First Reformed Church New Brunswick, New Jersey Sat, 10 Sep 2016 18:30:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Sunday of Blessings Tue, 06 Sep 2016 18:41:17 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Dear Members of First Reformed Church:

I just want to remind everyone of the changed worship time. From this Sunday on, September 11th, we will return to the regular time of 10:30 AM. This Sunday will be special, because we will be gathering our Sunday School after the summer. Sunday School starts at 9:30 AM in the Randolph Room.

If you can, please help us with your attendance, so that we are a lively crowd gathered at the Lord’s Table. I look forward to seeing you.

With Blessings,

Pastor Hartmut

From Pastor’s Desk Thu, 07 Jul 2016 19:45:03 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Pastor's Desk

Pastor’s Desk

The recent developments at General Synod, the highest assembly of our denomination in the United States and Canada, have startled many. At first glance, the bone of contention is Resolution R16-16. If adopted by 2/3 of our Classes, it would bring a change to our Book of Church Order. The change would hold consistories responsible that their pastors do not officiate at same-sex weddings.

At second glance, the proposition entails even more: Binding consistories in this way is a severe change in Reformed Church polity, because it limits the authority of consistories in an area where there used to be freedom. This is part of an increasing centralization that goes through our denomination.

But there is more. The General Synod debate on the issue made clear that a majority of delegates had little hermeneutical awareness in terms of understanding the Bible. Warnings and concerns raised from both our seminaries were disregarded and replaced by the simplistic concept that God’s Word in any Bible passage means the same in all periods of time. Starting with the oldest texts of the Bible, the wrong assumption would be that a text like the story of Sodom and Gomorra with roots in the late Bronze Age was understood then the same as we understand it now – only that none of us can really know what it means to belong to a bronze-age culture, because we live now and not back then.

In most mainline churches of the world, seminaries have taken on the difficult task of helping students to bridge the hermeneutical gap: A homosexual act committed in war during Biblical times really has nothing to do with a committed gay or lesbian life style today.

But for many in our denomination the difference is not apparent, and the hermeneutical gap has disappeared. The cultural ignorance across the lines of history could not be more severe! It’s like saying today that women’s issues mean the same for men, or African American issue the same for a white population – only that the Biblical references to homosexuality do not exist parallel in our time but belong to eras long past.

This is dangerous fundamentalism, and since it ignores fundamental principles of understanding, it can spread. Today, they disenfranchise the LGBTQ community. Tomorrow it will be women. And they day after it might be anybody who is overweight!

I’m being polemic, and that’s not a good Reformed trait. Better would be to consider where to go from here. It is important that we stay together in this. Unilateral or even individual decisions will only satisfy personal emotions, but they will not help further God’s Kingdom. This can only be done if we act with composure and in conjunction with all those affected in the same way. Only together, we will remain strong.

So let us wait for our Classis and become part of its work in this regard, so that we can sort all this out and weigh the alternatives on how to proceed. In the meantime, nothing has changed, because the unfortunate General Synod Resolution can first be ratified at General Synod next year. Let us trust that, in the meantime and together with the other churches of our Classis, we will find the way God is preparing for us to get out of this mess!

With fond wishes, Pastor Hartmut

Church Life Is Colorful Thu, 07 Jul 2016 19:43:51 +0000 Continue reading ]]> The accompanying pictures give you a glimpse how colorful and diverse our life together as a congregation really is. All of these photos were taken in the relatively short time since we’ve moved into the new sanctuary.

Start with the picture of child musician Robert Dorsey. Sometimes, it’s just amazing who makes some serious music here! Robert and his father Paul have delighted us now for quite some time with their beautiful Renaissance and Baroque music. The simplicity of their instruments paired with the incredible skill of the musicians has given many of us unrepeatable experiences.

Then there is the Friesian costume that our Vice President Lauren Bernhofer wore on the occasion of our sanctuary re-dedication. It was her way of upholding our Dutch tradition. It also added a very dignified touch to a beautiful day.

