On a gray, rainy Sunday afternoon in mid-December, the annual congregational meeting worked its way through serious agenda items such as the 2011 budget, volunteer recognition and an update on the Community Development Corporation. As Pastor Hartmut rose to give the closing prayer, he was interrupted by Lauren Bernhofer who introduced the secret agenda: recognition of Pastor Hartmut’s and Pastor Susan’s ten years at First Reformed Church.
Choir Director Ben Berman began the program by leading the choir in a beautiful a capella rendering of Take My Life and Let It Be, the first hymn sung on the first Sunday of the pastors’ ministry at First Reformed Church. Then, David Wanders expressed the appreciation of the congregation for the pastors’ faithfulness in preparation of the worship ministry, for their pastoral care, and for their attention to the administrative work of the church.
Several members of the congregation also spoke of their own personal experiences and their esteem for Hartmut’s and Susan’s dedication to their spiritual needs. Lauren Bernhofer presented the pastors with a large congratulatory poster created by the children at the Pine Grove Cooperative Nursery School, followed by several gifts from the congregation. These included a Macy’s gift card, a check for $500, Dutch cookies, and a special photo taken by Jill Smith of the former mosaic Stations-of-the-Cross dove anointing Jesus. This mosaic was in Corpus Christi Church, South River. The celebration concluded with all participating in singing the round, Donna Nobis Pacem, again joyfully led by Ben Berman.
It may have still been gray outside, but Fellowship Hall positively radiated with love and joy and laughter.