Managing a big preservation project brings a variety of obligations. Its not all brick and mortar or grant writing! We also need events that create publicity and fill our historic walls with sense of identity and meaning. Of course, we do this every Sunday in worship. Yet, occasionally, we want to look beyond the familiar and draw wider circles and larger networks.
On October 24 , we hosted the Colonial Clergy Conference. It was a two-site event, as it had convened for a September session in Holland, MI. Here in New Jersey, Russ Gasero, the head of our denomination’s corporate archives, and Barbara Fillette, the director of the Reformed Church Center at New Brunswick Theological Seminary, were pivotal in organizing the event. Funding came from the Collegiate Church in New York City, the Roosevelt Studies Center in Middleburg, The Netherlands, and the Van Raalte Institute in Holland, MI.
With this, we gathered six scholars from the United States and the Netherlands who introduced to an audience of 60 the life and work of six early Dutch-American clergymen. It was a most interesting conference! Let me share three examples: Globalization may be a modern term, but we heard of a Dutch pastor, who was born ca. 1644 in Indonesia, had studied in The Netherlands, and had become a secular leader in South America before entering the ministry in North America.
Today, we sigh when we hear of a church where Elders’ Minutes have not been kept in years. Yet, one of the 17th century clergy introduced to us did not believe in keeping minutes of the Consistory. We think its hard to get used to novelty, like worship music, handicapped accessibility, or persons with different orientation. Yet this seems nothing compared to the problems our 18th century ancestors faced when they decided slowly, very slowly, to allow preaching in English rather than the familiar Dutch.
All these things and much more we learned at the conference. In addition, we raised more funds for our Preservation Project. And we created new connections to organizations that want us to survive. But you know what? None of this would have been possible without our indefatigable team of volunteers from our church: Ethel and Joan, Erie and Margaret, Ellen and Bruce, Janet and Rev. Susan, Norma, and many, many others helped to make this happen.
Thank you all for your great support!