Heather and her son Andy stand for the young life in our congregation. We are not a church defined by only older semesters! Everybody is welcome here; and this brings smiles to our faces.

Finally, there was the bridal shower for Thakshila and Josh. I know, phrasing it like this contains an oxymoron. But Sherri and Lolly, who hosted the affair, made it quite clear that the event would be open to men as well. So should we call it a wedding shower, then? Whatever, the food and the atmosphere on June 19 were superb and gave us a glimpse of what it means to be a part of the people of God.

Benevolence Thu, 07 Jul 2016 19:12:36 +0000 Continue reading ]]> August Benevolence — New Brunswick Domestic Violence Coalition

 The New Brunswick Domestic Violence Awareness Coalition seeks to increase community awareness of domestic violence, to help prevent violence, and to connect survivors to resources in their community. In October 2002, during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, education and awareness raising activities were held in New Brunswick, culminating in a community march against domestic violence. The New Brunswick Domestic Violence Awareness Coalition led these activities and its mission continues today. The Coalition is comprised of numerous local human service agencies and each year, they host the Annual March and Rally against Domestic Violence that takes place in October.

New Jersey Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-572-SAFE

Save the Date Thu, 07 Jul 2016 19:08:48 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Plan ahead and save the date for the 3 rd annual Jazzin’ For Funds event that is scheduled for Sunday, November 6, 2016 from 5 – 9 pm at the Old Bay. Tickets: $45 (at the door $50) per person.

jazzin save the date

Town Clock Community Development Update Thu, 07 Jul 2016 14:16:04 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Town Clock CDC

Town Clock CDC

Wow so much has been happening now that we have residents. Here is a brief update:

  • Town Clock CDC has hired a part-time case worker whose first assignment is to lead the 40-hour domestic violence training with two interns presently working with TCCDC.
  • community dinnerThe residents are having dinners together to build relationship and foster a sense of community. TCCDC is happy to receive donations for these dinners either in food donations, or monetary. We have been fortunate to have local merchants donate dinners.
  • The residents can also use regular donations of laundry detergent, toilet paper, and paper products, which are greatly appreciated.


  • Plan ahead and save the date for the 3rd annual Jazzin’ For Funds event that is scheduled for Sunday, November 6, 2016 from 5 – 9 pm at the Old Bay. Tickets: $45 (at the door $50) per person.
  • GREAT NEWS! The Development Team was able to garner a non-restricted $20,000 donation! Thank you to our Donor! The Development Team has also welcomed several new members, one of whom is a professional grant writer and is offering her services for FREE!
Many Thanks to Ethel Salamone’s ‘Church Family” Thu, 07 Jul 2016 13:58:49 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Submitted by Elizabeth Hance

Words of appreciation are extended to everyone at FRC who participated in the ‘Ethel Salamone birthday card project’ by writing birthday cards that were mailed to Ethel for her 86th birthday!

Ethel's 86th Birthday - June 9th

Ethel’s 86th Birthday – June 9th

This photo of Ethel was taken on her birthday (June 9th) at Ethel’s residence in the Parker-at-Monroe long-term care facility’s White Willows small-home.

As you can see from Ethel’s broad smile, Ethel truly enjoyed her flowers, cake, LOTS of birthday cards, and all the attention she received on her birthday.
The love and caring that the FRC ‘family’ shared with Ethel on her 86th birthday is best expressed in these words from a familiar hymn: “Blessed be the tie that binds Our hearts in Christian Love…”

Re-dedicating Our New, Old Sanctuary Thu, 07 Jul 2016 13:43:10 +0000 Continue reading ]]> After years of planning and construction, our new, old sanctuary radiates with new splendor. When built in 1812 it was the fourth in a sequence of outgrown sanctuaries that had previously housed our congregation. The building offered space to 1,100 worshippers and was the largest building in the state. Our new sanctuary offers space for almost 200, and it has come out very nice!

