Rev. Charles J. Stephens, Minister Emeritus
Rev. Charles J. Stephens, Minister Emeritus, served as UUCWC’s minister from 1997–2012.
Rev. Stephens was ordained as a Lutheran minister in 1973. But drawn to Unitarian Universalism’s emphasis on equality and social justice, Stephens became a Unitarian Universalist minister in 1981. His first assignment was a summer placement at a small UU congregation in Eastport, Maine. He spent nearly a decade in Maine, and was then called to serve the congregation in Concord, New Hampshire prior to coming to UUCWC.
After coming to UUCWC in 1997, Rev. Stephens became deeply involved in social justice work in New Jersey. He helped to found the New Jersey Regional Coalition, an interfaith group that works toward equity in the areas of taxes, affordable housing, and school funding. He was a longtime member of the executive committee of the Hopewell Valley Municipal Alliance, which promotes healthy behaviors among kids and teens. He testified on the floor of the state Senate in support of marriage equality legislation.
Stephens lived his values through his ministry, infusing a sense of compassion in his congregants. “Perhaps the most meaningful accomplishment UUCWC has achieved under my ministry is the deepening of our commitment to social justice work in the community,” says Stephens, who cites the church’s alliance with HomeFront to provide tutoring for homeless children, and UUCWC’s Food Ministry, which provides more meals to the underprivileged.
For all this activity, though, Stephens may be best remembered for his continual emphasis on tolerance and interfaith dialogue. Stephens was among 20 clergypeople from Mercer and Bucks Counties who visited Israel and Palestine on an interfaith mission of “compassionate listening.” Since then, the group has incorporated as the Interfaith Community for Middle East Peace and shares the lessons learned on its 2008 journey by hosting interfaith discussions and cultural events throughout the area.
In addition, Stephens for years had been part of a group of interfaith religious leaders invited by Hopewell Valley Central High School to participate in a twice-a-year assembly that engages students in a dialogue of understanding.
Reverend Stephens’ last service was June 10, 2012 though he gave his farewell sermon a week prior. Reflecting on the fit between UUCWC and his vision of the world, he said, “Here, I found a place to give of my heart and from my very being.”