Construction, Attendance and a Song as Gift


Friends, there is no sense of beating around the bush – we had a hot summer, we will have a hot fall, and I am not speaking about global warming! Let me explain this real quick:

The construction of Pine Grove Nursery School made our summer hot. We received a sprinkler system on both levels of the education building, remodeled both stairways in the building, had new carpet laid, new phone lines brought in, and a host of other things. This brought contractors, inspectors, fire officials and a great number of volunteers into our building. We are proud that everything has been accomplished and that the school is up and running. Oftentimes, Susan and I looked at each other and said, “If the school wins, we win as a church.”

But now the hot fall comes. With the receipt of a new grant, the remediation work on the site of our former oil tank will resume in October. We had to negotiate the date carefully, because now we have scaffolding on our education building. This will have to be removed before a large drilling rig can make it onto our premises. The rig is needed to install a DEP mandated groundwater well that records water contamination.

Meanwhile, we have learned how the reconstruction of George Street affects our neighborhood. During working hours, lower Bayard Street is a two-way road, too narrow for a rig that requires piloting through town. But somehow the officials in charge showed heart for our church, and with God’s help, the rig will arrive on October 18th.

I have spent much of the beginning of August negotiating these things. Sometimes I closed with the remark that I lost my notes from learning these things at seminary. This and other remarks prompted Bill Gaventa, director of The Elizabeth M. Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities at UMDNJ, to suggest a new sermon title to me: “Getting Through the Jungles to Church”.

That would be a funny title! But I hesitate using it for fear that this might deter us from coming to church. We cannot afford the reputation of not being accessible on Sunday mornings. The reason is simple: if worship here at First Reformed is not the most important part of our life as church, then everybody will think that construction is. This would be a fatal error!

In reality, the opposite should be true. Construction should boost our attendance, because it is very special to come to church at such a historically significant time. I know, I sound like a child of the world when I talk like this. As if attending worship could depend on a lure! But I admit to being driven in part by the fact that our numbers were just so low over the summer. Yet, even if my motivation is theologically entirely off target, it remains part of my human emotions nevertheless.

Be this as it may. I think it is important that we all commit ourselves to increasing our worship attendance this fall. Rally Sunday on September 12th will provide us with a great kick-off. It is part of a special Song-Gift Weekend with star musician and composer Lorraine Nelson Wolf, a voice from deep inside the Reformed Church in America.

Lorraine and her family will perform a special concert on the anniversary of September 11th. Please see the poster in this issue of the newsletter. During worship the following morning, she will present our church with the gift of a special song, written and composed just for us. It might become the anthem of our church. Please make sure you’ll come on Rally Sunday.

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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