Keeping the Lights On

We are blessed in New Brunswick that we have a non-profit organization like City Market. Its mission is the development of downtown New Brunswick, its business district, but also its historic parts. For further information see the website Without City Market and its Executive Director Pam Stefanek, we here at First Reformed Church would never have had the idea to turn to the public for help with the failing light bulbs of the sanctuary chandeliers.

And yet, we needed help. It is hard to crank down these chandeliers for maintenance. Someone has to climb into the attic with a walkie-talkie. Jim Hance did this for years, and we cannot thank him enough for this service that many of us did not know. However, since Jim’s health forced him to retire from the position, the sanctuary had grown dimmer and dimmer. If we could get a hold of modern LED bulbs with their long life expectancy, maybe we would not have to exchange them quite as often… However, LED’s are so much more expensive than traditional bulbs.

This is where Pam and City Market came in. Lolly Schenck from our Property Committee provided the specs and a sample bulb, and Pam launched the campaign on Facebook, Twitter, and two newspapers. Soon Susan Loyer from The Home News Tribune interviewed me.

The response from the general public was overwhelming. As of February 27, 2013, we have received $4,130 in donations from several companies and 36 individual donors. Among them were members of the Jewish community, members of a Catholic women’s group and the women of the Suydam Street Reformed Church in New Brunswick, and members of Bradley Gardens Reformed Church in Bridgewater. Lighting wholesaler Crystal Lites from East Brunswick donated the bulbs for the four main chandeliers of the sanctuary in-kind. With so much generosity we are now able to address other lighting issues of the church as well!

In addition, the New Brunswick Fire Department asked whether we needed help replacing the light bulbs. On February 18, New Brunswick Ladder Company #1 came with Joseph Olcsvay, Brian Kuzmack, Chris Casabe and Capt. Rob Schaeffer. Lolly Schenck and Lauren and Gary Bernhofer were also there, and Devon Whyte, an interested member from the community. Jim Hance introduced everybody to the task. Journalist Susan Loyer and her photographer covered this event as well.

I also asked whether the Fire Department could reattach the Plexiglas covers on the stained glass windows on the front of the church. With a contractor, this would have cost a lot of money.  Lt. Donald Parkens, President of Local 217, and Capt. Jason Licinsky agreed immediately. Somerset Glass in Highland Park heard of it and donated a replacement for the one Plexiglas panel that had broken when it fell out. On February 23, Capt. Licinsky’s team secured the lower parts of the Plexiglas covers; firefighter Jason Kormendy performed much of the work. The upper parts, however, remained out of reach for their ladders and will have to be addressed differently at a later time.

We are humbled by this response, and we thank everyone for their loving-kindness. And we thank God for the many relationships our light bulb request has created between the church and the community. More and more it becomes true: a church like ours is carried by people of many traditions and faiths.

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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