of Lent, we hear the hard words of Jesus calling us to repentance. C.S. Lewis teaches us that repentance involves surrender, laying down our arms, saying we’re sorry, and Jesus teaches us that, following repentance, we will find good news, which he invites us to believe. We need both. We need to acknowledge that rebellion inhabits our own hearts, and we need to know that God loves us enough not to leave us in our rebellion. We need to know that God desires our entire lives to be lives of repentance. cslewis-pipe2

In his autobiography, Surprised by Joy, Lewis called his early rebellion against God the desire not to be interfered with; he wanted to call his soul his own. In repentance, we learn that we belong to Someone else, Someone who created us, certainly, but especially Someone who redeemed us. The light at the end of the tunnel of repentance is the glorious grace of God and forgiveness won by Jesus.

Heavenly Father, by my sins I have rebelled against your Word and will. For the sake of Jesus, forgive me. Amen.

Excerpted from Mercy, Passion & Joy – Reflections on the Writings of C.S. Lewis by Dr. Joel Heck


It Is Well With My Soul

By Sarah Shuey

Life throws all sorts of twists and turns at us on a daily basis. There are so many catch phrases that we hear to help us “cope” with such circumstances. “When life throws you lemons, make lemonade.” “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” How hard is it, though, to say, “It is well with my soul”?

We will return to that shortly. First, however, I have to let my music nerd show so bear with me. When a composer writes the melody and subsequent harmony to go along with lyrics for a hymn, they assign it what we know as a “hymn tune” or a “hymn song”. For example, the well-known hymn “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” uses the hymn tune “HYMN TO JOY”. You will notice the hymn “Christ is Risen! Shout Hosanna!” uses the same hymn tune. Same with “I Sing the Mighty Power of God” – that same hymn tune (“ELLACOMBE”) appears in the hymn “Hosanna, Loud Hosanna”. Okay, I promise I have a point. You will see!

Horatio Spafford wrote what is now one of the most famous and well-known hymns of the Christian faith:
It is well with my soul

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

It is well (it is well),
With my soul (with my soul),
It is well, it is well with my soul.

The early 1870s were not kind to the Spafford family. As an attorney heavily involved in real estate, the Great Chicago Fire was devastating. They recovered and rebuilt. A few years later, the Spafford family decided to take a European family vacation. Last minute business matters held Horatio back but he sent his wife and four daughters on ahead of him with the promise of joining them soon thereafter. Tragically, on the night of November 22nd, 1873, the Ville Du Havre sank with only 47 survivors. Horatio received a telegram from his wife saying “Saved Alone”. It is believed that as he was passing over the spot where the Ville Du Havre sank on his way to join his wife, Horatio penned the words “when sorrows like sea billows roll”. What an amazing testimony of Christian faith that, in the midst of so much sorrow and loss, Spafford was able to say with such conviction, “It is well with my soul”! How often do we approach situations with such confidence and hope? What would our outlook on life, hope, and the future look life if we held such a statement close to our hearts? It is well with my soul. Such profound words from such heartache.

Look at the last verse:

And Lord haste the day, when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

Every time I sing that verse, I cannot help but smile with tears in my eyes. On that day, our faith shall be sight. We will see the Lord and will receive the goal of our faith, the salvation of our souls! Amen!

Remember that hymn tune I talked about? Hymn writer Philip Bliss was so moved by Spafford’s story and lyrics, he composed the melody to go along with those profound yet simple words. Do you know what he chose as the title for the melody? VILLE DU HAVRE.


Thirty Seconds of Amazing Courage

I heard somewhere that sometimes all you need is 30 seconds of amazing courage. I find that gets me through a lot.

You probably wouldn’t know it, but I’m an introvert by nature. A lot of things scare me. A lot of frankly, stupid things, scare me. For example, I would rather email than use the phone. I HATE talking to people on the phone. Dumb, I know, given my career path. Yes, I would rather buy a gallon of Liquid Plumber and still stand in the slow draining water of my shower than call the plumber. But sometimes, I have to “screw my courage to the sticking place,” as Lady McBeth said, and just do the things that need to be done. Rumor has it, it’s part of being an adult.

I used to just make my husband do the things I didn’t want to do. “You call about getting the furnace fixed.” “Call and make an appointment for the car.” “You do it.” (He was a bigger introvert than me, so I was apparently pretty desperate to avoid the phone.) But now, I have to do all the adulting on my own, I can’t pass the buck.

But actually, I can. Truth be told, I’m getting pretty good at it. I find myself passing things off to God on a pretty frequent basis. Sure, he doesn’t pick up the phone and call to make an oil change, but he gives me the courage to do it for myself. He holds my hand through a lot of things these days. In fact, being courageous is pretty much an order.

