Ministry in a World of Profit and Loss

Living in a world ruled by considerations of profit and loss, it is sometimes hard to justify what churches are doing best: giving themselves away in service to the community and other beneficiaries of their ministry.

Take, for example, our Lunchtime Recital Series. The events of series are completely free to the audience. They feature a half-hour concert of high quality background with a great diversity of musicians and composers. They are highly international and representative of many different time periods. This is followed by a free lunch. Three or four soups that I would call “gourmet”, various specialty breads, as well as desserts round up the meal.

Oftentimes, we serve an audience of 70 people, on occasion over 100. That is more people than we have active members! And most of those, whom we serve, belong to their own churches or houses of worship. So, how can this lunchtime ministry be justified in the context of profit and loss?

The answer goes to the root of life itself. How do you justify family life, vacations, hobbies, or any other interest not immediately connected with people’s careers? And, if we look at the developments in our society on the whole, we realize that more and more people agree that this is not justifiable. Working hours increase, cell phones are being taken to bed at night, and vacation days are not claimed. I know, I am as guilty as everybody else, as I oftentimes skip more than one family dinner per week.

But seriously, it would be a cold world, if we left everything to profit and loss. If that principle were the goal of creation, I’m sure God would have created robots and computers to achieve it. Machines are not influenced by emotional needs.

But God didn’t. And so we continue here at the church to create a milieu in which people can thrive regardless of the demands of profit and loss. Look at the accompanying pictures of our Lunchtime Recital on October 10. What a great diversity of people graced that event. Note, for example, how many seniors were there, and how many school children! For the first time, the Livingston school had brought a class of third-graders.

See also the different facets of the event: The concert, the small talk, the meal, the crew in the kitchen, and the team that cleaned up. The latter consisted of our youngest children, students of Pine Grove Nursery School. At least they wore hard hats as they cleaned up the chairs!

In the end, I know that, what we did that day, will shape lives. Why? Because a lunchtime recital is an appropriationexercise. Here, the thresholds are down over against the church and serious music, but also over against interacting with people of different age groups and ethnic backgrounds. Here, people can enjoy and grow and be touched by something as unprofitable as the music in a fellowship hall.

Announcement: The November 14 Recital will be a beautiful end to the season. Come, and bring others for the 12:15 pm start of Daniel Swenboerg’s performance of Baroque Lute Music from Germany, Austria, and Italy as well as Baroque Guitar music from Spain and New Spain/Latin America.

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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