EAST ORANGE, NJ — The weather on Thursday, Oct. 24, was angelic, free of the cloudy skies typically associated with October and “obviously the pastor’s doing,” many said during a street-renaming ceremony in East Orange that honored late community leader and minister, Bishop Limmie Nathaniel Forbes.
The community saw the corner of Main and Halsted streets renamed after Forbes. Until his death on May 23, 2019, Forbes was the most tenured senior pastor of any Christian church in East Orange, serving Faith Temple Free Will Baptist Church No. 1 at that location for almost 60 years.
After establishing the church in East Orange in 1959, Forbes went on to found Faith Temple No. 2 in 1962, now in Capitol Heights, Md. In 1978, he also established Faith Temple No. 3 in St. Paul, N.C. In 2005, he established Faith Temple No. 1 and 2 Extension Church in Wilson, N.C.
Beyond his many pastoral accomplishments, Forbes is remembered for his community outreach efforts, especially his annual breakfast, when he personally cooked for hundreds of local men.
Recalling Forbes’ cooking skills, resulting in moments of amusement and lighthearted jokes, East Orange Mayor Ted Green gave a moving speech about the Forbes and shared his fondest memories of him during the ceremony.
“When I think of Bishop Forbes, I think of Matthew 25:35-36,” Green said in a speech at the ceremony. “‘For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.’ That was him. ‘I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick, and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ If that doesn’t describe Bishop Forbes, then what describes him?”
Green concluded his speech with thanks for all Forbes had done for the community.
“Today is history here,” Green told the Record-Transcript soon after the event. “Today, what we’re doing is unveiling a street naming for Bishop Forbes who was a pillar in this community for over 60 years and was a pastor at this church here. Although he has two churches, here is where he held his service each and every Sunday in the city of East Orange.
“I really feel good. Anytime you can honor someone who really touched so many people’s lives and who has been a part of so many people’s lives right here in the city of East Orange is great,” the mayor continued. “It’s a testimony today when you saw not only his family who traveled from North Carolina; you have people here from Tennessee; you have his congregation here today, his parishioners; you had elected officials from all over, our lieutenant governor, also Sen. Nia Gill, Mildred Crump, the president of Newark Municipal Council who came. That’s a testimony of really who he was, and his legacy really lives on in the city of East Orange by doing a street renaming here.”
Melvin Forbes, the bishop’s younger brother, addressed the crowd at the ceremony as if at a Sunday church service.
“This event was not only historical, but it is momentous,” Melvin Forbes told the Record-Transcript soon after the ceremony concluded. “This was for someone who duly has earned the respect of the community, citizens and the country. I’m happy that the city of East Orange recognized someone that was duly needed to be honored for the work that he has done in the community and the family is delighted and elated for this occasion on his birthday, by the way. He was born Oct. 24, 1936.
“This took place because the city and the officials felt that a man that had done so much while living here, in East Orange, affecting the community, affecting the lives of those that were up and down, that it should be honored and a street should be named after him so that people, past, present and future generations, would know that this man walked among us and did an incredible job,” he continued.
Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver also spoke about the bishop at the ceremony.
“I think this was a great event because the Forbes family is here,” Oliver told the Record-Transcript soon after the event. “Bishop Forbes labored in the vineyard here in East Orange for years and as everyone has said, ‘Always an open door, everyone welcome’ and he did so much for so many people very quietly. He didn’t have to broadcast all the things he did for a lot of the families here. I think it’s just fulfilling.
“The other thing is this is such a historic church building,” she continued, “and the fact that Faith Temple No. 1 has kept this building together and preserved is significant as well, so it’s a good day in East Orange.”
Serving as pastor of Faith Temple No. 1, Arinzor Blue was no stranger to Forbes.
“Bishop Forbes served as a pastor of our church for 54 years,” Blue told the Record-Transcript after the event. “The church moved here at this location in 1970 and so, to see the city remember him being an active pastor in our community for so long, this entire community knew him. When he walked down the street or drove down the street, everybody knew Bishop L.N. Forbes. So, it’s a beautiful thing to see this city remember him, even after his passing.
“Today’s event was excellent where the city honored Bishop L.N. Forbes and renaming the street after him,” he added. “The city officials, the bishop’s biological family, his church family and citizens of the community have come out today to pay their respects and not only that, just to remember his life legacy and ministry. It was demonstrated beautifully. Well run, well put together and I’m excited to see the city honor our Bishop L.N. Forbes.”
Councilman Christopher Awe of the Second Ward said the renaming was a fitting tribute to Forbes.
“So, I grew up right down the street and Bishop Forbes is part of the community,” told the Record-Transcript after the event. “This church is a cornerstone in this community; it’s a cornerstone for men. He’s impacted generations of us that’s doing anything in the city and so, this is just an honor. He’s touched so many countless lives and this is just a fitting honor for him.”
Photos by EmilyAnn Jackman