Joshua 1:9 says “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (ESV)

There it is. “Be strong and courageous.” Trust me. Trust that I’m there for you. Wherever you go. No problem is too big for me, and no detail too small. I’m there wherever you need me.

When he was saying this, he was commanding two men to climb a cliff and defeat an entire army at the top by themselves. Well, them and him. All they had to do was have amazing courage for whatever variable of 30 seconds it took to climb a cliff. Then God was there. These two men who trusted God enough to climb a cliff and face certain death, made that army run because the power of God in them was so fierce.

Kind of cool, huh? God, the great high king of heaven, the creator of the universe, is there, holding your hand through all the tough stuff. It’s tough for you, but nothing is tough for him. All you have to do is have the courage to trust him.



Endless Hallelujah

By Sarah Shuey, Praise Team

There are many things I am passionate about: Jesus, music, my family, my marriage, my students, my dog, reading. I could go on and on but worship ministry is by far, one of the greatest God-given passions that I have. Music is my outlet for worshipping God and learning more about him. A worship song can speak volumes to me and can help me connect with God in a way that nothing else can. I can list songs for you that make me excited and extremely joyful about God’s gifts and blessings, songs that leave me in awe of God’s glory and holiness, and songs that make me weep with anticipation of the eternal hope we have in our salvation.

Endless HallelujaA few years ago, Matt Redman, a well-known and respected songwriter within the Christian community, wrote and recorded a song titled “Endless Hallelujah”. The first time I heard this song, I knew it was something special. I am pretty sure I cried through the entire song. Growing up, I had a number of medical issues (none of them life threatening, praise God!) and still suffer from chronic daily headaches. Somewhere between doctors’ appointments and surgeries, a friend of my family pointed me to Revelation 21:4. “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or morning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” No more pain. No more crying. What an amazing promise that is! Maybe that is why this song hit me so hard the first time I heard it. The bridge says: “No more tears, no more shame. No more sin and sorrow ever known again. No more fears, no more pain. We will see You face to face, see You face to face!” Those words hold such beautiful hope and promise! An even greater promise is this: “And we will worship, worship; forever in Your presence we will sing! We will worship, worship You; an ENDLESS HALLELUJAH to the King!” An endless hallelujah. Forever we get to sing praises to our God and King who heals our hurt and our pain. Who brings us joy and salvation. Who loves us in spite of who we are and what we have done. Forever!

My friends, I pray this brings you hope in this seemingly hopeless world. On that day, everything will be as it was meant to be, all pain and fear will be wiped away, and we will see Jesus face to face. Cling to that promise of salvation!

In Christ,
Sarah Shuey


Fruit of the Spirit

By Dr. Mel Sensenig, Pastor in Residence

In our Young Adult Bible Study, we have been going through the book of James. James works with loving rigor, probing to the very depths of our professed Christian spirituality. This past week, we looked at James 1:19-21:

“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.” (New Living Translation)

Fruit-of-the-SpiritTake a look at how James connects “knowing” and “doing” in verse 19. There is something that we need to know, and that knowledge also must actually come about in our living. In other words, the real test of Christian knowledge is how much of its fruit appears in our lives. On the other hand, there cannot be any fruit without genuine spiritual knowledge. Attempts at Christian discipleship apart from the truth are simply self-made righteousness, and have no value in the sight of God. On the other hand, truth which has not produced any fruit is evidence of a lack of spiritual life. Note that verse 21 describes the word as “implanted” – implying that is a living thing that necessarily produces fruit. We would ordinarily conclude that a tree with no fruit is dead, and we can ask the same question of ourselves as professing Christians. In fact, from the previous verses, James says that sin conceives death, while God conceives life. There is a continual growing process going on inside us: either we are growing in our knowledge of God, or sin is producing its fruit within us. We are never standing still!

Many times, the practical test of these truths is conflict. In the midst of conflict, we find out how much the gospel has truly gripped us. How often in personal conflict do we lose sight of God’s goal in it – His personal discipleship of us, which we forget in the desire for revenge. It is in these situations that God gives us an opportunity to learn how to be swift to do some things and slow to do others, and especially to experience the fruit of the Spirit because it is the exact opposite of what our normal tendency (the flesh) would be. Apart from these difficult situations, we would have no opportunity for God to disciple us and to grow in our faith. Therefore, even these difficult times of troubled relationships are part of God’s discipling us in His character.

So, what is our response to this? Do we simply become a Home Depot Christian, immediately turning to “more doing”? In a letter like James’s, our human self-righteous religiosity quickly leads us to the question, “What should I do?” James gives the answer in a passive verb: humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts. The “word” that James refers to hear is the Christian gospel, the affirmation found summarized in The Apostles Creed or any number of summary statements in the New Testament. Here James asks us to pray that God would take what we have affirmed with our mouths and cause it to grow in our hearts. One of the proofs of the growth of the gospel in our lives will be that we are slower to get angry, quicker to listen, and slower to try to tell others how to do it. What would the world think of us if the gospel truly brought about its transforming work in our lives in this way?


