Newark, New Jersey, is a city ripe with opportunity for God to move. A city that experienced a series of riots in 1967, the result of systematic oppression that bubbled over in a sea of racial, housing, and economic tension. Present day, Newark is a city with challenges in its education and justice systems.
God called Newborn Wesleyan Church to be present in the midst of these challenges. The church opened its doors in 1984, a building where Haitian immigrants were able to come together, worship, and see God at work in their lives in a new country. Since then, the congregation has grown and developed into a thriving, spiritual community of faith.
In 2007, God called me to be Newborn’s pastor. The church needed transformation in three major areas: spiritual growth and infrastructure, a new building that would help facilitate growth and learning, and engagement with the city. Change is not easy and often takes time. The church has become better stewards of its resources and has helped develop teaching and learning opportunities. As a result we have seen steady growth in our Sunday attendance, experiencing a 280% growth in our membership.
Our congregation has grown and people’s faith has gotten stronger, a testament to the gifts of my wife and the rest of the leadership team who stay committed to the pillars of our faith: prayer, strong biblical engagement, and holiness. After my arrival, I began to pray how to transform our worship space from a home that was made into a makeshift church into a robust worship center. During my time of prayer I learned about the Church Multiplication Grant application. We applied, and, through God’s grace and the committee’s wisdom, we were selected.
This grant has had an impact on our community of faith, neighborhood, and vision for the future. In the short time that the grant was disseminated and construction began (summer 2014), our church has already seen excitement and growth. In this brief amount of time we have been in worship, we have already seen a full sanctuary each Sunday. Construction of classroom space has been completed, and we fully expect to have those learning spaces filled for our Sunday school classes. The church is filled with excitement about the building and my team and I are being intentional about creating worship opportunities and classes that will allow congregants to grow in their faith. As the newness of the building wears off and the attendance surge steadies, we want to make sure our congregation remembers what this is all about: saving souls, growing as disciples, and transforming our community.
Our neighborhood has also seen changes since undergoing construction, and three new projects in our community have begun. Change is contagious. When a group of people are committed to renewal, positive advancement, and healing, others take note and join in. It is almost as if the community was waiting for someone to stand up and say, “Newark, we matter and we deserve better.” Newborn was the voice that made this statement with the project.
We stand in awe of God’s work much like Hezekiah did when he restored the temple in 2nd Chronicles 29. However, there is more work to be done, and the vision is not finished. We are moving towards a multiple service model where we will be able to provide a more complete worship experience in different languages: Haitian Creole, English, and eventually Spanish. We are praying about expanding our facilities to acquire properties in the community where we can resume our food pantry program that, prior to construction, served over 100 families each week. We have a vision for a community center where the pantry, a soup kitchen, and an afterschool program can be housed and run by the church and others committed to living out the gospel through service.
We envision the creation of a transition home near the church, which will serve women and children of homes where domestic violence, incarceration, or drug addiction have been a stumbling block. The goal of the home will be rehabilitation and transition from trauma to stability and triumph. These visions for what God can do in Newark are only possible because of the generous help of The Wesleyan Church.
Thank you again for your prayers, support, and generous resources. We are a grateful church in Newark. A church that is looking to be progressive, push envelopes of worship, and engage with the community. I hope God will push, stretch, and mold us further.
Rev. Frantz Telfort serves as pastor at Newborn Wesleyan Church.