Annual March and Rally Against Domestic Violence

DVflyer

View/Print DV March and Rally flyer

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Concert @ FRC

Dear Friends and Supporters: Please join us at First Reformed Church on Sunday, October 19th at 7:00pm for an evening of song. Hyang-Soo Heo, mezzo-soprano, Eunhye Grace Kim, soprano, and Sohee Lee, piano will perform works by Chopin, Berlioz, Brahms, and others. Enter the church at the glass door on Bayard St. While there are no tickets, please consider making a donation of $15, or $10 for seniors, or $5 for students. The concert will be held in the Randolph Room next to Fellowship Hall. Please tell your friends about our concert, and about our concert series. See the flyer for more information. Consider posting it wherever you can. Thank you, as always, for your kind support. I hope to see you on the 19th.

Sincerely, Benjamin T. Berman

Flyer--Concert

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From Pastor’s Desk

pc_hartmutRoom for All (RfA) is an organization whose mission is the welcome and full affirmation of LBTGQ people in the Reformed Church in America. Supporters of the organization in West Michigan are planning a major fundraising dinner on October 28. In order to have a meaningful resource table for the event, RfA Executive Director Marilyn Paarlberg has asked all supporting churches to provide short statements on what it means for them to be an open-and-affirming and RfA-rostered church.

What does one write in response? Here at First Reformed, our most pronounced statement on our stance is found in the church’s Bylaws. Article I, Section 4 reads: “Candidates for the ordained offices of the church (Deacons, Elders, Pastors) will not be discriminated against on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, age, ethnicity, or physical disability.

As progressive as this text is, it hardly displays much trailblazing quality. We are in the Bylaws here, a genre of text not usually known for its visionary or programmatic quality!

And maybe this is okay at least in parts. The normalcy of including LGBTQ persons in all aspects of congregational life may very well be at odds with attempts of turning a spotlight on LGBTQ people. We would not do this for people with heterosexual orientation. If something is considered “normal”, it does not have to be the focus of attention.

But is this really the main reason why not more is found as far as our congregation’s self-presentation on the issue? For it is also true that we do not have a lot of structure in place to intentionally ponder these questions. And it is still overwhelmingly evident that in reality LGBTQ people have not made it into the mainstream of normalcy, neither here at First Reformed nor in the Reformed Church in America.

So back to the request from RfA! What evidence could we provide that we are serious about being open-and-affirming? What does it really mean to be on the roster of RfA registered churches? Should our Invitation & Outreach Committee launch a congregational discussion on this? Should Consistory take up the issue in its wider planning and visioning efforts? Should we start an LGBT focus group?

These are all viable possibilities. However, as so often in life, if there are not intentional individual people behind it, these things will not happen and thus remain forever in the realm of the good ideas on which we forgot to act.

So what does it mean for us right now to be on the roster of RfA? It means to be open to the organization’s challenges and reminders that there is work to be done in our midst. It means to stay open to the call to get involved and to join with others in furthering much needed change. It may also mean to learn from other roster-churches what they have done.

In all of this, may our thoughts be guided by what the Lord once said according to Matthew: “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Mt 25:40)

With fond wishes,
Pastor Hartmut

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Jazzin’ for Funds at Old Bay

jazzin old bay flyer

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Fethullah Gulen’s Message Condemning ISIS Appears in 5 U.S. Dailies

Fethullah Gulen, a world renowned scholar, preacher and social advocate published his message of condemnation in today’s New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, LA Times and Chicago Tribune. Fethullah Gulen is the Honorary President of Washington, D.C. based Rumi Forum.

ISIS Cruelty Deserves Our Strongest Condemnation

As a practicing Muslim deeply influenced by tenets of my faith, I strongly condemn the brutal atrocities of the ISIS terrorist group. Their actions are a disgrace to the faith they proclaim and are crimes against humanity. Religion provides a foundation upon which to establish peace, human rights, freedoms and the rule of law. Any interpretations to the contrary, including the abuse of religion to fuel conflicts, are simply wrong and deceitful.

ISIS is not the first group to use religious rhetoric to mask its cruelty-Al Qaeda did so 13 years ago and Boko Haram more recently. What they all have in common is a totalitarian mentality that denies human beings their dignity.

Any form of violence against innocent civilians or prosecution of minorities contradicts the principles of the Qur’an and the traditions of our Prophet (upon whom be peace and blessings). ISIS members are either completely ignorant about the faith they proclaim or their actions are designed to serve individual interests or those of their political masters. Regardless, their actions represent those of a terrorist group and, as such, they should be brought to justice and compelled to answer for their horrific crimes.

I send my heartfelt condolences to the families of the deceased in Iraq and Syria, and to the families of James Foley, Steven Sotloff, and David Haines. May God give them strength, patience and perseverance, and alleviate their suffering. I also pray for the immediate and safe release of hostages and ask God, the Merciful, to lead us all toward mutual respect and peace. I invite everyone around the world to join me in these prayers.

Fethullah Gulen
Islamic scholar, preacher and social advocate

Fethullah Gulen’s original August 22 statement on ISIS is available at www.afsv.org

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Brad Redeker’s Ordination

It is always special when a member of our church is ordained to the office of minister of Word and Sacrament. Brad had joined our congregation as a student, and his coming under care of our Classis had originated in our congregation. On September 21, his long journey found its fulfillment when the Classis convened at the grounds of the redesigned New Brunswick Theological Seminary for his ordination service. Many members of First Reformed Church attended, and four of us participated even in the worship service. The feast following the event was lavish, and Brad’s mother had brought much cake from her kitchen in Michigan.

Brad will continue to be a member at First Reformed Church. However, he lives now close to Atlantic City where he works in the hospital as chaplain. Congratulations, Brad, and may your service be a blessing to many!




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Friendship Gathering with Turkish-American Neighbors

It was about time that we came together again with our Turkish-American friends on September 14. Many hands had provided a great lunch, and there was an interesting program afterwards led by Dr. Nuray Yurt and Dr. Yeshim Tokat.

We discussed two topics:

  1. How does the crisis caused by the ISIS invasion in Syria and northern Iraq challenge our understanding of religion? And what might we do to prevent especially young people from feeling attracted by ISIS ideology? The digital outreach of this terrorist organization seems to be able to infiltrate our culture where it might be most vulnerable – the level of young people searching for independence and identity.
  2. How does the current domestic crisis in Turkey affect the movement of Fethullah Gülen here and abroad?

At the end of the event, we decided to form a task force and to invite representatives from other faith traditions to it. The goal is to write an open letter to the community regarding the danger of ISIS ideology even here at home. Please call the church office, if you would like to join this effort (732.545.1005).

Friendship-Luncheon-1

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