From the Pastor’s Desk


The tree-lighting ceremony of 2011 is long in the past. However, it left an impact on the future, and it is for this reason that I want to mention it here, at the beginning of the first newsletter of the year.

We could have decided not to participate in the ceremony. There are so many other groups already contributing to city-wide events like this one. It would have been easy not to go -especially after a week with meetings almost every night. But then I tried envisioning the ensuing picture. Our city is rich in traditions and ethnic backgrounds. The talents of our various community groups are extremely diverse. There are Mexican and Hungarian dancers; there is a modern dance group from one of the public schools. We have choirs, poets, jazz ensembles and a school orchestra. We have performers trained for cabaret and humorous presentations, and we have serious and critical solo singers. We have everything under the sun.

What, however, would it all mean, if you could not see among all this variety the pretty white coifs and the dignified dresses and aprons of our Dutch costumes? What would it mean, if there were’t a trace left of the Dutch klompendans with wooden clogs and flying skirts? Our city would not have had a chance to encounter its origin, an opportunity of being in touch with its very beginning; that’s what it would mean. Let me draw the comparison with a live person. It would not be healthy for any of us, if there were blank spots on the map of our lives. Nobody can go into the future and deny a part of him or herself. Likewise, one cannot easily proceed with a biography with blank spots that are inaccessible to the self.

Is a city like New Brunswick not similar to a person like that? How could it then be expected to develop authentic community without a live memory of its Dutch past? This is the reason why we are, culturally, obliged to support our city by keeping the memory of its past alive. And so, our women dressed up and danced, and our choir sang.

Please see the pictures from the eventful night. Transfer, if you will, my words of cultural and historical obligation into the matters of faith. The world has certainly moved away from the clarity and plain structure of Reformed worship. The Calvinist tradition behind it seems to be a thing of the past, something shared by a dwindling minority.

But what would it mean, if this minority disappeared now and for good? What would it mean in a city like ours, in all the changes of our time? This is a question, dear Reader, which I would like to leave with you, as we progress together into this New Year. Sometimes, we see the relevance of something first when we imagine a world void of it. And then we realize, perhaps, a cause worth striving for, and it becomes a proposition for the New Year.

May God bless you richly in your thoughts!

Yours fondly,
Pastor Hartmut

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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