On Saturday 10th June, the Ealing NTA – led by Rev Dr Julius and Rev Mrs Jamiru – honoured the life, ministry and legacy of Pastor Emeritus Rev Earl Leopold Constantine Sterling, who was celebrating a tremendous 50 years of ministry.
Guests included members of the Sterling family, Bishop Delroy Powell, the Rt Rev Eric Brown, Rev Les Isaac OBE, Pastor Emeritus Calvin Burke, Bishop Dick and Lady Agnes Essandoh of Action Chapel International, Rev Beverley Russell-Burke, Rev Edna May Richards, and Bishop and Lady McLeod – to name but a few.
Inspirational musical tributes were performed by Rev and Mrs Crossfield & Family; Psalmist Mrs Dawn Thomas-Wallace, and Psalmist Mr Isaiah Raymond.
The warmth of affection towards this man of God and his “dedicated and outstanding” wife, Rev Nezlin Sterling, was tangible, as NTA congregants and leaders from around the UK paid tribute to the effect he’d had on their lives and on the church.
A table vignette displayed items close to Rev Sterling’s heart: his guitar, his Bible, a Jamaican flag, and the iconic ‘Sterling hat’ – often worn along with his various suits and ties. Special mention was also made of his love of cricket, represented by his cricket bat.
Long-time friend, Pastor Emeritus Calvin Burke, spoke of the anointing on Rev Sterling’s life to impact the lives of everyone he came into contact with – “not only on NTA Ealing, not only on NTA England, but on all the other churches” that he was associated with.
Rev Olutunjie Okoro-Cole and his wife also shared how Rev Earl and Rev Nezlin Sterling had taken them under their wing, when they arrived from Sierra Leone, and he also publicly thanked the Sterling sons – Dwight, Laurel and Dominic – for sharing their parents with the flock.
Heartfelt tributes were also punctuated with laughter, as the Rt Rev Joel Thomas, General Overseer of the Church of God Worldwide Mission International, pleaded with Rev Sterling to know the secret of his youthful looks that belie his 75 years.
The Rt Rev Eric Brown then took the stage and, basing his tribute on 1 Samuel 12, congratulated Rev Sterling on being able to lift his hands and declare that, throughout all his years of ministry, he had remained a man of the utmost integrity – with no financial or immoral slurs against his name – and had “served the Assembly with distinction and, in every way, with a dignified ministry”.
Another respected pastor who wanted to add his voice to the tributes was Bishop Dick Essandoh, who said Rev Sterling had been an inspiration and a servant of God who had not only finished, but had finished well. Quoting 1 Samuel 20:18 – “Thou shalt be missed, because thy seat shall be empty” – Bishop Essandoh acknowledged that Rev Sterling was now entering a new season of opportunities, and that he had raised up a son in Rev Dr Julius Jamiru, who would sit in his seat and continue the work he had started.
There was a definite thread running throughout the tributes, of a man who had dedicated much of his life to serving God through humbly serving others – a thread Bishop Derek Powell highlighted in his own personal commendation.
A heart-warming video presentation by the young adults brought further accolades for a “church dad” who had made significant impact on many lives.
Perhaps the most poignant tribute of the evening was given by Dominic Sterling. He acknowledged there was “serious business” taking place in the forbidden front room when they were growing up, and came to appreciate the importance of releasing his parents to the flock. Using the analogy of a tree, he spoke of some people who were like leaves – they fell away at the slightest breeze or wind; some were branches, who would break away under pressure, but others, like his father, were roots; they remained unseen, but their contributions were vitally important. “You don’t really see him, but he goes about his day-to-day business” impacting the lives of others.
It is fitting that servants of God are honoured for their many achievements when they enter glory, but it is also important to recognise the love, affection and gratitude towards men and women of God, and celebrate them while they are still with us. Coming from someone who isn’t part of the NTA family, it was evident that this was a very special event for a very special man and woman of God, who have humbly and diligently served the New Testament Assembly – 50 years’ ministry and still ‘not out’!
Pastor Emeritus Rev Earl Sterling, we salute and congratulate you.