Kingdom Life

By Pam Bush, Director of Congregational Life

I’ve been thinking about Jesus’ instruction to pray, “Your kingdom come”, that is, ‘may the reign of God be established’. (Matthew 6:10) This makes clear that the goal for the Church is the establishment of the Kingdom, and the foundation for that goal is asking in prayer. As Rev. Charles Spurgeon said, “Whether we like it or not, asking is the rule of the kingdom”.

PrayJesus spent his last forty days on earth with the apostles ”speaking of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3) . In addition, “He ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (Acts 1:4,5)

Jesus tied the establishment of the Kingdom to the Holy Spirit. Why? Because we need the power of God for Kingdom living. Apart from the power of the Holy Spirit, the work of any church is a mere shadow of what God planned. There is a point that each believer or group of believers must reach that will accept nothing less than God’s divine intervention. What follows will be what is sought, whether it is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the power of God in their midst, the salvation of the lost or the coming of the Kingdom of God.

If it is the intention of God to pour out His Spirit, what is our response to knowing this is His will? Prayer. Prayer Gatherings – the same type of response the apostles had when the Lord told them to wait in Jerusalem for the power of the Holy Spirit. As a church we can resolve to accept nothing less than God’s divine leadership when we intercede. Like the disciples, He plans for us to be given power for Kingdom living.

‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.’ Acts 2:17, 18

May it be so in your life, and in the life of this community of faith. Amen.


New Year’s Choices

By Kim-Marie Coon

New-Year-960x140aIt’s the new year. New year. New choices. Some people call them resolutions, but I don’t like that term. Resolution seems like a word that will set you up and let you down. Why not call it a choice? I choose to get myself healthier this year. It’s a choice, I don’t have to do it, but I want to. I choose to buckle down in my studies this year. I chose to go to school, I now choose to spend more time doing the work.

But what if I take it a step farther? What if I choose to have a more Christ-like attitude? What if I choose to try to see others as God sees them? I can choose to reflect God’s grace towards me on to other people. I can choose to cut that driver ahead of me some slack when they don’t seem to understand the basic rules of the road. Because, really, like I’ve never pulled a stupid move. I could choose to let it go and not cause more problems. What if I choose to try to see the other guy’s side in a disagreement? The world could use more empathy. Or what if I choose to pay a stranger a compliment – I think her outfit is stylin’, what’s keeping me from saying that out loud, maybe make her day? We can all use better days.

Here’s my big choice though, I’m going to choose to trust God for everything. What’s holding me back? It’s not like I /like/ worrying about the stuff I can’t control (or frequently the stuff I can). What if I choose to say, “Hey God, I can’t handle this, you deal with it”? Do I doubt He can do it better than me? Even God’s worst is better than my best. God has been so faithful to me, especially during the sordid episode I call the last 21 months of my life. He has shown me over and over that He’s there, He knows me and He cares what happens to me. How many examples do I need to know that He’s going to handle the next thing, too? The world can be a pretty scary place. I can choose to be afraid of what the future may bring, or I can choose to trust God to have good plans for me. I’m going to choose to trust God.

Happy (and trusting) New Year, everybody!


Our Season of Giving is Ongoing: Introducing the Stroman Fund

By Pam Bush, Mission Committee Secretary

In 1989 FPC members John and Patricia Caldwell established the Stroman Fund with an initial gift of $500,000 given to the glory of God and in honor of the ministry of Dr. Richard Stroman who pastored the congregation for over thirty years. The endowment’s earnings above the initial gift are to be used to support mission work above and beyond the church’s yearly mission budget. Over the years Dr. George Goodrich and Dr. Stroman’s widow, Joan, would discuss with the Mission Committee Chairman the distribution of the funds. Currently the Mission Committee, chaired by Elder Ron Scheese, makes the decisions about distribution. Since its inception the Stroman Fund has distributed nearly $1,000,000 to advance the Gospel worldwide. Here are some of the distributions for 2015:

Missions$1,285 to Worldlink Ministries International for Nepal Relief
Worldlink Ministries International, located in Audubon, PA, links western churches and individuals with indigenous missionaries for an increased spread of the Gospel through the work of the missionaries. Worldlink currently has 236 supported missionaries, most living on $25-$200 per month. There were five Worldlink Nepalese missionaries needing assistance after the April earthquake. The membership of First Presbyterian gave $1215, and with the addition from the Trust, a total gift of $2500 was given.

$2,500 for Bob Lehman’s cataract surgeries
Bob and Debbie Lehman are Wycliffe Bible Translators missionaries in Manila, Philippines. Bob is a teacher for the missionary children at Faith Academy. The Lehmans asked for assistance so that Bob’s eyesight could be restored. Both surgeries were successful.

