Brahms Fighting Depression

The Lunchtime Recital on April 25th was yet another peak experience in the cultural life of our church. Seventy people attended – the same number we had during opening night of our last Godspell season! Consequently, Fellowship Hall was used to the last seat during the lunch that followed.

It is so important to remember whom we serve with these concerts: Inner-city children from predominantly Latino communities, and the residents of now three nursing homes. This is a part of our population that is not very likely to indulge in the fine arts. But here they come, because it is during daytime hours, with easy access and no cost. We have to thank the New Brunswick Parking Authority for always covering the meters on concert days. Neither do we want to take for granted the kitchen crew, the soup providers and drivers, and Janet Waanders as the overall organizer. They all have helped to turn this into a very special series.

The concert on April 25th was special in yet another regard. The program consisted of Brahms’ Quintet for Clarinet and Strings in B minor, Op. 115. It was superbly performed by faculty members of Westminster Conservatory, organized in the ensemble Franklin Strings Plus One.

Brahms was a composer of German Romanticism. The concert brochure promised a piece “in a rich, highly contrapuntal texture throughout.” And this was certainly true. We literally swam in an ocean of tones, and the single clarinet was oftentimes indistinguishable from the four string instruments. At times, I thought it was a clarinet trying to become a cello.

But let me share with you a bit of background. The program brochure read: “As he worked on this piece, Brahms was experiencing the distress of the aging and death and alienation of friends. Out of this sense of isolation and his contrasting positive creative energy came a piece of great depth and warmth.”

Does this not apply to much of our situation as a mainline Protestant church with aging buildings and located in the inner city? And is God’s Holy Spirit not working in our midst with an amazing energy?

As I write these lines, the Church House is filled with students who have come to be interviewed by the HALL Fund in order to receive scholarships. Our church has been a charter member of the fund for exactly 200 years. The fund was established in 1807. Prior to these interviews, we had another beautiful lunchtime concert today with Gavin Black on the harpsichord. And the morning was filled with a meeting of the Personnel Committee, a special meeting of the Property Committee, and a meeting of our shawl ministry women with guest speaker Mary Kansfield.

This happened all in one single day! We are an inner-city mainline church with all the difficulties this imposes. Yet we are full of energy, impacting so many lives, and full of creative energy. May you enjoy the rich, contrapuntal texture of your church’s ministry throughout!

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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