Rev. Gill retires from East Orange church after 25 years as pastor

Photos by Chris Sykes
New Hope Baptist Church’s pastor, the Rev. Dwight Gill, gives his last sermon on Sunday, Sept. 30, his last day as the pastor. Gill retired after 25 years of leading the church.

EAST ORANGE, NJ — After 25 years of service, the Rev. Dwight D. Gill preached his final sermon and said farewell to his congregation on Sunday, Sept. 30, as he officially retired as pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in East Orange.

“Rev. Gill is retiring after 25 years as the pastor of New Hope Baptist Church, and that’s a part of the history of the city of East Orange, so I thought it should be recognized and documented,” said Historical Society of East Orange President Goldie Burbage on Sunday, Sept. 30. “He did a lot for that church and for this city. He built a whole new church. I attended the 8 a.m. service, but there is another service at 11 a.m. and, afterward, they are having a cookout in the church parking lot as a goodbye party.”

Former Essex County Prosecutor Patricia Heard, a member of the New Hope Baptist Church congregation, agreed that Gill had been a historic pastor and church leader, whose accomplishments in the church and community should be recognized.

Saying she had personal reasons for honoring Gill, Heard spoke from the church pulpit on Sunday, Sept. 30.

“I’m not a part of any ministry, but 20 years ago, when I was having problems at the county with Essex County Executive Jim Treffinger, it was the Rev. Gill who came down and told him to stop maligning my character,” said Heard. “I resigned a few weeks later. But while I resigned, Jim Treffinger went to jail.”

Principal Winston Jackson, of Chancellor Avenue School in Irvington, and his wife, Andrea, were both at Gill’s 11 a.m. service on Sunday, Sept. 30, and said they have personal reasons for honoring their departing pastor.

“We were the first couple that the Rev. Gill married, 24 and a half years ago,” said Jackson on Sunday, Sept. 30. “We thank him for blessing marriage. We love him and we will truly miss him. We wish him peace, happiness and blessings.”

“I am so excited. I’m so excited and so thankful. I just want to thank God for all that you have done. For all of the presentations, for everything, for the songs, for everything that you have done. I just thank God for it,” said Gill on Sunday, Sept. 30. “My mother worried last week, when she left, that I was going to be by myself. She was going back to Lewisburg, N.C. She forgot I got daughters.”

Gill also said he was pleasantly surprised to see member of his extended family at the church on his day of retirement, too.

“Then I got another big surprise. I had family come up from South Jersey: Willie Gill, his wife, Caroline; and Sean Gill,” said Gill. “These are the Gills from South Jersey and that’s my family. I said I was retiring and they came up to share my last Sunday with me. Now I’m going to come to South Jersey and hang out with y’all. Deacon Gill has been here before, so I just thank God for him and just for their presence of being here. We’re on Facebook, so people are texting me from North Carolina and seeing this and saying ‘we’re so excited for you.’ ”

“I’m just so thankful. God has truly been good to me at New Hope Baptist Church and I thank God for his goodness and for his mercy,” continued Gill. “I thank all of you. I thank all of the associate pastors for laying hands on me, even without an envelope. I’m just joking for real. New Hope, you changed my life.”

Deacon Bryan Adams said Gill did the same for him and everyone else in the New Hope Baptist Church congregation during his 25 years as pastor.

“Today, we are celebrating the Rev. Dwight D. Gill. The Rev. Gill has touched so many lives. He has the respect of everybody in this church. I thank the Rev. Gill for so many things at this church. He helped so many people,” said Adams on Sunday, Sept. 30. “He’s retiring from pastoring at this church, but he wants to go into world ministry, where he can travel and minister all around the world. Right now, we’re in the process of searching for a pastor. We’re down to a couple of candidates and the church, when we have our church meeting, we’ll get a chance to go on what candidates. We’ve been in the process for about two years of looking for a pastor. We just wanted to send Pastor Gill off very well.”

Adams said Gill is a “big-hearted man” and the outgoing pastor then gave his blessing to the church’s search for a new pastor to succeed him.

“If nothing else, I taught you to trust God. And the same God that blessed you through me will bless you through some other pastor,” Gill said.