Our congregation has always felt obligated to both its history and the needs of the surrounding community. Too much empty space on Sunday mornings was not in line with our sense of purpose. That’s how Dina’s Dwellings came into being: 10 apartments for victims of domestic violence and a more appropriately sized sanctuary, both side by side in the old church building.

Dina’s Dwellings” was opened on February 11; the sanctuary was re-dedicated on June 11. It was a day for the community that included contributions from a variety of groups and institutions. It was also an interfaith affair: Muslims from the Turkish-American Peace Islands Institute were involved just as much as Cantor Anna Ott from Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple, the great synagogue on Livingston Avenue.

My sermon tried to bring out the significance of church architecture: “The sheer sight of our illuminated steeple at night reminds people that they are not living by coincidence.” It also emphasized that the new sanctuary will be open to the community: “It would not be God’s house, if it were not also a house for everyone else.”

Among our guests was also New Brunswick architect Jeff Venezia, the prime architect of the project. We greeted him in worship with much applause. In addition to Ms. Ott, the re-dedication drew other well know church-musicians from our area: Martin Tel, the Director of Music at Princeton Theological Seminary visited a day earlier, John Sheridan, Director of Music at Christ Church here in New Brunswick, and Mark Trautman, formerly Director of Music at Christ Church, now serving St. Paul’s in Englewood. They remarked on the great acoustics of the new, old sanctuary.

May the new space allow us for many years to gather around God’s Table and to do from here our part in the transformation of the world!

Sunday School Finale Thu, 07 Jul 2016 13:19:29 +0000 Continue reading ]]> There are many advantages to a child’s upbringing in a small church. Here, the child will be exposed to many generations and not be confined more or less to his or her own age group. In fact, in a small church, everything is more accessible than in a larger one. It’s very family-like when young parents come to worship knowing that everyone surrounding them will know their children’s names. If you ever found truth in the saying that it takes a village to raise a child, then the small church is the answer.

Of course, being child-centered in many ways does not mean that everything is geared towards the children. We are intentional about times together and times apart. And we try staying in sync with the school year. On June 5th, we ended a year, and we will begin another one on September 12 with a new Rally Sunday or Sunday of Blessings.

And if you would like to catch a glimpse of what it means to go to Sunday School at First Reformed in New Brunswick, then take a look at the accompanying pictures that feature some of our youngest worshippers!

Orlando Prayer Vigil Sat, 02 Jul 2016 17:10:17 +0000 Continue reading ]]> It is important to take note of some of the public witness of the houses of worship to which First Reformed Church belongs. On June 22, we followed a call from City Hall to join in a prayer vigil for the victims of the horrible massacre in Orlando. It was a wonderful event because it proved that terror will not have the last word. We sang and mourned and meditated, but we also expressed our resolve to disarm hate.

A Program for Church Growth Sat, 02 Jul 2016 16:58:27 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Our Classis recently established a program on church growth. It is particularly interesting for congregations that are too small to create their own Church Growth Committee. If they have a pastor and two volunteers, they can receive from Classis a few more volunteers and staff-support in the person of Carrie Dirks, who is the executive director of Churches Improving Communities, the community development corporation of our Classis.

So this is wonderful, volunteers and a staff person from Classis for a growth program in the local church. And it comes even better: First Reformed Church was recently chosen to be the focus church in this program for the next 12 months! It means that we are currently not only enjoying a new sanctuary, but that we have real hope to welcome new members in our midst.

But there is a problem: Even though the number of participants from our side is really small, we have not been able to meet it. So far, Ben Berman and I are the only participants. We would need at least one more person, better two, in order to work efficiently with the folks from Classis.

So, if you have it in your heart to join these efforts, please talk to me (732.545.1005). The work begins with meeting with our local growth committee and also with the supervising Classis committee. Together, we will first analyze our context and develop a theological rationale for inviting others. And then we will go about planning a growth campaign with various events – all designed to encourage others to become part of our worshipping community.

