Commitment Sunday to Preserve Our Place

On Sunday, Oct 21st, we wrapped up the congregational part of our capital campaign, “Our Witness in a New/Old Place”. The day was a full success. The church was already brimming during the pre-worship hours.

Contrary to other Sundays, Fellowship Hall was almost empty during this time because everybody was busy preparing something. Thanks to Ethel Salamone’s and Joan Fekete’s cooking talents, the kitchen exuded beautiful smells. From the adjacent Randolph Room one could hear John Coakley’s clarinet, and later Ellen Hamilton’s flute. Led by Sandy Boyles, the children were enthusiastically rehearsing in the sanctuary, with a few members of Consistory (Bruce Bothwell and Joan Fekete) and us pastors joining them. At the same time, Stef Beemsterboer installed a PowerPoint projector we had borrowed from our Regional Synod office. Later Pastor Susan and Viktoriya Raufova, together with Liz Hance as soloist, had the young generation rehearse the children’s anthem. It was a lot of fun.

During worship, we performed a play written by Sandy Boyles under the title An Extreme Church Make-Over. It was a revised version of the popular TV show. It did not lead to tearing down the old church but expressed great appreciation of the many historic features of our buildings.

At several points during the performance, our youngest children, dressed with the hardheads of true church construction workers, listed famous names of our church’s past: Theodorus Frelinghuysen, John Henry Livingston, Elias van Bunschooten, Jacob R. Hardenbergh, to name a few. It was a moving experience because it felt a little like passing the baton to another generation. When I thanked the children I said that some day they would make fine members of Consistory.

Then our architect, Margaret Westfield, delivered a mission moment and gave us some more insight from her perspective why our buildings are worth preserving. It was the first time she addressed the congregation on the whole.

Then the luncheon came, combined with Margaret’s slide show. Thanks to great visual documentation for now almost 200 years, she was able to take us on a great history tour. We saw the familiar features of our church embedded in various periods of time, and we realized: Our buildings mean more than providing shelter for our current programs.

In total, we have now received pledges from our congregation and former members in the amount of $146,230.00. Thank you to everybody who committed him or herself to this great project! I am also pleased to announce that every member of our Consistory has submitted a pledge; our “board” is 100% in support of the project.

It is still a long way to go until we will reach the match of $750,000 for the state grant we hope to obtain next year. Yet there is more help on the way. We are approaching every congregation of the Reformed Church in America, we have requested help from the City of New Brunswick, as well as Middlesex County and various foundations. We are also planning on a larger external fund-raising event for Mar 9, 2008.

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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