IRVINGTON, NJ — The congregation of Christian Love Baptist Church held a special memorial service at the church on Lyons Avenue on Sunday, Oct. 30, to mark the anniversary of the death of their pastor, the Rev. Ronald B. Christian.
“Rev. Ron loved the islands; he loved to get away and go and just relax and have fun in the sun, and that theme is in honor of him to have his spirit permeate throughout the building today and have food and a relaxed environment in his honor,” said the Rev. Curtis Morris on Sunday, Oct. 30. “He loved conch salad, he loved crabs and, if you had either one of those, he was with you. At times, it still feels surreal that he is gone. But as the Bible says: ‘We don’t sorrow as others who have no hope.’ And if we should live right, we’ll see him again.”
Morris said, when it comes to keeping Christian’s legacy alive, the key is to continue doing the good works his ministry was known for doing for people who need it the most.
“I always tell people that we were trained by the best and he would want us to keep going on: keep feeding people, keep saving souls, keep being blessings to other people,” said Morris. “He would say ‘It’s not a me thing, but a we thing.’ … He was full of life and that’s what we’re here today to celebrate.”
Morris said the anniversary service was a continuation of the outpouring of grief and appreciation for Christian that began right after he died suddenly last year. Among the many elected officials and invited dignitaries in attendance, U.S. Rep. Donald Payne Jr. spoke fondly of his late friend.
“It’s part of my district, but I’m here to celebrate a lifelong friend’s anniversary of his passing,” said Payne on Sunday, Oct. 30. “Ron Christian and I go back to the streets of Newark — Bergen Street to be specific — from when we were 19 and 20 years old. And he was just a great intellectual, a wonderful pastor and a good friend. And that’s why I’m here, for my friend.”
Payne recalled fondly when Christian came to minister to the family as his father, Donald Payne Sr., was on his hospital deathbed.
“We spent a lot of time together near the passing of my father and Rev. Ron didn’t leave the hospital for three or four days while my father was on his last few days. We had a lot of time to talk and I told him about the responsibilities that both of us had now and how far we had come, me as an elected official and him as a spiritual leader, and we had to always be sure to do the right thing because so many people depended on us,” Payne said. “I saw him when he was down, when he was at his worst in the streets, but he said that I never forgot about him. I never treated him different. That’s why he always loved me. That’s why I always loved him. God sent us a wonderful human being.”
“This is the Christian Love Church that I know, the Christian Love that Pastor Ron would be pleased with,” Pastor Stephen Bartley said Sunday, Oct. 30. “Stop letting people feed you with negative comments. If they’re gone then … peace be with you. Let’s deal with those who are here. Let’s not focus on those who are not here. You know what you used to do. Do it again.”
Christian Love Baptist Church’s associate pastor, the Rev. Alfreddy Fletcher, agreed with Bartley, saying it’s been a challenge carrying on Rev. Ron’s legacy, but it has also been a labor of love.
“This is Christian Love Baptist Church, where Christ comes first and this is Sunday, Oct. 30, and it is one year to the day since our Rev. Ronald B. Christian transitioned and went home to glory to be with the lord,” Fletcher said. “It’s been trying; it’s been tough. But it’s still been a year of joy and jubilee, because we know to be absent from the body is to be present with the lord. … This day commemorates the one-year anniversary of his going home to glory. He put in his labor and he’s gotten his just reward. Rev. Ron was not the kind of person that was sad and melancholy. He was a person full of love, full of joy and full of laughter and that’s the only way that you can celebrate someone of his magnitude’s life. That’s the only way you can celebrate his life, his legacy, his love and his laughter is with life, love, joy and laughter.”