A NOTE FROM THE PRESIDENT
As I listen to the news, it is hard not to become overwhelmed. The political rancor, the mass tragedies, the tone of discussion on media outlets and on Facebook – it is hard not to get wrapped up in it all and to not lose sight of what is truly important. Upon consideration, however, it strikes me more and more just how important Christ’s Church is in this world and how vital our loving, enlivened church communities are! Our communities truly need active and prophetic servant-churches. While our churches may not be able to solve all of the world’s problems, what is important is our response – how we react and act both as individuals and, more importantly, as a community of God’s children living in this world together.
There are so many awesome, Spirit-inspired ways that the churches of the Classis New Brunswick are responding to the needs of their communities! Churches like First Reformed Church of New Brunswick, which has converted space in the church’s property to create a welcoming and affordable home for women who are victims of domestic violence CIC’s Church Based Mental Health Services, which offers low or no-cost counseling and assistance in numerous Classis churches. Rebuilding homes damaged by Hurricane Sandy – the many responses of our churches to the needs of our communities is both impressive and humbling!
Does your church have a story to tell or a program or ministry to share? We would love to highlight your church’s story on our website and in our newsletter! You are also invited to participate in any of our CIC board meetings or during one of our Congregational Engagement committee noon-time phone call meetings to share your story and to hear about how our other churches are responding to the world in loving, creative and constructive ways. Please contact us for our next meeting dates or check our Meeting Dates page for upcoming meetings:
CIC is hosting our second Annual Classis Work Trip from August 6 through 16. All are welcome to participate and work side by side with other members of your Classis! Additional information can be found here.
It is always a blessing to work, and to walk, with the Classis New Brunswick churches to help bring God’s Kingdom to our communities! Please contact us if you would like to discuss how we can help your church.
It is a blessing to be able to serve with you!
Brian P. Szura
President, CIC Board of Trustees
NeighborCorps Re-Entry Services
NeighborCorps Re-entry Services provides ongoing support to individuals returning to society from the Middlesex County Adult Correctional Center (MCACC). So far this year, we have been able to link our Participants with employment opportunities, treatment programs, secure housing, and most of all a offer a genuine source of support and community for those who have nowhere else to turn.
NeighborCorps started the year with a goal of increasing its total program Participants to 20 and we are proud to say that this goal has already been reached! We aim to grow to 30-40 Participants by the end of 2017. We are moving forward in continuing to strengthen our services, partnerships, resources, and relationships with MCACC staff.
NeighborCorps is always looking for volunteers who would like to get involved and support our program. Whether you are interested in being a Navigator for one of our Participants, attending our monthly Steering Committee meetings, or assisting with a current project, our door is open! Please visit our website at NeighborCorpsReentry.org for more information or contact our Program Director, Justina Otero, 732-675-1452, or by email, NeighborCorps@gmail.com.
CALTR – Churches Accomplishing Long-Term Recovery
Churches Accomplishing Long-Term Recovery (CALTR) has been rebuilding homes along the New Jersey Shore since the landfall of Hurricane Sandy. Thus far, 2016 has been a time of transition for CALTR. We completed our Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund grant, which had contributed $99,000 to fund staff and materials in 2014/15, and we have since faced the challenge of finding new funding as recovery resources become scarcer. Our faith-based partners in disaster recovery, including Gateway and Brethren Disaster Relief, have closed down operations due to this lack of funding, creating a need for CALTR to do its own intake & assessment.
Despite these challenges, CALTR Project Coordinator, Harry Pangemanan, and his local and out-of-state volunteer groups, continue to rebuild homes and provide hope to communities that were devastated by the storm. CALTR has led three Days of Service so far this year with a total of 49 volunteers from faith-based and civic organizations taking part. A total of seven out-of-state groups, most through our continued partnership with World Renew, have made or will make the trip to NJ in the Spring & Summer months – a total of 171 week-long volunteers.
We continue to be blessed by partnerships with The Foundation to save the Jersey Shore and The Community Outreach Group of Middletown, who provide funding. Our week-long groups also bring a standard donation to cover hospitality & materials.
Volunteer and Hospitality Coordinator, Deb Convery, has been working with Reformed Church of Highland Park congregant, Amina Megalli, on completion of a promotional video for CALTR that should hopefully be ready by the end of summer. August 31 marks the end of Deb’s status with CALTR as a regularly paid employee, and she wishes to thank all those who have provided her with the opportunity to serve the homeowners at the Jersey shore.
