Open Doors, Open Minds

Have you ever heard of what an old Celtic notion called “thin space”? According to this understanding, sacred space is always “thin space” because it is space where walls are taken down and worlds can encounter each other. The encounter of worlds makes space holy. I liked the concept immediately, when Deborah Meister, the newly installed rector of neighboring Christ Episcopal Church, introduced it to the participants of the Jewish-Christian program Open Doors, Open Minds.

The program combines members of Christ Episcopal Church, Emanuel Lutheran Church, Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple and First Reformed Church. Each church has four delegates; the synagogue has 12 – this provides good parity in our discussions. We meet every other week with seven sessions in total; the notion of sacred space was discussed during our fifth session.Our findings have been remarkable in each session. We came together because we believe that dialog helps eliminate stereotypes, and because we want to establish a bit more of mainline religious life in town. Yet, in the course of it, we traveled through most interesting terrain. We searched for new symbols and images to express the relation between synagogue and church, we looked at our different ways of studying the Holy Scriptures, and we listened with empathy, when participants shared how their religion has impacted their lives. Once, we just talked about how we decorate our homes for important religious holidays.

Knowing that our last session approaches soon – the date is Dec 13th – I feel nothing but gratitude for the “thin space” provided by our respective houses of worship. I feel also privileged to serve as pastor of First Reformed Church. For it is true: Whenever something like this interfaith program is going on, First Reformed Church is involved. We are already looking forward to a similar program with Muslims from the Raritan Turkish-American Cultural Foundation during Lent 2007.

The photograph was taken by Heather Epstein on Nov 1st, when our church hosted Open Doors. Other participants from our church were Emily Waanders and Gary Bernhofer.

 

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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