NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – In the past 100 years, places of worship have spread faith, hope and positivity through the Great Depression, World War II, the Vietnam War, the recession of the 1970s and 9/11.
Even today, as the world finds itself caught in the grips of the coronavirus pandemic, Senior Pastor Conway Johnson of the Sharon Baptist Church is staying focused on staying connected while we’re disconnected.
For this congregation on 25 Howard St., today is the first in a 100-day celebration leading up to July 26 when the church will be observing its 100th anniversary.
Although the church's original plans have been postponed, Johnson plans to come up with other opportunities for anyone who has ever been a part or who is a part of the church to celebrate together, physically or virtually.
“There were homecomings in the process of being planned, and to culminate, there was supposed to be a centennial banquet, which all have now been postponed,” Johnson said.
Teleconferences bring the congregation together Friday nights to talk about the anniversary as well as for other spiritual discussions, Johnson said.
“Once this is all over, we’ll just continue anyway possible that we can celebrate the legacy of our church," he said.
For Johnson, Sharon Baptist Church is bigger than the brick and mortar building.
“To be invited to be a guest speaker when I was 18, and now to be able to serve as a senior pastor just to see … how the church grows and develops, and no matter what is going on in the last 100 years, the church has met the needs of the present age," he said.
Even in these extraordinary circumstances - especially in these extraordinary circumstances - the church is continuing its proud legacy of helping those who need it most in the city.
Johnson also said members are putting together 100 snack bags – symbolic of their 100 years of service – that can be donated to Elijah’s Promise – a community kitchen whose resources have been stretched thin since the health crisis began last month.
“Sharon has always had a sense of social consciousness, and that has been one of the great things and one of the things we loved about being part of Sharon,” said Edmund DeVeaux, chairman of the deacon's ministry at the church. “It just wasn’t the four walls and Sunday worship service. It was really about how … you positively affect the greater New Brunswick community.”
“The things we’ve embraced is 100 years ago, the 17 families who started [the church], there wasn’t a building,” Johnson said. “Though we have one, we can’t get to it; no building then, no building now, but the Sharon Baptist Church is still Sharon Baptist Church, and we’ve been serving God and the community for 100 years.”
“The presence of Sharon blesses people in ways that words can’t explain. It goes far beyond what we do,” Johnson said. “It’s how it’s done in the spirit of love and humility and caring and sharing.”