From Pastor’s Desk

Pastor's Desk

Pastor’s Desk

It is just amazing how close we are to reopening and re-dedicating our new-old sanctuary! And, of course, it’s not ours at all because it is God’s. Amazing is also to what degree the developments over here run parallel to the ways in which Rev. Molehe’s church construction in Middelburg, South Africa nears completion. Just see the following pictures:

Look at this beautiful truss work! During the reconfiguration of our own church building, we also developed some intimate familiarity with the problems trusses can cause!

And this is a picture from the Pentecost service of our sister church. Much work remains to be done on their church. We, too, will have to finish some of the work after the re-dedication.

Currently, we have carpenter Paul and his team in the sanctuary finishing the sacristy screen and the historic pews where they were damaged during constriction. They are also building sub-flooring behind the pews. Then there are painter Scott and his team. They are painting the pews, the base of the sacristy screen and the floor of the pew area where it will not be covered with carpet. They will also paint the center vestibule and the center door to the church. The other vestibules and adjacent stairwells will follow later this year. Finally, there will be a carpet company putting down carpet behind the pew area and down the four aisles.

Our church is fortunate to have received several special donations that will cover much of the cost. But the rest is simply miraculous! While we continue with an almost 6-digit negative budget, we will have a fully renovated, air-conditioned and ADA-compliant sanctuary. And we did not have to pay for it or even carry the burden of the administration. Others did this for us, and ETOMIC, the developer’s general contractor, was more than generous, and so was our developer Bergen County’s United Way / Madeline Housing Partners LLC. We owe a lot of gratitude to a lot of people who rushed to support us – sometimes without us even knowing it.

Such love and support oblige us for the future. They are signs that God has a plan for our church family and for the ministries we offer to each other and to the community.


Don’t be startled by the wrapped-up organ console! This is not another Cristo-project but evidence that our organ builder Carl has begun looking for a smaller, better fitting console.

The new sacristy screen does not only solve our storage problems after the loss of the Robing Room. It is also a tip at the hat towards the sacristy screen that vanished in the fire of 1971.

The new sacristy screen does not only solve our storage problems after the loss of the Robing Room. It is also a tip of the hat towards the sacristy screen that vanished in the fire of 1971.

We hope, dear Reader, that all this may inspire you to join us on Saturday, June 11 th when we will celebrate the re-dedication of the sanctuary. The time table is this:

3:00-5:00PM  Community Festival with several stations in fellowship hall and the church.
4:30-5:00PM  Rehearsals of choir and bell choir.
5:00-5:45PM  Re-Dedication Worship Service in the sanctuary.
5:45-7:00PM  Ice Cream Social

What a great privilege it is to belong to a church like this in a time like ours!

With fond wishes,

Pastor Hartmut

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Program Directory – June 11, 2016

Community Fesitival 3:00 – 5:00 PM:

LOCATION: Education Building, Fellowship Hall

  • Walking the Labyrinth
    Rutgers Protestant Campus Ministry, Rev. Jeanie Collins

LOCATION: Breezeway

  • History of First Reformed Church
    First Reformed Church, Pastor Hartmut Kramer-Mills
  • Ancient Foot Stool History
    Middlesex County Cultural & Heritage Commission, Mark Nonestied

LOCATION: Church Building, Community Room

  •  Interfaith from a Muslim Perspective
    Peace Islands Institute
  • Testimonial Book
    First Reformed Church, Thakshila Upasena and Fawn Stephens
  • Inclusive Ministry with Persons with Autism
    First Reformed Church, Gary Bernhofer and Heather Epstein
  • Children’s Program
    First Reformed Church, Lolly Schenck

Sanctuary Rededication: 5:00 – 5:45PM

  • Cantor Anna Ott from Anshe Memorial Temple
  • Harpist Elaine Christy
  • Choir & Bell Choir of First Reformed Church, directed by Ben Berman

Please join us for an Ice Cream Social from 5:45 PM on in Fellowship Hall in the Education Building.

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Sanctuary Re-Dedication Festival

The Chocolate Tasting Party held on May 7, was a tasty success for those who came out. We played games, sampled chocolate inspired drinks, sauces desserts and more.  The committee is very grateful to those members of the congregation who showed their support. The committee was able to meet the fundraising goal of $500 to support the upcoming Sanctuary Re-Dedication Festival.

The re-dedication of the Sanctuary on June 11, 2016 is just a few weeks away now! After over 1 year of waiting, the redesigned sanctuary space is ready for worshipers.

The re-dedication festival committee has personally invited over 100 members and friends of the congregation.  Planning has been in process for many months.

