IRVINGTON/ORANGE, NJ — When the Rev. Ronald B. Christian, pastor of Christian Love Baptist Church in Irvington, died unexpectedly last year, his widow, Tami Christian, also a minister, split from that church and started her own New Beginnings Ministries, using the satellite church her husband had founded at the Irvington Housing Authority as the seed for her new church. IHA Executive Director David Brown, however, recently decided Christian could no longer preach at the federally funded public housing complex, located on the corner of Union and Nye avenues, leaving Christian scrambling to find another facility.
Christian found her answer when a phone call was placed to Shane Adams, campaign manager for former Orange Zoning Board member and current 2016 mayoral candidate Janice Morrell.
“It was a phone call given, asking if I knew of a place she could go; there was little monies that she had to go into a place,” said Adams on Sunday, April 17, after New Beginnings Ministries held its first service at Morrell’s campaign headquarters at 281 Main St. in Orange. “She called Mayor Warren and the place that he offered her she couldn’t even fit 50 people in.
“She has a congregation right now of at least 200 people, so when she called me, I told her, ‘Don’t worry,’ before Sunday morning, she would have somewhere to go. Even if I had to rent somewhere for her to go, she would have somewhere to go. But I have a campaign office here on Main Street; if she was willing to come here, she could come here for free.
“And she came, took a look, and said she would definitely be willing to come here, if the candidate and my team said it was OK. So I talked it over with my team and we all agreed that Tami is welcome here. And the New Beginnings church and their parishioners will be here every Sunday, from now until May 15, and any help that they can give us or we can give them will be greatly appreciated,” Adams said.
When contacted Monday, April 18, by the Record-Transcript about Christian using a political opponent’s headquarters temporarily as her church, Mayor Dwayne Warren, the godfather of Christian’s son, had no comment.
No one from Christian Love Baptist Church in Irvington was available to discuss Christian’s split from her husband’s church or the allegations about Brown and the IHA refusing to allow her to hold services in its building by press time this week.
“It’s not all about the election,” said Adams. “But God works in mysterious ways and it just so happens that the election is going on now. And we don’t know what God’s plan is, but we are in the plan.”
“We were informed last Thursday, April 14, that we could no longer hold services at the Irvington Housing Authority, so God opened a new door for us so we will be having service every Sunday 11 a.m. at 281 Main St. in Orange,” said Christian on Sunday, April 17, after the New Beginning service at Morrell’s campaign headquarters in Orange. “I’m glad that people were able to make it and come up here and to hear word from God and be blessed, so that we can continue to do the work of God. We came to this building through Big Shane, who has this space currently. He opened his doors for us to hold space here, when he heard of our predicament.”
“We’re still family,” said Christian, speaking of Warren. “We’ve been family and we will remain family. Dwayne and Karma are the godparents of my youngest, Ryan. So it’s all love. It’s all good.”
The Rev. Latisha West, another former member of Christian Love Baptist Church who split from that church at the same time Christian did, said she is also grateful to Morrell and her Team Morrell running mates for opening up their headquarters to the New Beginnings church.
“As we look around we see the advertisements for Jan Morrell talking about Team Morrell, when I think about New Beginnings, we’re Team Jesus; if I had to hashtag it and put it on Facebook, it would be Team Jesus and that’s what we’re going to do – continue to be Christlike and continue to walk in the spirit of Christian Love; it’s not a building it’s a lifestyle,” said West on Sunday, April 17.
“I served under Pastor Ronald B. Christian at Christian Love Baptist Church for nine years and now I serve under his wife, Pastor Tami Christian, at New Beginnings Ministries. We had to branch out and continue to move forward with God’s vision but unfortunately we had to do it in a separate location, but we’re still following the move of God and we’re continuing the legacy of our pastor, Rev. Ronald B. Christian, who passed away.
“We believe that we still have all love for our brothers and sisters at Christian Love Baptist Church, despite some of the unfavorable things that have been done toward our first lady and to our pastor’s children and his ministry.”
“I remember back about 15 years ago, when the subject of having prayer services at IHA was at issue,” said Irvington NAACP Vice President Kathleen Witcher on Sunday, April 17. “One of the residents wanted to host a weekly service, but it was overruled by Director Brown. We shall recall that HUD does have the policy that the Hatch Act follows which states prayers, prayer services and any form of political influence including political rallies are violations of the Hatch Act which is federal law. That would also cover any events where alcoholic beverages are consumed, also under violation of the law.”
As a former IHA commissioner, Witcher knows about the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and its rules and regulations regarding religious ceremonies or gatherings in public housing. She said that means Brown should never have allowed the IHA to serve as a satellite site for Rev. Ron and Christian Love Baptist Church.
“I do know that some things did change and that the Christian Love services were allowed at IHA; I also do know that one of the congregants said to be an assistant pastor under Rev. Ronald B. Christian had a recent confrontation with residents about continuing services by Tami Christian, the reverend’s wife,” said Witcher. “Following that dispute in the winter, I was informed by a resident that there would be a discontinuation of prayer services at IHA. I am not certain why the determination to stop services was made at this time. I do not see why, if they had already had permission to assemble, that they are not permitted now. What happened?”
Brown did not respond to a request for comments about his contract with the Rev. Ron to allow the IHA to serve as a satellite church, or his recent decision to start enforcing HUD policy and the Hatch Act.
Witcher said she’s glad Morrell stepped in to provide a place for Christian and New Beginnings Ministries to have a service.