Collection for Jerusalem

Do you remember the collection of an offering that the Apostle Paul once undertook for the benefit of the church in Jerusalem? II Corinthians 8-9 is where it’s all described.

Some of this early Christian experience was reflected when our Consistory and Fund-raising Team decided to appeal for help with our Preservation Project to every congregation in the RCA, in this country and in Canada. We did so by letter in Nov 2007.

After all, our heritage here at First Reformed is inexorably intertwined with the history of the Reformed Church in America as a denomination: The “father” of the RCA, Dr. John Henry Livingston, is buried in our cemetery, many of the world missionaries of the RCA during the 19th century have left traces here, and Rev. Theodorus Frelinghuysen, the forerunner of the Great Awakening, was our first pastor.

The response from the RCA churches was overwhelming, and there is still no end in sight! Most letters came from New Jersey and New York State, but there were also letters from Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Florida and California. And more seem to be on their way.

We at the Fund-raising Team deemed it best to share with you – anonymously – some of the letter passages that have reached us during Christmas Season. There is so much encouragement, comfort, and commitment in these letters! They constitute a powerful witness of care and compassion within our denomination.
One congregation wrote, “Our church dates back to 1888, so we understand how difficult it is to maintain the church buildings with a small congregation,” and another added, “We, too, are a small congregation that understands the challenges maintaining our church can cause. We will pray for you and the success of your efforts.” One church summarized these feelings by saying, “As an old historic Church ourselves we can understand your situation being able to say, ‘There but for the grace of God this could be us!’”

Other churches emphasized our denominational and community ties: “We wish you the very best in your keeping of our denominational trust.” Another voice said, “We recognize the valuable services you provide to the people of our community and around the world.” Another one added, “We are grateful for the work you do…” And one said, “We salute the hundreds of years of service that First Reformed has given to the New Brunswick Community.”

Many churches offered their prayers together with their material support: “We also offer our prayers that God will touch the hearts of many others to support this worthwhile cause to bring the church buildings to full compliance of structural safety and continue the longevity of this historical church to its former glory, into the future.”  Another church wrote, “You have a great task ahead of you, and we are praying that God will move in such a way as to surprise and affirm each of you in this work.” Another one added, “We wanted to give you what we can, and the promise of our prayers.” Yet another said, “along with our contribution, we also assure you and your congregation of our prayers for the successful completion of the work which will be instrumental in continuing the witness for Christ in New Brunswick.”  Another one added, “We will keep your church in our prayers and we know that God is faithful.”

Finally, many congregations expressed gratitude that we had asked them for help: “God has blessed us to be a part of your work of rebuilding the structure of this historic congregation.” Another letter simply read, “We thank you for letting us know of your situation and asking our help.” And yet another stated, “Thank you for alerting us to the restoration work being planned for First Reformed in New Brunswick.” A fourth one said, “Our Consistory is appreciative that you included [us] in your appeal.”

Are these not most uplifting voices for us here at First Reformed Church? It is now on us to return thanks for the blessing of being part of such a caring and compassionate denomination. Thank you all, near and far, who have come to our side at this time of need! We would not be where we are, were it not for the help of God as expressed by you. Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love: The fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above.

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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