What Church Membership Is All About

Are you considering to follow the invitation and to make this your home church? Then you might be interested in the following excerpt from Pastor Hartmut’s sermon on the Baptism of the Lord, January 13, 2013. The accompanying pictures give an impression of the worship atmosphere in the Randolph Room on that Sunday. Pastor Hartmut said,

So what do we say when someone asks us what it means to become a member?

  • Many people will say it means appreciation for a rich history as one of the oldest denominations in North America.
  • Some will add that it entails esteem for our historic buildings.
  • Others will point out the warmth and openness of our church family. Becoming a member means to be accepted by a good group of people.
  • And there is yet a fourth group. Its adherents value their membership because it makes them part of good social causes. They are here for the Men’s Shelter, our benevolent activities, the lunchtime concerts, and even the prospect of providing apartments to Women Aware.

Oftentimes in these conversations, I sit and listen. God knows, these are all good reasons. They distinguish us by miles from the general egocentric materialism of our time. I’m just wondering whether any of these responses are enough to explain church membership.

For some reason, the image of the open heaven does not let go of me. “The heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove.” (Luke 3:22) There were no historic buildings involved, and it didn’t happen in the midst of a warm and welcoming church family. Yet, the heaven was opened.

Later on, Pastor Hartmut concluded in his sermon:

To us Christians, baptism is a sign that heaven is open. Whenever we remember baptism, we return to God and take residence in our home in the heavens. And for as long as we are down here on earth, the church helps us not to forget our heavenly place. That is what baptism means, and, ultimately, this is what church membership is all about: They are gifts from God who opened heaven for us.

About Susan Kramer-Mills

Susan Kramer-Mills' journey as a pastor has led her to a variety of places. Before attending McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago she was a Volunteer-in-Mission for two years West Berlin, Germany. After returning to the United States and graduating from seminary, she returned with her husband Hartmut to Germany. From 1990 to 1992 she was campus chaplain and registrar at Naumburg Seminary in former East Germany. With the closing of the seminary she assumed the pastorate for the yoked congregations of Stoessen, Goerschen and Rathewitz in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. At the same time she taught Religious Instruction at two public elementary schools until 1998. During this time she was assigned six additional congregations to the original three. In 1998, she received a call as Associate Pastor to Trinity Presbyterian Church in East Brunswick, New Jersey. She served in that position until 2000, when she and her husband accepted a call as co-pastors to First Reformed Church in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Since April 1, 2004, Rev. Kramer-Mills has also been working part-time as Classis Minister to the Classis of New Brunswick.
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