Re-dedicating Our New, Old Sanctuary

After years of planning and construction, our new, old sanctuary radiates with new splendor. When built in 1812 it was the fourth in a sequence of outgrown sanctuaries that had previously housed our congregation. The building offered space to 1,100 worshippers and was the largest building in the state. Our new sanctuary offers space for almost 200, and it has come out very nice!

Our congregation has always felt obligated to both its history and the needs of the surrounding community. Too much empty space on Sunday mornings was not in line with our sense of purpose. That’s how Dina’s Dwellings came into being: 10 apartments for victims of domestic violence and a more appropriately sized sanctuary, both side by side in the old church building.

Dina’s Dwellings” was opened on February 11; the sanctuary was re-dedicated on June 11. It was a day for the community that included contributions from a variety of groups and institutions. It was also an interfaith affair: Muslims from the Turkish-American Peace Islands Institute were involved just as much as Cantor Anna Ott from Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple, the great synagogue on Livingston Avenue.

My sermon tried to bring out the significance of church architecture: “The sheer sight of our illuminated steeple at night reminds people that they are not living by coincidence.” It also emphasized that the new sanctuary will be open to the community: “It would not be God’s house, if it were not also a house for everyone else.”

Among our guests was also New Brunswick architect Jeff Venezia, the prime architect of the project. We greeted him in worship with much applause. In addition to Ms. Ott, the re-dedication drew other well know church-musicians from our area: Martin Tel, the Director of Music at Princeton Theological Seminary visited a day earlier, John Sheridan, Director of Music at Christ Church here in New Brunswick, and Mark Trautman, formerly Director of Music at Christ Church, now serving St. Paul’s in Englewood. They remarked on the great acoustics of the new, old sanctuary.

May the new space allow us for many years to gather around God’s Table and to do from here our part in the transformation of the world!











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Sunday School Finale

There are many advantages to a child’s upbringing in a small church. Here, the child will be exposed to many generations and not be confined more or less to his or her own age group. In fact, in a small church, everything is more accessible than in a larger one. It’s very family-like when young parents come to worship knowing that everyone surrounding them will know their children’s names. If you ever found truth in the saying that it takes a village to raise a child, then the small church is the answer.

Of course, being child-centered in many ways does not mean that everything is geared towards the children. We are intentional about times together and times apart. And we try staying in sync with the school year. On June 5th, we ended a year, and we will begin another one on September 12 with a new Rally Sunday or Sunday of Blessings.

And if you would like to catch a glimpse of what it means to go to Sunday School at First Reformed in New Brunswick, then take a look at the accompanying pictures that feature some of our youngest worshippers!




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Orlando Prayer Vigil

It is important to take note of some of the public witness of the houses of worship to which First Reformed Church belongs. On June 22, we followed a call from City Hall to join in a prayer vigil for the victims of the horrible massacre in Orlando. It was a wonderful event because it proved that terror will not have the last word. We sang and mourned and meditated, but we also expressed our resolve to disarm hate.



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A Program for Church Growth

Our Classis recently established a program on church growth. It is particularly interesting for congregations that are too small to create their own Church Growth Committee. If they have a pastor and two volunteers, they can receive from Classis a few more volunteers and staff-support in the person of Carrie Dirks, who is the executive director of Churches Improving Communities, the community development corporation of our Classis.

So this is wonderful, volunteers and a staff person from Classis for a growth program in the local church. And it comes even better: First Reformed Church was recently chosen to be the focus church in this program for the next 12 months! It means that we are currently not only enjoying a new sanctuary, but that we have real hope to welcome new members in our midst.

But there is a problem: Even though the number of participants from our side is really small, we have not been able to meet it. So far, Ben Berman and I are the only participants. We would need at least one more person, better two, in order to work efficiently with the folks from Classis.

So, if you have it in your heart to join these efforts, please talk to me (732.545.1005). The work begins with meeting with our local growth committee and also with the supervising Classis committee. Together, we will first analyze our context and develop a theological rationale for inviting others. And then we will go about planning a growth campaign with various events – all designed to encourage others to become part of our worshipping community.

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From Pastor’s Desk

Pastor's Desk

Pastor’s Desk

It is just amazing how close we are to reopening and re-dedicating our new-old sanctuary! And, of course, it’s not ours at all because it is God’s. Amazing is also to what degree the developments over here run parallel to the ways in which Rev. Molehe’s church construction in Middelburg, South Africa nears completion. Just see the following pictures:

Look at this beautiful truss work! During the reconfiguration of our own church building, we also developed some intimate familiarity with the problems trusses can cause!

And this is a picture from the Pentecost service of our sister church. Much work remains to be done on their church. We, too, will have to finish some of the work after the re-dedication.