$11,250 for expenses on furlough and return to Kiev for Eide Family
Jon and Tracy Eide serve with Mission to the World planting churches in Kiev, Ukraine, and have been there since 1996. They visited First Presbyterian in January 2015 while home on a one year furlough. They needed $14,500 in extra gifts, mostly for airfare, tuition for their children, and repairs to their Kiev home when they returned and found it in serious condition.

$5,000 for Brad and Lori
This couple serves with ZOE International in Asia. For security reasons we do not publish their surname or location. ZOE is a ministry that rescues children from sex slavery, ministers to their needs, prepares them for adulthood, and houses them until they are 18 years old. Brad was an undercover detective and Lori an office administrator before heading to Asia in 2014. Brad now heads up the team which rescues children, and Lori applies for grants from different sources to support the work of ZOE.

$6,000 for Leurbourg Orphanage, Practical Compassion
Practical Compassion, based in Lebanon, PA, pours 100% of its donations into a town, Ponte Sonde, in Haiti. Their staff serves as volunteers. They built and support 3 orphanages, 3 schools, six wells, and a medical clinic in the town. They needed to raise money to feed 200 orphans, some in later stages of malnutrition. The $6,000 supplies 6 months of food for the children. Practical Compassion raised a total of $18,000 for the children’s food supply.

$5,000 to Worldlink for the ministry needs of Frances & Melvina Bella, Central African Republic
Frances and Melvina Bella’s home was ransacked and burned down two years ago. Since then they have lived in a refugee camp in Bangui, Central African Republic where Pope Francis recently visited. Frances, a pastor, has developed a daily ministry in the camp, and together he and Melvina have seen many come to Christ as Savior and Lord. The money requested was used to provide further evangelistic tools to reach more of the refugees, many of whom are Muslims, with the Gospel.

$50,000 to Worldlink – Matching Funds Campaign
Worldlink President Jack Nelson asked First Presbyterian to be the matching donor for the ministry’s year-end matching gift campaign. We have committed to matching up to $25,000 in 2015, and an additional $25,000 at the start of 2016 if the ministry partners donate the total $50,000. This money will be used to stabilize the ministry while Worldlink’s Matching Gifts Team raises additional large gifts for the ministry in 2016. The goal is to have a total of 400 supported indigenous missionaries by December 31, 2016, and to assure the ministry is financially stable.

$25,000 to Kenya Orphanages The Very Rev. Bernard and Mrs. Eunice Muindi requested this gift for the continuing ministries at Tumaini Destitute Children’s Home and the Humura Handicapped Home in Nyeri, Kenya. Rev. Muindi has been a faithful and detailed correspondent for many years and we are thrilled to be able to assist him in this great need.

$15,000 to Hebron Zion Presbyterian Church, Johns Island, SC
Rev. Washington has been keeping us well-informed of the disbursement of yearly gifts and we are also delighted to support this greatly needed food ministry there on Johns Island.

$1,500 to Amanda Keeny Odessa, Ukraine
Amanda Keeny, a native Berks Countian, serves with The Evangelical Alliance Mission (TEAM) as a church planter in Odessa, Ukraine. Amanda is a new missionary and joined the team in Odessa in August 2015. The $1500 was to help with moving expenses to get her onto the field.

$2,000 to River of Hope Therapeutic Ministries
River of Hope is headquartered in Lebanon, PA with satellite offices in Berks and Lancaster Counties. This agency nurtures healthy relationships by providing hope and healing through preventative education and professional, Christ-centered therapy for all ages and life stages. FPC member Becky Hollenbach, who has her master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy, is on the staff of River of Hope.

$1,000 to Fireproof Ministries for support of David Domanski
FPC member David Domanski regularly participates in mission trips with Fireproof Ministries, which seeks to minister to those involved in the pornography industry, and those addicted to pornography. David, a 22-year old college student, is on the Missions Committee and is dedicated to seeing men and women set free from addiction to pornography, and new life in Jesus Christ.

$3,000 for City Light Ministries
City Light Ministries is a center-city shelter in Reading, PA that ministers to those no other shelter will help. It is a ministry of Spring Valley Church of God. In the past year the shelter needed extensive repairs in order to meet city codes inspection, and First Presbyterian joined many other local churches and businesses in providing the funding.


The 2015 Salvation Bell Ringing Experience

We had an exceptional response to the First Pres bell ringing efforts at Redner’s Market. Thank you everyone who participated!

Bob & Lynn

Bob & Lynn

Don & Lee

Don & Lee



Jim & Ginny

Jim & Ginny

Ron & Jose

Ron & Jose

Interested in Joining Us?

First Presbyterian Church
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37 S. Fifth Street
Reading, PA 19602


9:30AM                      Worship Service                                                                    /Children’s Church
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