NEWARK, NJ — The Rev. Ronald B. Christian’s family was joined by numerous local political and popular figures at the grand opening of the new sports and recreation complex in Weequahic Park in Newark that bears his name Wednesday, July 20.
The state-of-the-art facility built was by LandTek, which also built the Blue Knights Sports Complex in Irvington, and features a full-sized football field circled by a regulation-sized track; a softball field; and a baseball field, all surrounded by a pedestrian track.
The Rev. Ronald B. Christian Sports Complex is part of the ongoing effort of Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. to improve parks and public spaces across the county for use by residents of all ages. The family of the pastor of Christian Love Baptist Church said they appreciate DiVincenzo’s help in ensuring that Rev. Ron’s legacy will live on in the public consciousness of the community he worked diligently to serve during his lifetime.
“I would like to give thanks to Joe D. for not forgetting about my husband,” said Tami Christian, the minister’s widow, who is also an ordained minister, on Wednesday, July 20. “I would like to say this place will serve as a source of pride for our children, who are greatly missing their father. It will also serve as some consolation for our great loss.”
“This is a joyous occasion today; we come here to celebrate, commemorate and dedicate this edifice to the great Rev. Dr. Ronald B. Christian,” said the Rev. Alfreddy Fletcher, the heir apparent to Rev. Ron’s leadership mantle at Christian Love Baptist Church, on Wednesday, July 20. “Rev. Ron was a man who sat with princes and he sat with paupers. He never forgot about the common man, because Rev. Ron understood what it was to come from your lowest point in life, to rise up to a level that God would have you to be able to lead so many souls to Christ; to be able to preach the gospel.”
Fletcher said Rev. Ron “always taught me that it’s a privilege to be able to preach the gospel and we, as preachers, had the best job in the world.” He said his friend and mentor’s “total focus was on making sure that someone made it to Heaven; that someone got saved.”
“He would always tell me: Never waste an opportunity when you talk to someone or when you preach … because you never know what that person is going through and, you never know, one word that you might say could lead them to Christ,” Fletcher said. “So Rev. Ron was one of the wisest men I ever knew. He was one of the strongest men I ever knew; one of the most caring men I ever knew. But most of all, he was the most loving man I have ever known in my life. So I will miss him. The Christian Love Baptist Church will miss him. The community will miss him. The world will miss him. We loved Rev. Ron.”
Fletcher added, “There will never ever be another Rev. Ron Christian. God broke the mold when he made him, but Rev. Ron’s spirit has been embodied in every person that he encountered” and he said that would “carry on forever” and the new track and field in Weequahic Park would go a long way to ensuring his deceased pastor’s living legacy.
DiVincenzo agreed, saying organized youth sports teams, such as the South Ward Bulldogs football team and interscholastic teams from Weequahic High School, Newark Technical School and others, would compete at the new complex.
“This place is so beautiful,” said Willie Mae Christian, Rev. Ron’s mother, Wednesday, July 20. “Ronald ran so fast, until he ran out of his feet. I used to call Ron and Joe D. ‘salt and pepper.’”
Rev. Ron’s father, Ron Christian Sr., said his son and DiVincenzo referred to each other as “brothers” and meant it. And he said the new sports complex in Weequahic Park is proof of the bond they shared in life.
“We want to thank Joe D. for dreaming up this project and making it come to fruition,” he added, saying his son, “was a phenomenal human being and I don’t think there will ever be another one like him. If you want to truly honor Rev. Ron, I think one of the best things we could do is use this facility. We’ll always remember everything he stood for. He was just everything to everybody.”
Rev. Ron’s sister, Everette, called DiVincenzo “my other brother.” She said she still misses her brother, Rev. Ron, “very much, but he’s always in my heart, my mind and my soul.”
“First of all, I loved Rev. Ron for the 15 years that I’ve known him,” said DiVincenzo on Wednesday, July 20. “I want to thank you, on behalf of my brother. He might not be here, but I talk to him every day. He was my conscience. When I did things that were crazy in Essex County, Rev. Ron was the first one to support me. I didn’t want anybody to stand with me when I endorsed Gov. Chris Christie’s re-election, because I just wanted it to be me. Rev. Ron said: ‘You are not doing it alone and I’m going to bring all of the black clergy that support the things you’re doing to come stand with you.’ I didn’t ask him to do that.
“When he died, a part of me died with him. If you want his legacy to live on, you can’t be separate. We all have to come together.”