From Pastor’s Desk Wed, 08 Jun 2016 12:48:27 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Pastor's Desk

Pastor’s Desk

It is just amazing how close we are to reopening and re-dedicating our new-old sanctuary! And, of course, it’s not ours at all because it is God’s. Amazing is also to what degree the developments over here run parallel to the ways in which Rev. Molehe’s church construction in Middelburg, South Africa nears completion. Just see the following pictures:

Look at this beautiful truss work! During the reconfiguration of our own church building, we also developed some intimate familiarity with the problems trusses can cause!

And this is a picture from the Pentecost service of our sister church. Much work remains to be done on their church. We, too, will have to finish some of the work after the re-dedication.

Currently, we have carpenter Paul and his team in the sanctuary finishing the sacristy screen and the historic pews where they were damaged during constriction. They are also building sub-flooring behind the pews. Then there are painter Scott and his team. They are painting the pews, the base of the sacristy screen and the floor of the pew area where it will not be covered with carpet. They will also paint the center vestibule and the center door to the church. The other vestibules and adjacent stairwells will follow later this year. Finally, there will be a carpet company putting down carpet behind the pew area and down the four aisles.

Our church is fortunate to have received several special donations that will cover much of the cost. But the rest is simply miraculous! While we continue with an almost 6-digit negative budget, we will have a fully renovated, air-conditioned and ADA-compliant sanctuary. And we did not have to pay for it or even carry the burden of the administration. Others did this for us, and ETOMIC, the developer’s general contractor, was more than generous, and so was our developer Bergen County’s United Way / Madeline Housing Partners LLC. We owe a lot of gratitude to a lot of people who rushed to support us – sometimes without us even knowing it.

Such love and support oblige us for the future. They are signs that God has a plan for our church family and for the ministries we offer to each other and to the community.


Don’t be startled by the wrapped-up organ console! This is not another Cristo-project but evidence that our organ builder Carl has begun looking for a smaller, better fitting console.

The new sacristy screen does not only solve our storage problems after the loss of the Robing Room. It is also a tip at the hat towards the sacristy screen that vanished in the fire of 1971.

The new sacristy screen does not only solve our storage problems after the loss of the Robing Room. It is also a tip of the hat towards the sacristy screen that vanished in the fire of 1971.

We hope, dear Reader, that all this may inspire you to join us on Saturday, June 11 th when we will celebrate the re-dedication of the sanctuary. The time table is this:

3:00-5:00PM  Community Festival with several stations in fellowship hall and the church.
4:30-5:00PM  Rehearsals of choir and bell choir.
5:00-5:45PM  Re-Dedication Worship Service in the sanctuary.
5:45-7:00PM  Ice Cream Social

What a great privilege it is to belong to a church like this in a time like ours!

With fond wishes,

Pastor Hartmut

Program Directory – June 11, 2016 Wed, 08 Jun 2016 12:39:25 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Community Fesitival 3:00 – 5:00 PM:

LOCATION: Education Building, Fellowship Hall

  • Walking the Labyrinth
    Rutgers Protestant Campus Ministry, Rev. Jeanie Collins

LOCATION: Breezeway

  • History of First Reformed Church
    First Reformed Church, Pastor Hartmut Kramer-Mills
  • Ancient Foot Stool History
    Middlesex County Cultural & Heritage Commission, Mark Nonestied

LOCATION: Church Building, Community Room

  •  Interfaith from a Muslim Perspective
    Peace Islands Institute
  • Testimonial Book
    First Reformed Church, Thakshila Upasena and Fawn Stephens
  • Inclusive Ministry with Persons with Autism
    First Reformed Church, Gary Bernhofer and Heather Epstein
  • Children’s Program
    First Reformed Church, Lolly Schenck

Sanctuary Rededication: 5:00 – 5:45PM

  • Cantor Anna Ott from Anshe Memorial Temple
  • Harpist Elaine Christy
  • Choir & Bell Choir of First Reformed Church, directed by Ben Berman

Please join us for an Ice Cream Social from 5:45 PM on in Fellowship Hall in the Education Building.