Currently, we have carpenter Paul and his team in the sanctuary finishing the sacristy screen and the historic pews where they were damaged during constriction. They are also building sub-flooring behind the pews. Then there are painter Scott and his team. They are painting the pews, the base of the sacristy screen and the floor of the pew area where it will not be covered with carpet. They will also paint the center vestibule and the center door to the church. The other vestibules and adjacent stairwells will follow later this year. Finally, there will be a carpet company putting down carpet behind the pew area and down the four aisles.

Our church is fortunate to have received several special donations that will cover much of the cost. But the rest is simply miraculous! While we continue with an almost 6-digit negative budget, we will have a fully renovated, air-conditioned and ADA-compliant sanctuary. And we did not have to pay for it or even carry the burden of the administration. Others did this for us, and ETOMIC, the developer’s general contractor, was more than generous, and so was our developer Bergen County’s United Way / Madeline Housing Partners LLC. We owe a lot of gratitude to a lot of people who rushed to support us – sometimes without us even knowing it.

Such love and support oblige us for the future. They are signs that God has a plan for our church family and for the ministries we offer to each other and to the community.

truss3

Don’t be startled by the wrapped-up organ console! This is not another Cristo-project but evidence that our organ builder Carl has begun looking for a smaller, better fitting console.

The new sacristy screen does not only solve our storage problems after the loss of the Robing Room. It is also a tip at the hat towards the sacristy screen that vanished in the fire of 1971.

The new sacristy screen does not only solve our storage problems after the loss of the Robing Room. It is also a tip of the hat towards the sacristy screen that vanished in the fire of 1971.

We hope, dear Reader, that all this may inspire you to join us on Saturday, June 11 th when we will celebrate the re-dedication of the sanctuary. The time table is this:

3:00-5:00PM  Community Festival with several stations in fellowship hall and the church.
4:30-5:00PM  Rehearsals of choir and bell choir.
5:00-5:45PM  Re-Dedication Worship Service in the sanctuary.
5:45-7:00PM  Ice Cream Social

What a great privilege it is to belong to a church like this in a time like ours!

With fond wishes,

Pastor Hartmut

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Program Directory – June 11, 2016

Community Fesitival 3:00 – 5:00 PM:

LOCATION: Education Building, Fellowship Hall

  • Walking the Labyrinth
    Rutgers Protestant Campus Ministry, Rev. Jeanie Collins

LOCATION: Breezeway

  • History of First Reformed Church
    First Reformed Church, Pastor Hartmut Kramer-Mills
  • Ancient Foot Stool History
    Middlesex County Cultural & Heritage Commission, Mark Nonestied

LOCATION: Church Building, Community Room

  •  Interfaith from a Muslim Perspective
    Peace Islands Institute
  • Testimonial Book
    First Reformed Church, Thakshila Upasena and Fawn Stephens
  • Inclusive Ministry with Persons with Autism
    First Reformed Church, Gary Bernhofer and Heather Epstein
  • Children’s Program
    First Reformed Church, Lolly Schenck

Sanctuary Rededication: 5:00 – 5:45PM

  • Cantor Anna Ott from Anshe Memorial Temple
  • Harpist Elaine Christy
  • Choir & Bell Choir of First Reformed Church, directed by Ben Berman

Please join us for an Ice Cream Social from 5:45 PM on in Fellowship Hall in the Education Building.

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Sanctuary Re-Dedication Festival

The Chocolate Tasting Party held on May 7, was a tasty success for those who came out. We played games, sampled chocolate inspired drinks, sauces desserts and more.  The committee is very grateful to those members of the congregation who showed their support. The committee was able to meet the fundraising goal of $500 to support the upcoming Sanctuary Re-Dedication Festival.

The re-dedication of the Sanctuary on June 11, 2016 is just a few weeks away now! After over 1 year of waiting, the redesigned sanctuary space is ready for worshipers.

The re-dedication festival committee has personally invited over 100 members and friends of the congregation.  Planning has been in process for many months.

The committee is sincerely hopeful that you will show your support and satisfy your curiosity by joining in this historic event. Your presence and enthusiasm is a critical piece of the event.  The festival is FRC’s opportunity to re-introduce ourselves to the community.  To this end, we have invited many of the community groups that are part of our church life. Your presence isn’t just for yourself; it’s for the future of FRC. We have much to offer, but in a world with so many distractions we just cannot afford to sit back and assume a continuing existence.  Come out and tell the community around FRC why you chose to be a member of “The Oldest Congregation in the Newest Church”.

The time table is this:
3:00-5:00PM Community Festival with several stations in fellowship hall and the church.
4:30-5:00PM Rehearsals of choir and bell choir.
5:00-5:45PM Re-Dedication Worship Service in the sanctuary.
5:45-7:00PM       Ice Cream Social

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