Pastor dies while praying inside his Irvington, NJ church

IRVINGTON, N.J. (WABC) -- A prominent pastor of a church in Irvington, N.J., was found dead inside his church.

The Essex County Prosecutor's Office said Rev. Ron Christian's death is being investigated, but the preliminary investigation indicates there was no foul play.

They are coming together where their faith is strongest and where they have now lost Rev. Ron Christian.

"He's an awesome man of God. He's not just a man who touched lives in Irvington, or Newark, or New Jersey, or America, but he touched lives around the world," said Rev. Alfreddy Fletcher, a pastor.

Reverend Christian's passing at the young age of 51 has come as shock to many.

He was found by a family member in the Christian Love Baptist Church Friday morning.

Members of the church, which Reverend Christian founded in 2000, are deeply touched by his loss.

"Heaviness, sadness, very distraught," said Latisha West, a church member.

West is one of many helped by Reverend Christian, encouraged to strive toward educational greatness.

"The power of his words were very inspirational to me, because now I am working on my doctorate degree and I will have it in June," West said.

Rev. Christian, who shared much of his ministry on YouTube, had himself come through hard times, turning his life around from heroin addiction.

He'd spent time in prison, but then found the calling and became a minister. His church was always open.

"He was the type of pastor that if you wanted something you could always come see him. He didn't just preach the word but he was an example of the word," said Rev. Jeffrey Brown, Newark Police Department Chaplain.

Rev. Brown and a friend of Rev. Christian's believes his greatest impact was with young teenagers.

"He really touched the lives of so many teenagers. No matter what you did or whatever your situation was, you knew that you had a home grown service here at this church. He never judged anybody because we all are sinners," Rev. Brown said.

Rev. Christian even encouraged drug dealers and other criminals to turn themselves in and do the right thing.

The Essex County Executive said, "It didn't matter who you were because Rev. Ron welcomed people from all walks of life into his church and into his own life."

"Rev. Ron is an inspiration to everyone he comes in contact with. He is sorely going to be missed," said Rev. Fletcher.

"Ron was always there. Pastor Ron was always there. And like I said, he is going to be greatly, greatly missed in this community," Rev. Brown said.

Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. issued this statement:
"Rev. Ron was a very special and tremendous individual. His energetic sermons spiritually motivated his congregation at Christian Love Baptist Church and his dynamic personality and kind words inspired everyone he met. It didn't matter who you were because Rev. Ron welcomed people from all walks of life into his church and into his own life. He was a very dear friend and we will miss him greatly. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time."

The prosecutor said an autopsy is being conducted to determine the cause and manner of death. The investigation is active and ongoing.

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