Sanctuary Re-Dedication Festival Wed, 08 Jun 2016 12:34:10 +0000 Continue reading ]]> The Chocolate Tasting Party held on May 7, was a tasty success for those who came out. We played games, sampled chocolate inspired drinks, sauces desserts and more.  The committee is very grateful to those members of the congregation who showed their support. The committee was able to meet the fundraising goal of $500 to support the upcoming Sanctuary Re-Dedication Festival.

The re-dedication of the Sanctuary on June 11, 2016 is just a few weeks away now! After over 1 year of waiting, the redesigned sanctuary space is ready for worshipers.

The re-dedication festival committee has personally invited over 100 members and friends of the congregation.  Planning has been in process for many months.

The committee is sincerely hopeful that you will show your support and satisfy your curiosity by joining in this historic event. Your presence and enthusiasm is a critical piece of the event.  The festival is FRC’s opportunity to re-introduce ourselves to the community.  To this end, we have invited many of the community groups that are part of our church life. Your presence isn’t just for yourself; it’s for the future of FRC. We have much to offer, but in a world with so many distractions we just cannot afford to sit back and assume a continuing existence.  Come out and tell the community around FRC why you chose to be a member of “The Oldest Congregation in the Newest Church”.

The time table is this:
3:00-5:00PM Community Festival with several stations in fellowship hall and the church.
4:30-5:00PM Rehearsals of choir and bell choir.
5:00-5:45PM Re-Dedication Worship Service in the sanctuary.
5:45-7:00PM       Ice Cream Social

Summer Worship Time Wed, 08 Jun 2016 12:26:52 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Dear Members of First Reformed Church:

Please be aware that our worship time will change to 9:30AM for the summer. We start this coming Sunday, June 12.  Our last Sunday on summer time will be on September 4.

There are also changes regarding parking. After conversation I had this morning with its director, the Parking Authority was generous in replacing our old meter bags. But at the same time, the Authority will no longer allow individual use of these bags.

This means that we can use the bags only on two occasions:

  • On Sundays (just to mark our territory, so to speak, because parking is free on Sundays otherwise).
  • On occasions that we have called in ahead of time (like the Lunchtime Recitals).

If bags are used outside of these times, the cars parked there may receive a ticket.

However, as we shift our worship life to the church building, parking at the Church Street Parking Deck will become more attractive; and we have vouchers to park there free. But the old glass door entrance will remain attractive for those of us who require ADA accessibility.

Thanks for your continuing support!

Pastor Hartmut

A Wonderful Retirement Party Wed, 08 Jun 2016 12:21:52 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Wednesday, May 11th marked a special day for New Brunswick Seminary, the Reformed community of New Brunswick, and also for First Reformed Church. We celebrated the retirement of Dr. Coakley after 32 years of teaching church history at the seminary. The picture shows Rev. James Hart Brumm presenting to John a Festschrift filled with academic contributions on a variety of subjects and published by an international publishing house. Russ Gasero, the general archivist of our denomination, and Dr. Greg Mast, the president of our seminary, supported James in his presentation. (I heard someone whisper: “So what’s a Festschrift?” It’s a compilation of essays written in honor of a distinguished scholar and presented on the occasion of a festive act – a retirement, birthday or the like.)

We have many reasons here at First Reformed to be grateful to John and his wife Margaret. Both have been deeply involved in the life of the church. Margaret made the Consistory the focal point of her attention. She has also served on several committees, most recently the Worship & Music Committee.

John’s clarinet has been indispensible to our music department, and our choir would be a lot poorer without John’s and Margaret’s voice. John has preached regularly here and
used many occasions to invite interest in the history of the church and our denomination. Sometimes, he did this through lectures and presentations, and at other times through his expert opinion to certain issues. But the most fun of these occasions were the ones when he reenacted someone like Dr. John Henry Livingston during one of our graveyard tours. And several of John’s books have a firm place in our church library.

We wish Margaret and John God’s rich blessings on their way into a new period of life.

They are a cherished part of this church family.


