Exciting Programming??

Dear Friends:

I was struck by the comments of a fellow pastor who said to me this past week, “I am really impressed by the exciting programming that you all are doing at First Reformed Church.” For a moment I only looked at him thinking: What’s he talking about? Exciting programming??? And then I realized, you know, he is right in a way. Sure, I would really jump for joy to see twenty more people in worship.

However, our ministry just doesn’t end on Sunday afternoons. So I thought more about this comment. Could he have meant the denominational dialogue on homosexuality that we supported by providing space as well as prodding for a date for the Listening Team to come? (Did you know that we were the first church in the entire denomination to hold such a listening event!?) Or could my colleague have meant the wonderful inter-faith connections that we have developed over the years; one of which is culminating in a trip to Turkey for some of us? These could be some of what this pastor was referring to.

Nevertheless, it is difficult to get excited about programming when the amount of money that we need to raise for our preservation project is looming at us. As we look to the future of our church, we realize that our buildings are historic treasures and yet great big burdens which threaten to drag us down, or rather, could hold us back from “real” ministry. The important word here, I believe, is “could”.
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Yes, the preservation of these buildings COULD prevent us from being involved in ministry and “exciting” programming, however, I don’t see this happening. In fact –  and you may be surprised –  but I see us increasing our interest in both things – the ministry and what the buildings look like. Perhaps this is in response to the fact that through the preservation project we have been required to look more closely at our buildings. When one does this, you see the little projects and problems that need attention. Because of this we have been very responsive to what needs to be done. Just this past month, some of our members have addressed the need for a tree removal, the trimming of low lying branches, the weeding of the front flower beds, and more will be done on the work day/clean up day beginning at 9:00 a.m. on Nov 10th.

In the area of ministry, though, we have realized some things: if we have such a large facility then we ought to use it to the fullest extent. Do you know how many groups and activities meet here, actually? Well, there is the Yue Yue Ensemble that practices on Saturdays once per month, the Songwriters who meet here monthly, the Martial Arts group that comes weekly, the three other congregations that use our space more than once per week, as well as a slew of other groups which ask to use our space once per year. As I reported to consistory, I receive a request per week.

Besides the other groups which use our buildings, we ourselves provide a much needed ministry to the homeless men for two weeks in winter, the eight Lunchtime Recitals (which are now visited regularly by about 40 – 60 people), and we are moving in the direction of providing space for a special Elijah’s Promise project which provides meals to kids and families. Our hope is to finally have this program in place by September 2008.

We are doing some exciting programming, all of which this large space allows us to provide. I don’t think that we have maxed-out of the possibilities that we could be offering to the community. But, as with any structure, these types of programs and ministries take time to build. We do realize, though, that we have to walk with both feet: one which maintains the facilities and the other which provides future vision for what we do within these wonderfully old structures.

May God bless us as we walk forward,
Pastor Susan

About Susan Kramer-Mills

Susan Kramer-Mills' journey as a pastor has led her to a variety of places. Before attending McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago she was a Volunteer-in-Mission for two years West Berlin, Germany. After returning to the United States and graduating from seminary, she returned with her husband Hartmut to Germany. From 1990 to 1992 she was campus chaplain and registrar at Naumburg Seminary in former East Germany. With the closing of the seminary she assumed the pastorate for the yoked congregations of Stoessen, Goerschen and Rathewitz in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. At the same time she taught Religious Instruction at two public elementary schools until 1998. During this time she was assigned six additional congregations to the original three. In 1998, she received a call as Associate Pastor to Trinity Presbyterian Church in East Brunswick, New Jersey. She served in that position until 2000, when she and her husband accepted a call as co-pastors to First Reformed Church in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Since April 1, 2004, Rev. Kramer-Mills has also been working part-time as Classis Minister to the Classis of New Brunswick.
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