American preacher Rev Jared Stephens recently left his homeland to become the new Assistant Minister at West Presbyterian Church.
The Michigan native is, however, no stranger to our province, having completed a 12 month ‘internship’ at Groomsport Presbyterian Church just five years ago. This was organised as part of an international placement facilitated by Princeton Theological Seminary where Jared undertook his formal theological training.
It was during that time that Jared developed a taste for the Ulster fry and a passion for rugby at Ravenhill. More importantly, he also met his wife, Elaine, who hails from Bangor and, since then, the couple have returned to Northern Ireland at least twice a year.
Jared had the privilege of growing up in a Christian home and cannot remember a time when he was not aware of Jesus or the importance of faith.
He says: “I majored in Philosophy at university and loved this along with my second major, Religious Studies. When I started to think very hard and deeply about these things, it challenged the simple faith than had been handed down to me.
“Through great and painful process God became real to me in a way that he never had before. My faith was awakened; I could claim it as my own and there is power in that”, he said.
Subsequently, Jared went to Princeton and was eventually ordained as a Minister in the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America.
For four years he served as the minister at the First Presbyterian Church of Stamford and was also Campus Minister at New York State University at Delhi.
The process of transferring to the Presbyterian Church in Ireland began for Jared in January 2014. Due to the differing rules and statues between PCI and its sister church in America, those moving into the Irish system must complete a two year assistantship at a congregation to ‘learn the ropes’.
Jared said: “I am very grateful to whoever hooked me up with West Church. Rev. Daniel Kane is a very able Minister as well as a loving person. We are getting on very well and I am blessed to be able to learn from him”
Jared has gained an equally positive first impression of West Church as a whole.
“The church is probably the friendliest I have ever been to in my life.
“The people there have been welcoming and kind and loving to a point where I am almost embarrassed to accept their love.
“The outpouring of love that I have felt has been amazing,” he added.