Interfaith Work as Important as Ever! Wed, 08 Jun 2016 12:10:39 +0000 Continue reading ]]> National Day of Prayer on May 5th created another highlight for interfaith work in the town of New Brunswick. Organized by the Mayor’s Office, it included participants of Jewish, Muslim and Christian traditions. City Hall’s community organizer Keith Jones, II put once again his remarkable skills to work to bring us all together. He also changed the theme of the day to give the event more relevance in our community: Instead of “Wake up, America” our theme was “A Servant’s Heart”.

If these world religions worked together in the rest of the world as they did that afternoon in New Brunswick, this planet would be a lot more at peace!


Amazing Day of Service! Wed, 08 Jun 2016 12:05:46 +0000 Continue reading ]]> It was with great pride that 8 people volunteered to be Ambassadors at the Rutgers University Commencement on May 15, 2016, where President Barak Obama was the speaker. The volunteers represented First Reformed Church and the church was recognized on the Jumbo Tron inside the stadium. The recognition stated: “Thank you Commencement Ambassadors! And the Volunteers of the First Reformed Church of New Brunswick.” Those representing FRC were: Lauren Bernhofer, Uta and Allyson Burke, Danica Cotov , Jonathan J. Kunkel-Jure, Siobhan McLaughlin, Ken and Sherri Novack.

Sherri organized the group and was the liaison with the University Commencement office. This was the first time Rutgers singled out a group to recognize. Sherri had to ask Chris Retzko, the commencement volunteer organizer, if such recognition was available and Rutgers agreed. Knowing how often Rutgers students volunteer at FRC, she felt it only right that a group of volunteers would come from FRC as a “give back” of service.

The FRC volunteers were assigned to help people with special needs; another mission of the church. The greatest service was at the end of the commencement as everyone poured out through one gate of the stadium and the rush was particularly overwhelming for all.

The anticipation and excitement of Commencement Speaker, President Barak Obama , made for a most memorable day! Regardless of politics, President Obama gave an inspiring speech to the over 10 thousand students, and their guests. It truly was an Amazing Day of Service.

Footstools with Meaning Tue, 07 Jun 2016 19:57:52 +0000 Continue reading ]]> They may not have received much attention on normal days. But Saturday, May 21 was certainly not a normal day in the lives of the footstools of First Reformed Church. At the East Jersey Olde Towne Village in Piscataway, Middlesex County offered an archaeology symposium on two excavation sites in New Jersey. One of them was First Reformed Church. Here, archaeologists helped twice in recent years to prepare the property for construction work: First in 1995 when we built the breezeway, and then again in 2014-15 when we prepared for the construction of Dina’s Dwellings. Mark Nonestied, museum’s curator and Division Head at the County’s Cultural & Heritage Commission, gave the presentation on our church. He ended with an introduction to the world of our footstools and their owners throughout history. It was fun and interesting and also highly informative to learn whose feet had all been supported once by these stools.

Lunchtime Recitals as Ministry Tue, 07 Jun 2016 19:54:29 +0000 Continue reading ]]> We just completed another highly successful season of our well-tried Lunchtime Recital Series. The pictures show Janet Waanders, the main organizer of the series, and Maureen Hurd Hause, the clarinet player of the concert on May 4.

  • Why is this series a form of ministry? Well, it bears several qualifying marks:
    It is a selfless endeavor whose costs are shared by the church, the County and the NJ Council of the Arts.
  • It builds community in that it brings populations together that would otherwise not meet – for example students of middle school age and residents of area nursing homes. The meals following the concerts are very important in this regard.
  • It supports integration efforts for immigrant children as they can relate to the music and the performers and become aware of the international origin of much of what is being played.
  • The Question & Answer moments afterwards oftentimes provide opportunities to reflect on the music, the composers, and even the meaning of life.

Thank you, Janet, for enriching our lives with this very special Series! A great thank you goes also out to the many volunteers who work in the kitchen for our success: Joan Fekete, Lolly Schenck, Margaret Coakley, Lilie Suabedissen, Sherri Novack, Liz Hance and many others.