Redrawing the Map

Sometimes, we hold maps in our heads that are misleading rather than providing the orientation we need. Such is the case with the map that defines New Brunswick as the city to which most of our members commute from the suburbs.

Oh, this map can yield funny results! How often in the past have we encountered the need to justify ourselves against the charge that we do not really represent the community in which our church is built. This is a serious charge, and we should not dismiss it. The more the surrounding community is reflected in the faces of our worshipping congregation, the more complete our worship will be. For this reason, our ministry values diversity and inclusiveness.

However, the distinction between inner city and suburb itself may have to be updated. It originated from a time when the inner city was ugly and the suburbs safe. This has changed considerably. Consequently, our inner map can be redrawn.

Today, New Brunswick is in many ways the cultural and administrative center of all the surrounding suburbs. In the past, people used to come here for mainly three reasons: the hospitals, work, or social services. But this has changed dramatically. Today, there is a plethora of restaurants, concerts, theaters and open air events. New neighborhoods have emerged with an entirely new scene of art and music. I would venture to say that the city’ consumption of electricity is much higher during the weekends than during normal work days.

What does this mean for us as a church? Foremost it means that we have to draw a wider radius in what we call “our community”. It may not be very helpful any more to emphasize too much the border that separates the city from the suburbs. Instead, the city has become the central place where much of the suburbs’ cultural life takes place. We still have the obligation of serving our immediate neighborhoods to the best of our capabilities. And we do so with much of our social outreach.

However, this does not mean that we should not also direct some of our outreach into the suburb communities from where many of our members come. The field to plow is bigger than we sometimes think.

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.
This entry was posted in General, Items of Interest, Pastor's Desk and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.