IRVINGTON, NJ — Outgoing Greater New Point Missionary Baptist Church Pastor the Rev. William Rutherford Jr. had a street renamed in his honor Sunday, Dec. 16.
Rutherford is officially retiring from pastoring at Greater New Point Missionary Baptist Church on Monday, Dec. 31, after 38 years in the pulpit of the church on Paine Avenue. But now, even though he will be gone from the church, his name won’t be forgotten, since the Municipal Council decided to rename Hoffman Place as “Rev. William H. Rutherford Jr. Lane.”
The street that now bears Rutherford’s name intersects Paine Avenue about halfway down the block, and runs adjacent to the church.
“We had a ceremony right there on the corner,” said South Ward Councilwoman Sandy Jones on Sunday, Dec. 16. “It was definitely appropriate to rename the street after Rev. Rutherford. He has been in this township for 38 years. He’s done good stuff. I just wanted to say: ‘Congratulations on his retirement.’ ”
But Jones said she’s not sure “retirement” was the right word to use in Rutherford’s case, since he’s made it clear on numerous occasions that he will never stop preaching.
“He did say he is going to continue to preach,” said Jones. “I invited him to come to my church, Solid Rock Baptist Church on Chancellor Avenue, to preach. I wish him the best of luck and to his wife, because she’s retired, too.”
Rutherford was unavailable for comment after his street renaming ceremony, because he had to get back to work with the 2 p.m. service that same day; however, his wife of 38 years, Marilyn Rutherford, agreed with Jones that, even though he won’t be the pastor of Greater New Point Missionary Baptist Church after Monday, Dec. 31, that doesn’t mean he will stop being a minister.
“That’s not going to happen,” said Marilyn Rutherford on Sunday, Dec. 16. “He’s still going to be active and he’s still going to be doing community work and all of the things that he’s doing now. He just will not be pastoring.”
“I will be active in my own areas that I work in,” she added. “I feel honored to have shared 48 years with him as his wife, along his side through the good times, the bad times, the positives, the negatives and thank God that all of those good times outweigh the bad times. It’s been a wonderful journey. This has been a wonderful congregation and it’s like bittersweet, because we all grew up together. And to pastor one group of people for 38 years is amazing.
She also expressed her gratitude to Jones and the other Irvington Municipal Council members who approved renaming Hoffman Place after her husband.
“It’s on the corner of Paine Avenue and Hoffman Place and I just think that’s so wonderful. What an honor,” said Marilyn Rutherford. “I feel wonderful. He really deserves that honor. He’s done a lot of work in the Township of Irvington. It was while he was the NAACP president that they got their very first African-American mayor; he worked to get the first African-American person on the Board of Education; he worked to get the very first African-American sergeant on the Police Department and so his roots and his history are here.”
“I’ve been a member of the church for about 22 years or more,” said Elizabeth Glover, a Greater New Point Missionary Baptist Church member, on Sunday, Dec. 16. “Rev. Rutherford has been my pastor all that time and he was the best. Couldn’t ask for better. We’re going to miss him very, very, very much.”
She agreed that renaming Hoffman Place in his honor was the right thing to do.
“I think it was wonderful that they renamed the street after him,” said Glover. “I think that’s beautiful. He did a lot for Irvington, for the city and everything, so he really deserves it. He deserves it and it was very nice.”
Although Gloria Goode-Brown is not a member of Greater New Point Missionary Baptist Church, she said she came to the church to honor Rutherford and hear him preach in person before he officially retires.
“I’m not a member here, but Rev. Rutherford, this is just a wonderful occasion that the street was renamed for him and he’s a wonderful pastor,” said Goode-Brown on Sunday, Dec. 16. “I attend Mt. Vernon Missionary Baptist Church. I’m a guest here and I came for the ceremony.”
Goode-Brown agreed that the recent retirement of the Rev. Dwight D. Gill, the former pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in East Orange for 25 years; the recent installation of the Rev. Darren Ferguson as the new pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Orange; the installation of the Rev. Brandon Washington as the new pastor of Christian Love Baptist Church; and Rutherford’s imminent retirement, could be a sign of a generational shift in black churches across the greater Newark area.
“I think it’s great. You have to pass the torch on,” said Goode-Brown. “So again, he’s done a lot for the community and he’s just a great minister. And I’m sure he’s not retiring from preaching; he’s just retiring from this location.”
Marilyn Rutherford said her family will continue in that mix, because their son, the Rev. Bill Rutherford III, is the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Orange.
“It’s wonderful,” she said. “It is truly an honor to have both a husband and a son as pastors. And I have the utmost respect for both of them.”
“Rev. Rutherford has not only been the pastor of Greater New Point Missionary Baptist Church on Hoffman Place, he’s been a pillar of this community,” said Irvington Municipal Council President David Lyons on Tuesday, Dec. 18. “His work as a leader in the NAACP has benefitted so many statewide. I am proud to have been involved in celebrating his life and career. He’s so very deserving.”