Four Very Special Honorees

Every two years, our Regional Synod of the Mid-Atlantics invites its member churches to nominate special volunteers from each congregation to be honored in what is known as the Lay Recognition Dinner. The title is a bit misleading, as many of the honorees are not lay persons but ordained Elders and Deacons.

Every time the dinner turns out to be a great event. This year, over 500 of us convened at the Imperia in Somerset. We had a nice reception, met friends and colleagues from other churches and had a fine dinner. Several honorees presented their story for all to share. It allowed many of us to see their own efforts in perspective and to draw strength from this.

First Reformed Church had four honorees this year. Please find the acknowledgement for each of them below. The wording is as it appeared in the program brochure. In addition, Bruce Bothwell dedicated his award in memory of his father James Bothwell, who also served as head-deacon and usher at our church for many years. Acknowledging God’s guidance in this, Bruce said, “I appreciate getting this award … I feel like my father’s spirit has also guided me and made me the deacon that I am.” What a wonderful thing to say! It set a nice tone for the evening.

Here are the excerpts from the program brochure:

Bruce C. Bothwell
Bruce has carried on the great tradition of being the Head Usher in our church for many years. He inherited this office from his father, James Bothwell. For many years now, Bruce’s reliability and faithfulness in opening the church, preparing the Holy Table, collecting and counting the offering remain unsurpassed. In this, Bruce represents a facet of the ecumenical church: His office is carried out Sunday after Sunday in very similar ways for generations all over the globe. In addition to this, Bruce served as deacon on Consistory for many years. He was also a member of the Property & Housekeeping Committee and rarely missed one of our frequent workdays. Moreover, he has been an invaluable member of the staff for the Rotating Interfaith Homeless Men’s Shelter that our church houses together with other houses of worship during the winter months. Our congregation is blessed to have Bruce among its members.

James A. Hance, Jr.
Jim has served the church in many capacities. He is an ordained deacon and elder with a special interest in property and finances. Currently, he serves on the Property Committee as a mentor to the younger members. He is also on the Finance & Personnel Committee where he holds the office of Endowment Officer. In addition, Jim chairs our staff for the Rotating Interfaith Homeless Men’s Shelter that our church hosts twice every year. Jim also sits on the Board of our Community Development Corporation. However, much of what Jim contributes to the church does not fall into formal categories. He runs the snow blower in the winter for the entire city block. Work days at church are unthinkable without him. He is the main courier to and from the church, bringing food or disseminating collected goods in town. He has also been one of the main supporters of our churches travel program. In 2008/09 he accompanied a group of 13 of us to Turkey where many of us profited from his ingenious organization skills. After serious medical problems, our congregation is much relieved to have him back in our midst.

Joan M. Fekete
Joan represents the social conscience of our church. Not a friend of many words, she believes in action for the sake of the suffering and lonely. Every week, she volunteers at our city’s feeding program “Elijah’s Promise”, and she coordinates much of the work for the Rotating Interfaith Homeless Men’s Shelter in which our church participates twice every year. For years, she also chaired the Invitation and Outreach Committee under whose auspices the work for the shelter falls. Many a night she has served at the shelter herself. An ordained deacon, Joan has also developed special skills in serving our shut-in elderly. She knows the world of hospitals, rehabilitation centers and social workers. For some, she offers the only possibility to go grocery shopping or to see a physician or dentist. In addition to this hands-on work, Joan continues to serve on the Finance & Personnel Committee as Comptroller and clerk. She is also an important part of our Hospitality Committee. There is not a dinner night or lunchtime recital at church that Joan has not helped prepare in the kitchen. Furthermore, Joan is the Secretary for the Board of or Community Development Corporation. She is married to Julius.

Julius J. Fekete
Julius is our carpenter on site. We say in our buildings, “If the room has woodwork or furniture, Julius has something to do with it.” Over the years, he built the large mailbox at the front entrance, the wardrobe in fellowship hall, the cubbies in the nursery, floor support in the basement, the large kitchen cabinet, the media center, table and window sill in the library, the two large advent wreaths (one of them with stand), and 12 candle holders for the sanctuary windows. He installed the outdoor signs, the brochure holders on the fence, stripped and repainted the outside kitchen door, led a party of many weeks to strip and paint the church pews, oversaw the reconstruction of two large bathrooms, led a team of lawn mowers in the cemetery for years, enlarged our nursery and gave it a new floor and reconstructed parts of the pantry in the Sexton’s House. He also installed the project sign of our preservation project. In addition Julius employed his leadership skills in our church. He chaired our Preservation Team and was part of the joint preservation team with neighboring Christ Episcopal Church. He continues to be a faithful member of the Property Committee. But most of all: It was Julius’ photo documentation of the disrepair of parts of our buildings that turned the tide in 2006 so that Consistory pursued a first planning grant from the State of New Jersey. This became the base for our current historic preservation project.

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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