Church-Based Mental Health Services
Church Based Mental Health Services (CBMHS) began providing low cost mental health services in January of 2016. CBMHS is now operating at 6 churches across Middlesex, Monmouth, and Somerset Counties providing mental health assessments, individual therapy, and support groups, regardless of a client’s ability to pay. In addition to increasing accessing to professional mental health care, the program seeks to build community awareness about mental health issues and decrease stigma around mental illness.
May was Mental Health Awareness Month and this year’s theme was “Life With Mental Illness.” People contributed works of art, poems, and personal narratives as expressions of what it is like to live with – or love someone living with – mental illness. These works were displayed at Colts Neck Reformed Church and The Reformed Church of Highland Park.
June was CBMHS’s busiest month yet, providing over 56 hours of direct client contact at little, and in most cases, no cost to clients. Each time a client receives help – and hope – now without adding to their financial burdens, the program demonstrates its necessity. Moving forward we are looking for licensed clinicians who are interested in volunteering an hour per week for groups or individual therapy, and social workers willing to help with resources or case management. Please contact April Humes at 732-867-8647 for more information about getting involved.
First Reformed Church of New Brunswick Chosen as CIC’s “Focus Church”
The CIC Board of Trustees is pleased to announce that First Reformed Church of New Brunswick has been selected as this year’s “Focus Church” and we are excited to have the opportunity to work closely with the FRCNB’s congregation and community!
The Focus Church Campaign (FCC) is a brand new, joint initiative of Classis New Brunswick and Churches Improving Communities that provides one Classis NB church a full year of concentrated technical assistance to expand their reach into the community, thereby increasing potential membership, congregational vitality, and community involvement. The Focus Church Campaign is made possible through a generous anonymous donation from one of our Classis’ churches, and CIC is grateful for the opportunity to invest in the potential of churches and their communities through this program! The donation will allow the Focus Church Campaign to continue for an additional two years, and CIC hopes to assist two more Classis NB churches through the program in the coming years.
First Reformed Church of New Brunswick submitted a strong and thoughtful application. An initial meeting was held on June 24, 2016 between members of First Reformed Church of New Brunswick (Pastor Hartmut Kramer-Mills, Benjamin Berman, and Lolly Schenck), and members of the CIC Focus Church Campaign Steering Committee (Norma Coleman-James, Gordon Wich, CIC Executive Director Carrie Dirks Amodeo and CIC board members Jean Stockdale, Rachel Weissenburger, and Brian Szura). The group toured the church property as well as the beautiful “new old sanctuary” that was recently rededicated.
One of the goals of the FCC program is to ensure that there is a theological rationale and basis for the project or program that is ultimately chosen. The FCC Steering Committee found a perfect partner in First Reformed Church. “The message of Gospel does not exhaust itself in our struggle for social justice” said Pastor Hartmut. “It addresses all of human life and not only a particular aspect, even if that aspect is social justice. Sometimes, the Gospel takes the form of psychotherapy. At other times it challenges a culture’s ideological thinking and concepts that are at odds with our humanity. At other times, the Gospel takes the form of artistic expression. Since the scope of the Gospel encompasses all aspects of human life, our evangelizing can take many forms. It could be a concert series or recovery efforts after a natural disaster; it could take place in a prison or hospital setting or in a book-and-movie club. Each church will set its own preferences, things where it is really good at. And since nothing stays the same, it will change these preferences over time.”
“I was very impressed to learn about all the ways that First Reformed Church of New Brunswick plays an important, Christ-centered role in their community” said Brian Szura, CIC President. “The church, despite the small size of its congregation, is accomplishing some very big things through the guidance of the Spirit. The church is also representative of many of the churches within our Classis – a relatively small but active congregation, coupled with some interesting property challenges and opportunities. I am excited to see how CIC can serve FRCNB and hope to use what we learn this year as a model for assisting other churches throughout the Classis in the future!”
The “Local Focus Church Campaign Committee” is currently being formed, which will be comprised of members of First Reformed of New Brunswick and of CIC’s FCC Steering Committee. The committee will meet to discern a program or project that will be the focus of this year and set timelines, goals and an action plan. Updates will be highlighted regularly in this newsletter, and on CIC’s website.
For more information about First Reformed Church of New Brunswick, and to learn of the wonderful work that is being done in that community, please visit http://firstreformedchurch.net/
For more information at the program, please visit CIC’s website at: http://improvingnj.org/wordpress/focus-church-campaign/