Village of Hope at Antioch: A Ministry Dream Realized in Connecticut
By Carl Stagner
When God calls, you go. You hear and respond in obedience, even if it doesn’t make sense. Like Abraham, you may not know where you’ll end up, but you trust the Lord to lead. This is the story of Esau Greene, pastor of New Antioch Church of God in New Haven, Connecticut. His call to connect the inner-city to Christ was clear, but the roadmap was sketchy and resources were scarce. Thankfully, persistence paid off and prayers were answered for the congregation, which has grown from less than 10 to approximately 200 over the span of only five years. With a recent acquisition of land and buildings, Pastor Esau Greene’s dream to open a haven of hope in the heart of New Haven is being realized.
Esau Greene grew up in a family well-known to the community, achieved success in school, and excelled in sports. After college, his story took a turn for the worse. But before it was too late, Jesus Christ not only rescued him from a life of drugs but also called him into ministry. Knowing what it’s like to live on the streets yet highly educated with a degree in human services, and coming from a family of influence yet familiar with the allure of drugs, Esau Greene is God’s man for the job—urban pastor in a college city.
What the enemy meant for evil, God meant for good. Redeeming Esau’s own personal journey, God positioned him for ministry on the streets, among the “least of these,” in some of the most challenging circumstances. Without the funding of middle- and upper-class congregants, there were uneasy feelings of uncertainty the earliest days of New Antioch Church of God. But God had a plan.
In the midst of roadblocks to circumnavigate and hurdles to cross, Pastor Esau Greene and his congregation continued to do what God called them to do. Jesus-centered ministry among the poor, the outcast, the oppressed was honored by the Lord as life-transformation turned early converts to Christ into integral church leaders. Attracted by the Spirit, guests of greater financial means joined in the work that God was apparently doing. Incredible growth and accompanying resources put New Antioch Church in the pivotal situation of “bursting at the seams.” Their temporary gathering space was insufficient.
Along the way, Pastor Greene’s key companions on the journey of faith—including but not limited to Gideon Thompson, Joseph Quainoo, Vanessa Quainoo, Horace Sheppard Jr., Wallace Hazard, Robbie Davis, Paul McCallister, interceded continually on the church’s behalf and offered indispensable counsel. This year, New Antioch Church of God announced they’d secured the lease (with intent to purchase) on ten acres of property, testifying to the power of prayer. Complete with a building suitable for a shelter for women and children, a recreation facility slated to become a community recreation center, and a sanctuary that holds up to 600 people, this “Village of Hope at Antioch” is visibly the result of God’s providential hand at work. The shelter for women and children, a vital haven for healing and help, will be named the Helen Harrison House of Hope in tribute to Pastor Esau Greene’s aunt, who was also a foundational member of First Church of God in New Haven.
“We proved faithful to where God wanted us to start in the highways and hedges and we grew and grew and continuing to grow,” Esau reflects. “Fear was the biggest obstacle, but we kept praying. God touched my heart and reminded me of his promises concerning us, ‘Take nothing for your journey and I will supply.’ About a year ago someone spoke prophetically concerning the building. He called me out and said, ‘Next spring you’ll be in your home.’” It’s spring 2021, and Pastor Esau Greene and New Antioch Church of God are in their new home.
The neighboring town of Branford is home to New Antioch Church of God campus today. The “suburban church with an urban mission” remains committed to the inner-city, all the while providing opportunities for people of every walk of life to receive the hope that only Jesus Christ can offer.
Learn more about the Church of God at www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.