The committee is sincerely hopeful that you will show your support and satisfy your curiosity by joining in this historic event. Your presence and enthusiasm is a critical piece of the event.  The festival is FRC’s opportunity to re-introduce ourselves to the community.  To this end, we have invited many of the community groups that are part of our church life. Your presence isn’t just for yourself; it’s for the future of FRC. We have much to offer, but in a world with so many distractions we just cannot afford to sit back and assume a continuing existence.  Come out and tell the community around FRC why you chose to be a member of “The Oldest Congregation in the Newest Church”.

The time table is this:
3:00-5:00PM Community Festival with several stations in fellowship hall and the church.
4:30-5:00PM Rehearsals of choir and bell choir.
5:00-5:45PM Re-Dedication Worship Service in the sanctuary.
5:45-7:00PM       Ice Cream Social

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Summer Worship Time

Dear Members of First Reformed Church:

Please be aware that our worship time will change to 9:30AM for the summer. We start this coming Sunday, June 12.  Our last Sunday on summer time will be on September 4.

There are also changes regarding parking. After conversation I had this morning with its director, the Parking Authority was generous in replacing our old meter bags. But at the same time, the Authority will no longer allow individual use of these bags.

This means that we can use the bags only on two occasions:

  • On Sundays (just to mark our territory, so to speak, because parking is free on Sundays otherwise).
  • On occasions that we have called in ahead of time (like the Lunchtime Recitals).

If bags are used outside of these times, the cars parked there may receive a ticket.

However, as we shift our worship life to the church building, parking at the Church Street Parking Deck will become more attractive; and we have vouchers to park there free. But the old glass door entrance will remain attractive for those of us who require ADA accessibility.

Thanks for your continuing support!

Pastor Hartmut

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A Wonderful Retirement Party

Wednesday, May 11th marked a special day for New Brunswick Seminary, the Reformed community of New Brunswick, and also for First Reformed Church. We celebrated the retirement of Dr. Coakley after 32 years of teaching church history at the seminary. The picture shows Rev. James Hart Brumm presenting to John a Festschrift filled with academic contributions on a variety of subjects and published by an international publishing house. Russ Gasero, the general archivist of our denomination, and Dr. Greg Mast, the president of our seminary, supported James in his presentation. (I heard someone whisper: “So what’s a Festschrift?” It’s a compilation of essays written in honor of a distinguished scholar and presented on the occasion of a festive act – a retirement, birthday or the like.)

We have many reasons here at First Reformed to be grateful to John and his wife Margaret. Both have been deeply involved in the life of the church. Margaret made the Consistory the focal point of her attention. She has also served on several committees, most recently the Worship & Music Committee.

John’s clarinet has been indispensible to our music department, and our choir would be a lot poorer without John’s and Margaret’s voice. John has preached regularly here and
used many occasions to invite interest in the history of the church and our denomination. Sometimes, he did this through lectures and presentations, and at other times through his expert opinion to certain issues. But the most fun of these occasions were the ones when he reenacted someone like Dr. John Henry Livingston during one of our graveyard tours. And several of John’s books have a firm place in our church library.

We wish Margaret and John God’s rich blessings on their way into a new period of life.

They are a cherished part of this church family.


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Interfaith Work as Important as Ever!

National Day of Prayer on May 5th created another highlight for interfaith work in the town of New Brunswick. Organized by the Mayor’s Office, it included participants of Jewish, Muslim and Christian traditions. City Hall’s community organizer Keith Jones, II put once again his remarkable skills to work to bring us all together. He also changed the theme of the day to give the event more relevance in our community: Instead of “Wake up, America” our theme was “A Servant’s Heart”.

If these world religions worked together in the rest of the world as they did that afternoon in New Brunswick, this planet would be a lot more at peace!


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Amazing Day of Service!

It was with great pride that 8 people volunteered to be Ambassadors at the Rutgers University Commencement on May 15, 2016, where President Barak Obama was the speaker. The volunteers represented First Reformed Church and the church was recognized on the Jumbo Tron inside the stadium. The recognition stated: “Thank you Commencement Ambassadors! And the Volunteers of the First Reformed Church of New Brunswick.” Those representing FRC were: Lauren Bernhofer, Uta and Allyson Burke, Danica Cotov , Jonathan J. Kunkel-Jure, Siobhan McLaughlin, Ken and Sherri Novack.

Sherri organized the group and was the liaison with the University Commencement office. This was the first time Rutgers singled out a group to recognize. Sherri had to ask Chris Retzko, the commencement volunteer organizer, if such recognition was available and Rutgers agreed. Knowing how often Rutgers students volunteer at FRC, she felt it only right that a group of volunteers would come from FRC as a “give back” of service.

The FRC volunteers were assigned to help people with special needs; another mission of the church. The greatest service was at the end of the commencement as everyone poured out through one gate of the stadium and the rush was particularly overwhelming for all.

The anticipation and excitement of Commencement Speaker, President Barak Obama , made for a most memorable day! Regardless of politics, President Obama gave an inspiring speech to the over 10 thousand students, and their guests. It truly was an Amazing Day of Service.

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