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Remembering Who We Are: How Congregations Commemorate and Celebrate Their Heritages

December 6, 2018 @ 10:00 am - 2:30 pm

The Reformed Church Center Looks at How and Why Congregations Celebrate Their History

After the first Sunday, every congregation has a past. What we do with those pasts, how we remember and celebrate, is significant to understanding how we live out our faith, according to David Zwart, Associate Professor of History at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan, and 2018-19 Albert A Smith fellow in Reformed Church History at New Brunswick Theological Seminary.

Zwart will be the keynote presenter for “Remembering Who We Are: How Congregations Commemorate and Celebrate Their Heritages”, a program hosted by the Reformed Church Center at NBTS on Thursday, 6 December, from 10:00 am to 2:30 pm. His address—“An Obligation to the Past? RCA Congregations and History after World War II”—examines the ways Reformed Church in America congregations conceptualized and used the past in the second half of the twentieth century. By surveying congregational anniversary books, certain patterns and exceptions emerge in how congregations conceptualized and used the past. Congregations showed they felt some obligation to their history by commemorating anniversaries. They generally emphasized faithful forbearers and pastors. However, some seemed to use the past to constrain any innovations while others did the opposite. Historical variables may account for these differences. Studying the ways congregations in the RCA conceptualized and used the past sheds light on the historical process of memory formation. It also helps us understand how congregations navigate contentious issues by appealing to the past.

Other presenters will look at ways in which RCA congregations which are not ethnically Dutch remember and celebrate their identities.

Patricia Singletary holds Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees from NBTS, and serves as pastor of Elmendorf Reformed Church in New York. She will share the story of how that congregation is leading its community in rediscovering an African Burial Ground in East Harlem and using it to strengthen the neighborhood’s knowledge of its roots.
Gerri Igarashi Yoshida is a member of the Japanese American United Church, also in New York City, and serves on the Pastoral Formation & Transitions Committee of the Classis of New York and the Executive Committee of the RCA Council for Pacific and Asian American Ministries. She will lead a discussion of how her congregation celebrates its identity.
Regina Robles Brannock, a mother, grandmother, and member of the Comanche Nation, has been part of the Apache Reformed Church in Oklahoma since 1971, and has served as Sunday School teacher, Deacon, and Elder, as well as serving on the RCA Council for Christian Education, General Synod Council, and Native American Council. A current candidate for ministry as a commissioned pastor, Ms. Brannock will examine the ways the Apache congregation remembers its history.
Russell L. Gasero, a graduate of Hope College and Rutgers University who established the RCA Archives in 1978 and continues as Archivist of the Reformed Church in America, will help us consider the importance of congregational histories for the ministries of local churches and denominations.

Everyone is welcome to be part of this event. There will be a suggested donation of $10.00 for lunch, but all will be fed regardless of ability to pay. Lunch is free for all seminary students and members of the NBTS faculty and staff. RSVP to James Brumm at by Monday, 3 December.


December 6, 2018
10:00 am - 2:30 pm
Event Category:


James Hart Brumm, Director, The Reformed Church Center


NJ Campus
NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ 08901 United States
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