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Audio recording of the interview with Rev. Bruce R. Bramlett
Rev. Bruce R. Bramlett
(Interviewed by Maryl R. Sachs on 4/25/1984. Transcription: 36 pages)
Rev. Bramlett is the pastor of St. Mark's Episcopal Church. He arrived in Teaneck in 1979 for the purpose of assuming that post. Pages one through twenty concern Father Bramlett's childhood and the impact of his father, a fundamentalist preacher, and his grandfather, a New York City policeman, had upon his life.
Rev. Bramlett attended Brooklyn Technical High School and planned to be an architect. Afterwards, he decided to pursue a liberal arts degree at Central College in Pela, Iowa. The narrator remembers clearly when the seed to pursue ministry was first planted. While still in high school, his youth group leader asked him if he ever thought of becoming a minister. Father Bramlett recalls that he laughed but honestly admits that his journey toward ordination was a kind of trying to get "the monkey off my back" (p. 9). Although he attended Central College to go into psychotherapy, he became very involved in civil rights work and the peace movement. His religious and social convictions seemed powerfully connected, and he knew whatever he chose to do would emerge from a Christian commitment. Rev. Bramlett decided to attend seminary after graduation. He says he wanted a theological education, but no part of parish work! (p. 10)
In 1970, the narrator dropped out of seminary after one semester, divorced his college bride, then decided to take a full time job as a long haul charter bus driver for eight months (p. 11-12). At twenty-two years of age with a couple of thousand dollars saved, Bramlett took off for Europe for another eight months stretch of time. Father Bramlett relates the impact of that experience on pages thirteen through sixteen and indicates that he kept running across people who called upon "those things inside me" which he labels his "vocation to ministry." Rev. Bramlett admits he was still running away from it at that point but that "the monkey was still on my back." In 1974, while observing Holy Week at an Anglican monastery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Pastor Bramlett experienced a life changing conversion that resulted in his returning to seminary (p. 17-18). Afterwards, he did a year internship in an Episcopalian parish north of Boston and was later confirmed there. He applied for ordination, but the process took another two years. Rev. Bramlett explains in the Episcopal Church getting ordained "is really a matter of persistence" (p. 19-20). The narrator was eventually ordained by the diocese of western Massachusetts and worked two years in Williamstown, MA. From there he was called to be an associate at a very large parish in Essex Fells in northern New Jersey. Unfortunately, his passion for social justice was incompatible with the affluent atmosphere of the church, so Father Bramlett says he jumped at the chance to get into Teaneck (p. 22).
Rev. Bramlett describes St. Mark's in 1979 as "insular" and at a "low ebb" (p. 22). The people who had originally founded the congregation were near retirement age, and their children were grown and had moved away. He explains that with the many changes that had come to the church, some members transitioned easily others did not. Many left in anger particularly because of his push for community involvement and his attempts to raise the consciousness of parishioners in terms of social issues--world hunger, the peace movement and nuclear weapons (p. 28).
Rev. Bramlett, along with Rabbi Deborah Prinz of the Reformed Jewish congregation, established a dialogue between parishioners in St. Mark's and congregants in Beth Am. Father Bramlett has committed his life to setting the relationship right between Christians and Jews as a result of going to Yadvashem, the Holocaust memorial, in 1979 (p 24-26). Among the people who have participated, Rev. Bramlett has seen a wonderful growing respect for each others traditions and for the commonality that we share. He hopes that the dialogues can be broadened to include the conservative and orthodox congregations (p. 28),
His other religious/community affiliations include co-chair of the Teaneck Clergy Association, president of the Campus Chaplainry Enabling Board at Fairleigh Dickinson University and the UJC of Bergen County, the interfaith task force. He is also chairman of a small group called Americans Concerned for Israel and the Middle East. Father Bramlett is a member of AIPAC, the America Israel Public Action Committee and also a member of the diocese task force on Jewish Christian relations (p. 26). Rev. Bramlett has been involved in the Teaneck Satellite Center for Food Action and was once arrested during a sit-in at the West German consulate in N. Y. when protesting the sale of massive amounts of weapons by them to Saudi Arabia (p. 28-29).
On April 30, Father Bramlett was one of the featured speakers at the Community Holocaust Commemoration sponsored by the Jewish Community Council of Teaneck (p. 31). Sharing that he is thinking of going back to graduate school for a doctorate in Jewish Christian relations, Rev. Bramlett readily admits that Israel is his adopted homeland, explaining "You know I just live here. Israel is home,"