Interfaith Thanksgiving at FRC

On Nov 20th, it was, for the first time since 2004, our turn to host New Brunswick’s Interfaith Thanksgiving Service. And what a great experience it was! Our historic pulpit served three faiths that day. Hebrew chanting, Arabic call to prayer, and traditional Christian hymns – all of this combined in our beautiful sanctuary. Two newspapers, the Home News Tribune and the Star Ledger, reported on this. Ebru TV, a New Jersey-based Turkish TV channel, filmed the event and conducted interviews afterwards.

The reception that followed had been prepared by many hands. Especially noteworthy was a variety of Jewish and Turkish desserts that are not too often seen on our premises. A special thank you goes out to Ethel Salamone and Joan Fekete who coordinated a great kitchen crew. Thanks to their work we others had time to mingle with the many guests from the participating houses of worship. There was also opportunity to meet Freeholder Director David Crabiel, City Historian George Dawson and Commissioner Cathy Carrigan. Commissioner Carrigan represented the Middlesex County Cultural and Heritage Commission whose grant makes our lunchtime concerts possible.

Why did we host this event? The reporters asked this question repeatedly. The main reason is that through events like these we contribute here at the local level to inter-religious peace and understanding. For many of us it is not enough to just get upset over the news every night, when our TV screens show us pictures of the many wars in this world. Rather, we want to do something. So, if they cannot find tolerance and peace somewhere else, we can start with it here.

All of this came together beautifully when we sang the old Native American hymn Many and Great on Tuesday night together. For this, Pastor Susan played a Native American drum, accompanied by Viktoriya Raufova on the piano and Ellen Hamilton on the flute. It took only a few measures, and Burak Alptekin and Emrah Arslan, our Muslim friends from Turkey left their pew, picked up their drums, and joined in this great Thanksgiving song.It was a very moving moment, and the Star Ledger acknowledged it with a large photograph. Let’s hope that we will have many more interfaith services of this kind.

The participating guests came from these houses of worship: Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple, Christ Episcopal Church, Emanuel Lutheran Church, Raritan Interfaith Dialogue Center, United Methodist Church at New Brunswick.

Participants in the planning [from the left] Viktoriya Raufova, Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Eaton of Emanuel Lutheran Church, Rabbi Dan Fellman from Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple, Dr. Nuray Tugrul Yurt   from the Raritan Interfaith Dialogue Center, Rev. Dr. Hartmut Kramer-Mills, Rev. Dr. Syndney Sadio from the United Methodist Church, and  Ms. Sedide Betul Ozturk from the Raritan Interfaith Dialogue Center.

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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