NEWARK, NJ — Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and the city of Newark renamed the corner of Wickliffe and West Market streets in Newark, directly across the street from Newark Tech School, Essex County Veterans Memorial Park and the Society Hill apartments complex, in honor of Rev. Ronald B. Christian, also known as “Rev. Ron,” the former pastor of Christian Love Baptist Church in Irvington, during a special ceremony Saturday, Dec. 19.
According to Newark officials, “Dr. Christian was pastor of Christian Love Baptist Church in Irvington from 2002 until his death in October of this year at the age of 51. Before his ministry there, he did volunteer work at Clearview Baptist Church in Newark and preached the gospel at his father’s pastorate, Upper Room Missionary Baptist Church, also in Newark.”
Rev. Ron’s first cousin, Derrick Edmundson, said Christian “taught in Irvington, but he was still a Newark product.”
“Who would have thought that a little kid from Bergen Street or Renner Avenue or Scheerer Avenue, Elizabeth Avenue would have reached this height, when he had such a humble beginning,” Edmundson said on Thursday, Nov. 5, at his cousin’s wake at Christian Love Baptist Church on Lyons Avenue in Irvington.
Baraka and the Newark City Council agreed and so decided to rename a street in the city in Christian’s honor.
“As mayor of Newark, I mourn the loss of the Rev. Dr. Ronald B. Christian, commend him for his leadership, dedication and service to Newark, and offer my deepest condolences to his family and friends,” Baraka said in the official proclamation of condolences to the Christian family read at the pastor’s funeral at Newark Tech on Saturday, Nov. 7, and again at the street renaming on Saturday, Dec. 19. He continued, “Now, therefore, I, Ras J. Baraka, mayor of the city of Newark, New Jersey, do hereby recognize the Rev. Ronald B. Christian and I urge all residents, employees and visitors to the city of Newark to join me in this special tribute to the Rev. Dr. Ronald B. Christian.“
The street renaming was just the latest in a string of posthumous accolades for Christian, including U.S. Rep. Donald Payne Jr. mentioning him during an open session on the floor of the House of Representatives in November.
“Mr. Speaker, back in my home state of New Jersey, we had the honor of having a going-home celebration for a remarkable individual from my community,” Payne said during his speech to Congress. “He was known as Rev. Ron. His name was Ronald B. Christian. And Rev. Ron’s ministry was unique, because Rev. Ron looked at the least of us and took them in, without judgment, to help them with their ills. Whether they had drug issues or issues with the criminal justice system, he never ever judged, because he has seen the worst that life could show you, because he had gone through some of it himself.
And one day, God stood him up and said: ‘Now serve my people.’ This great man passed away several weeks ago, but I wanted to honor him on the floor of the U.S. Congress. He was a unique individual. He was one of God’s children. On the outside of his church, it said: ‘Sinners welcome,’ and he never wavered and he never turned his back. We will miss the Honorable Ronald B. Christian from Christian Love Baptist Church.”
Irvington Mayor Tony Vauss said all accolades given to Rev. Ron are well-deserved, and that the pastor left a living legacy on full display every day and every Sunday at Christian Love Baptist Church.
In fact, Vauss said he plans to honor Rev. Ron at the State of the Township Address at Christian Pentecostal Church in January.
“We’re going to be honoring three people,” Vauss said Sunday, Dec. 20. “We’re going to be honoring, of course, my mentor, D. Bilal Beasley. I’ll be presenting something to his family. Also, we’ll be presenting something to Ron Christian’s family, on behalf of the tremendous job he has done here and the following and the people he served when he was in this community; and also another legend, Carl Sharif. We will be honoring him as well and giving something to his family as well.
“We want to give something back to the pioneers and keep their legacy going on, because it was devastating to the community to lose such an influence in such a short period of time. Within a year’s time, we lost all three of these gentlemen, not to mention Ray Durkin, the father of Essex County Clerk Chris Durkin; as well as Essex County Democratic Committee Chairman Phil Thigpen over a year ago. It was just such a big loss, with all of these pioneers that paved the way for people like myself and others, to be in the position that we are in now.”