The Last of the Dumpsters

Many members of our volunteer team have loved big toys from childhood on. It came as no surprise, then, when on Good Friday this past month several of us came out to watch the last of our dumpsters being picked up. Was it truly the last? For ten years now, we had dumpsters in our grave yard regularly. There may be more to come, especially when the church roof is being replaced and the steeple renovated. However, these dumpsters will hopefully be filled by professionals and not by volunteers. In this sense, our Good Friday dumpster may indeed have been the last of its kind.

As appealing as dumpster and truck technology may be to several of us, including myself, dumpsters are at the same time powerful symbols of how we should deal or not deal with our heritage and tradition. There is a fine line to be observed. Oftentimes, it is all too easy to throw just about everything into the dumpster and to start over with something new.

Even here at First Reformed Church, we sometimes succumb to this temptation. But then there are moments where we become aware of this. That’s when our sense of stewardship comes to bear, and we realize our obligation to preserve a tradition that is greater than our momentary whims.

This does not make us preservationists at all cost. On the contrary, we are quite aware that preservation as an end in itself will mean the end to all living tradition. In order to survive, tradition needs change. Here at the church, we have found a good middle way for this. We have subscribed to preserving our outside by the strict standards of state sponsored historic preservation. Yet, we found ways that led Pine Grove Nursery establish a playground in front of the church. At the same time, we are remodeling our interior to fit a new time. The upstairs of the Church House is currently adjusted so that it can accommodate the nursery school.

We have finished the updating the downstairs, especially the new bathrooms. Now, we are looking forward to the emergence of plans regarding the remodeling of our sanctuary. The old and the new — in this balance, our church is thriving.

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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