A Magnetic Church

Churches change when they are no longer content with just the fellowship among their members and some token outreach in addition to that. A church that really wants to claim a place on the map needs to be well connected with its surrounding community.

These insights may be one of the reasons, why the phrase ‘commuter church‘ has such bad taste. It seems to refer to congregations who evade the test of life by meeting in communities to which they have no connection. First Reformed Church was a commuter church from the 18th century on. Large parts of its congregation came to church by horse and buggy, because they came from the surrounding farms. Today, we have only a handful of members residing in the city of New Brunswick.

However, is this reason enough to scoff at the word ‘commuter church’? On Jan 30th, Susan, Jim Hance and I attended the stated winter meeting of our Classis. Much of the morning was spent with a workshop on new church starts. We had denominational staff presenting– a good use of Classis dues, if you ask me.

What excited me most that morning was the offer of new language (and I am always interested in language, as you know). One of the two presenters talked repeatedly about the ‘magnetic church’ as a new term for ‘commuter church’.

Oh, if we could adopt these terms here at First Reformed Church!

It would do two things for us. First, we would rid ourselves of the negative connotations of the term ‘commuter church‘. Second, we would turn around the perspective on ourselves. Rather than viewing ourselves as a deficient commuter church, we could actually celebrate the fact that our church provides so much meaning that it draws, Sunday after Sunday and week after week, so many of us from the surrounding areas. In many ways, we have become a magnetic church, and it’s time to claim this part of our identity as well.

Pastor Hartmut

About Rev. Dr. Hartmut Kramer-Mills

Hartmut Kramer-Mills, a native of Jena, Germany, began his theological education at Heidelberg University. After the Middle Exam in 1986 he received a scholarship from the World Alliance of Reformed Churches for McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. He graduated from McCormick with a Master of Divinity in 1988. He graduated from Marburg University in Germany with the Ecclesiastical Exam in 1990, and received a Dr. theol. from Greifswald University, Germany, in 1997. From 1990 to 1991 he was vicar at St. Wenzel in Naumburg, Germany. He was ordained minister of word and sacrament in 1993 through the Protestant Church of the Church Province of Saxony. From 1993 to 1998 he served as assistant pastor in Stoessen, Goerschen, and Rathewitz, Germany. At the same time he was lecturer for Church History at Erfurt College in Germany. From 1999 to 2000 he served the Spotswood Reformed Church in New Jersey as interim pastor. Since 2000 he and his wife serve the First Reformed Church in New Brunswick, New Jersey, as co-pastors.
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