From Pastor’s Desk

Pastor's Desk

Pastor’s Desk

Please take a look at this photograph. It is one of several pictures from the current demolition phase of our Dina’s Dwellings Project and shows the dismantled wall and ceiling in one of the Sunday School rooms. Following the fire in 1971, we built these rooms in the old sanctuary. It was an attempt to gain classroom space and to diminish the sanctuary space that was already then too large.

In this picture, just the studs are left. Behind them, we see a lot of the fire-damaged old sanctuary wall and ceiling. In a sense, the current demolition has brought us back to ground zero of the 1971 fire. You might say that our current endeavor is therefore part of the second reconstruction after the fire. Seeing it in a sequence like this may make the sight of the current demolition a bit more bearable.

It is interesting, however, to what degree the current physical changes affect us emotionally in many ways. Some of us got tears in our eyes when exposed to the sight of the changed reality during one of the few occasions that such visits were still spontaneously possible in early January. It hit me when I turned off the sanctuary lights on Friday, December 27 and thought that this was the last time after more than 14 years of me using that big switch board. But by the mercy of God, I was back in already on the following Monday. Continue reading

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Town Clock CDC

Town Clock CDC

Town Clock CDC

By Susan Kramer-Mills, Executive Director


Over 30 of us were cheering, clapping, and enjoying the fact that the Rutgers Women’s Basketball team was leading the game against Michigan University from the get-go! In fact our team was so quick to gain a substantial lead, that some of us felt sorry for the losing team. But that feeling only lasted a short time. In the end, Rutgers Women led by 4 points. What a game!

Why are we attending the RU Women’s Basketball games?

Simple. Some of the team attended our Groundbreaking Ceremony, and there is certainly an affinity to connect, especially for the survivors who will eventually be residing within the walls of Dina’s Dwellings. Wouldn’t it be special for the RU Women’s Basketball team to be visiting with our residents, inviting them to games, and the like? Wouldn’t these strong team players be wonderful role models to the women and children?

I think there is so much GOOD that can happen, and so we are starting to build our connections to the team.

Won’t you join us for the next game on March 1st? Sherri Novack will be ordering tickets toward the end of this month. Let us know if you would like to attend with us. All we ask is that you purchase a ticket and wear a Town Clock CDC t-shirt.

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Adult Education

Our First Wednesdays’ Class has a number of promising evenings and presenters. Each session starts at 7:00 PM. Registration is not necessary.

February 4 “Relating to Residents of Dina’s Dwellings”
Moderator of our discussion will be Carlos Cordero, the Program Director of Social Services at the Chandler Community Health Center in New Brunswick. Carlos is also a board member of our Town Clock Community Development Corporation.

March 4 “Healthy Relationships”
Mariam Merced, the Director of the Community Health Promotion Program at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, will reflect with us on the better side of domestic violence: What are healthy relationships? How do we recognize them, and what can we do to support them? Mariam is also a member of Consistory at the Suydam Street Reformed Church.

April 8  “Zionism as an International Movement”
Rabbi Bennett Miller from Anshe Emeth Memorial Temple in New Brunswick will introduce us to the Zionist movement from the perspective of Reform Judaism. Rabbi Miller is the current chairperson of the Association of Reform Zionists in America.

In addition to the First Wednesday’s sessions, we offer now a Weekly Bible Study from 5:15 PM to 6:15 PM on Monday evenings. This weekly Study will not be academically oriented, but reflect on and pray over certain Bible passages and their meanings for our lives. Everyone is welcome

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Benevolence of the Month

This month’s designated benevolence offering goes to the Catholic Charities Ozanam Men’s Homeless Shelter, which is located on 20 Abeel Street in New Brunswick. As you all know we help to support the Men’s Shelter by providing space for 15 men during the winter for two weeks. However, the Ozanam Shelter houses about 30 men throughout the entire year. Thus, they are in constant need of having financial support for their programming and housing.

At any time during the year, there are about 200+ people who are without housing in New Brunswick. We know this because of the Point-in-Time count, which is done over a 24-hour period each January. Since New Brunswick is a HUB city, where many social services are easily available, many homeless people come here in order to find support. We hope that through our giving, we can help support the least of these.

