EAST ORANGE, NJ — Although the death of Rev. Ron Christian on Friday, Oct. 30, was a shock to the parishioners of Christian Love Baptist Church in Irvington and the surrounding communities, following the appropriate ceremonies, the church will continue to operate.
Rev. Alfreddy Fletcher, assistant pastor for Christian Love Baptist Church, said Monday, Nov. 2, “A lot of people thought he was unorthodox and all over the place, but Rev. Ron was a man of decency and order.”
Fletcher said although Christian is no longer physically with his congregation, members will continue the traditions he put in place during his life. Fletcher said the church is committed to carrying on their pastor’s legacy.
Fletcher also thanked Pastor Joe A. Carter of New Hope Baptist Church for coming to Christian Love Baptist Church on Sunday, Nov. 1, to offer help to the congregation. He also thanked Mayor Tony Vauss for the same thing.
“We give honor to our mayor, the Honorable Tony Vauss,” Fletcher said on Sunday, Nov. 1. “Pastor Carter is Rev. Ron’s friend, comfort and confidante. He has been through a lot with Rev. Ron. He has one of the largest congregations in the city of Newark, but he came here because something needed to be healed. A lot of people say they’re Rev. Ron’s brother, but Pastor Carter is Rev. Ron’s brother.”
Rev. Eugene Overstreet, who was filling in at Christian Love Baptist Church as the preacher for the day, thanked Vauss and Carter, too.
“Dr. Carter is one of our leading pulpiteers,” Overstreet said on Sunday, Nov. 1. “You didn’t have to do it. But you’re here because you’re a great man.”
Overstreet had equally nice things to say about Vauss, saying, “One thing about the mayor here, and I have over 170 keys to U.S. cities and beyond, you know where politics belong in the first seat of the church,” Overstreet said to Vauss, who was seated in the first pew during the church’s 11 a.m. service. “And you are here. You’re going to me mayor a long time.”
Vauss said coming to Christian Love Baptist Church for first Sunday was the right thing to do while Christian was alive, and it still is. He said Christian would never be forgotten, as long as those who knew him remember what his life was like, so his legacy stays alive.
“It’s always going to be a loss,” Vauss said during the township’s annual Halloween Party in Civic Square. “We’ve lost several dynamic, influential people in the last year, with D. Bilal Beasley, Carl Sharif and even Ron Christian. Those voids can never be filled. We can just try to live by their example and keep moving on.” `
Overstreet spoke to the church, which was filled to capacity Sunday; attendees were even being seated in the basement where they could watch live broadcasts of the services at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.
“When the shepherd is away, the devil will play,” Overstreet said at the church’s 9 a.m. service. “Now that Ron is gone, you’ve got to keep the ship afloat. Ron is gone, but Jesus is here. Ron is gone, but the Holy Ghost is here. Ron is gone, but speaking in tongues is here. The devil is a liar. Ain’t nobody going nowhere.”
Overstreet also said, “We will never forget Rev. Ron. The choir gonna keep singing and the preacher’s gonna keep preaching.”
People’s Organization for Progress Chairman Larry Hamm said he believes Fletcher and Overstreet are right that Christian Love Baptist Church will carry on without Christian, but it will be difficult since the pastor will be impossible to replace.
“A person like Ron Christian comes once in a lifetime,” Hamm said Monday, Nov. 2. “Churches that have these dynamic pastors, they are really challenged. When you have a pastor that’s so beloved and so competent and so dynamic, it really makes it difficult for somebody to come behind them and fill their shoes. Really what people have to do is adjust. He’s going to be missed by so many. He died too young. It’s going to be hard for me to even believe that he’s gone. It’s hard to accept.”
DeLacy Davis, a former East Orange Police Officer who founded Black Cops Against Police Brutality, showed up at Christian Love Baptist Church on Sunday, Nov. 1, wearing jeans, cowboy boots, a dress shirt and a sports jacket, in honor of Christian, copying his trademark casual style of dress. Davis said he wanted to be like the pastor, if only for a day, and pay tribute to him as a sign of respect.
“This certainly is a solemn first Sunday, but we have to be joyous and find a reason to celebrate,” Davis said Nov. 1. “I’ve been joyous, since finding out about the passing of Ron Christian, because he was a brother, a friend. We went to elementary school together; we were in the streets, I was a police officer and he was an offender; so we’ve got history. He did my mother’s homegoing service. He counseled my children. My children were members of the church. When I was going through a divorce, he counseled me and my family, so certainly it’s special for me today.”