Congregational Budget Meeting

Consistory’s annual budget presentation to the congregation this past month made it once more painfully clear that First Reformed Church cannot continue under the traditional paradigm. We cannot offset a negative budget of over $110,000 with membership growth. We would have to triple our membership. Besides, who would want to join a church when the growth of that church is biased be the need for income?

The meeting included a long and honest discussion. Ideas and plans were shared on how to improve the situation. The Town Clock Community Development Corporation presented a time line planning for the sanctuary reconfiguration to begin in the spring of 2014. Cash in hand to make this happen is roughly $700,000. The total project will need $3.3 million.

Many other data and calculations were shared. However, I do not believe that the power our redemption lies in the data. The key word here is faith. Isaiah heard God once say, “If you do not stand firm in faith, you shall not stand at all.” (Isaiah 7:9)

The remarkable success of Phase I of our historic preservation project has taught us that, with God, we can do remarkable things. A church of 60 members winning one of the most competitive grants in the state and then raising over $335,000 in matching funds – who could have predicted such thing?

Despite these incredible results, we are not always appropriating them when they could really be made a big part of our future. We spend a lot of time on questioning ourselves. Too often, we look back instead of forward. Perhaps we need a little more encouragement to joyfully embrace new ideas. And our younger people will appreciate signs that we are stepping into the future with trust and faith and the conviction that we have something to share with the world.

We also want to lift up the victims of domestic violence whom we want to accommodate one day in the designated parts of the church building. They need our willingness to share space. There are far too little sites like this in New Jersey, and I am convinced that God wants us to put our potential to good use.

A friendly face, a smile, and a few considerate questions will help reflect the grace of God in our midst to the surrounding world and to the visitors we have. Words of encouragement are needed, and the willingness to get involved is a powerful witness. How did the Apostle say? “Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful…” (1 Corinthians 13:4)

It’s all in front of us. With God’s help we can move mountains. But we must want it, too.

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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