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Children in an Interfaith World

This year, the congregations of New Brunswick’s Interfaith Coexistence Project celebrated their Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial service at the United Methodist Church on Monument Square. The Rainbow Children’s Choir mirrored our diversity well: There were children and leaders from Jewish, Christian and Muslim backgrounds.

Sometimes, our culture looks with skepticism at organized religion. All too often, houses of worship are deemed ineligible to apply for certain grants. Sometimes we hear of attempts to exclude historic houses of worship from public preservation funds, if they still house a live congregation.

But imagine a world without these older houses of worship! Usually they are the ones who have learned over the centuries to be tolerant and to appreciate the diversity of different traditions. In a world filled with violent clashes and even wars, the contributions of these houses of worship are more important than ever! Where else would one learn from childhood on that living together in peace is not a vision for the end of time but indeed a reality in this world?

On Martin Luther King Day, we did not only say this, but lived and appropriated it as well. The experience may have been life-shaping for our children. I am grateful for having been part of it.

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Emerging Leader Award

At the January stated meeting of Classis, we celebrated again the fact that there are numerous young people in many of our congregations, who swim against the general cultural stream when they embrace responsibility as emerging leaders.

For a second year in a row, our Classis honored these young people with a special award. Each pastor was asked to rise with the nominee from his or her church and to talk a little bit about the impact of the nominee’s work in the congregation.

Our consistory-appointed nominee was Fawn Stephens. She and Pete had spent the morning workshop with the Classis. It gave them a good overview of some of the Kingdom work that is being done in our congregations. When it was time for the award, I was privileged to present Fawn. I talked about her wonderful skills as clerk of consistory, but also about her participation in the adult education program of the church among other things.

We are blessed to have so many young people in our church who, like Fawn, pull their cart, so to speak, in order to make a difference in the community and with one another; ultimately to praise God with their lives. Thank you, Fawn, for all you do!


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Music Notes

music_notes The members of First Reformed Church often face living in a world that does not fully understand us. We engage in conversations with people every day who would question our faith in God. This is one of the side-effects of having an open, socially-involved church in an inner city. Just last month the Adult Ed class watched “Religulous,” a movie by Bill Maher in which he, an atheist, challenged some of our basic assumptions and attacked some of our most outrageous practices. While it was very funny, the movie also led us to consider the apologists of our history. So we read from Justin Martyr and others who had to defend the faith against accusations of cannibalism, incest, and other atrocities.

Perhaps we are used to hearing the cry of the atheists against Christianity. But what does it mean when an atheist is for us? The great English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) was an avowed atheist (and later he called himself a “contented agnostic”) who supported the church throughout his life. He was an editor of the English Hymnal, and set many sacred tunes, such as the Fantasy on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, to glorious orchestration. He is the author of one of our best-known tunes, SINE NOMINE, which we usually sing with the text “For All the Saints.” Perhaps one could say that the performance of music provides the opportunity to approach sacred music with secular detachment, but the evidence suggests Vaughan Williams was intimately attached to the Church and her poetry, if skeptical about her doctrine. Unlike Vaughan Williams, his contemporary Maurice Ravel did not set one single text of sacred music in his life, except for a handful of Hebrew prayers, which stemmed from his interest in Jewish Culture, but not religion. Whereas others reject the entire package of Christianity, Vaughan-Williams engages and loves its contents, enriches it and hands it back to us improved, as a “bride adorns herself with jewels” (Isaiah 61:10, NIV).

The First Reformed Church choir has begun preparing to sing Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Five Mystical Songs for our Easter Service. The piece is in five movements, to sacred texts by George Herbert, a seventeenth-century Anglican priest, with an emphasis on Easter. If you have ever thought about joining the choir, this could be your chance. Firstly, we need as many singers as we can to perform this piece convincingly. Secondly, it’s a one-time commitment, so if you decide you can’t continue, there will be no expectation. Thirdly, it will be an opportunity to explore the richness of early 20th century music and its intoxicatingly beautiful poetry.

Please join the FRC choir on Wednesdays from 7-9. While the choir has been working on the piece already, it will not be too late to sing with us if you can come to all of the following rehearsals:

March 11
March 18
March 25 and
April 1.

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