PATERSON, NJ - With storm clouds approaching perhaps it would have made sense to move the church service along with more haste. But as the clock ticked towards 5:00 p.m., the time the street naming ceremony was due to begin, worshipers inside Highway Church of Christ weren’t quite done heaping praise on their spiritual leader, Bishop Liston Page, Sr.
Indeed, the raindrops, several speakers said from the altar, were in fact a blessing, another sign of God’s love being bestowed on the man who, on the day that would bring the birth of his fourth grandchild, as well his 81st birthday, seemed to be thrice blessed on Sunday.
“This is a dream come true,” Page’s son, also Bishop Liston Page, said of the honor that put his father’s name on the street outside the church that he said has been a “beacon of light to those that are helpless.”
Councilwoman-at-Large Dr. Lilisa Mimms, who along with Third Ward Councilman Bill McKoy sponsored the resolution declaring the street name change, said there was no reason to wait any longer to bestow the honor. “We have to give people their flowers when they can still smell them,” Mimms said. “Name streets after them while they can still drive on them.”
Calling Bishop Page an “icon” Mimms said that the honor is “deserved for all the work he’s done.”
“He has fed so many people, saved so many lives,” Mimms added, reflecting that as a young girl growing up right around the corner she benefited from a feeding program Page spearheaded.
Even with his decades of service this, Mimms concluded bringing the congregation to its feet, “is his greatest season yet!”
Congressman Bill Pascrell was also in attendance to say that too often we don’t recognize people for their contributions because they “are not on the front page.”
Lamenting what appears to be continually fraying relationships in government at every level Pascrell said that “we are all equal,” urging the congregation to “not let anyone divide us.”
It was Pascrell who drew the most vocal and sustained applause when he extended an invitation to Page to join him as a guest at the U.S. Capitol when President Trump delivers his next State of the Union address.
“This is a fitting tribute to a legacy of work provided to the community,” McKoy said looking up to the street sign bearing Page’s name. “This is what the Gospel tells us, to share God’s love by uplifting others,” he said, referring to the importance of charity and service to others in the Christian faith.
Also tying the street naming to the faith of the church’s members was Mayor Andre Sayegh who quipped that “today the highway to Heaven starts here, on the corner of 10th Avenue and East 23rd Street, on Bishop Page Avenue,” adding that the ceremony marked a “a proud day for Paterson.”
It wasn’t just elected officials that were on hand to share in the moment. As the rain passed over hundreds of congregants flowed out of the church to witness the unveiling of the new sign, among them Elijah and Legend. Just 11 and 10 years old respectively the aspiring firefighters shared with TAPinto Paterson that they, too, understood the significance of Page’s body of work.
“He works hard preaching and blessing people,” Elijah said. “He helps me and inspires me to go on,” he continued while Legend, who said he was proud to call Paterson home added that “he encourages me to make our city better.”
For his part, Page, whom by reputation is never lost for words, seemed to show his appreciation for the day with an ever present smile, countless hugs, and the occasional selfie with well-wishers. “We serve to better our community, our town, and our country,” Page said when asked to describe the importance of the church’s and the faith-based community’s role in the future of the city.
“We are going back upward,” Page said enthusiastically. “Paterson is going to be a better place to raise our children, to live in, and to work in.”