A Celebration of the Life and Legacy of
Presiding Elder Alexander L. Stephans
‘To every time there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:’
A Time To Be Born
On November 7, 1928. Alexander L. Stephans was born the eldest child of Benjamín and Lola Stephans in Newark, New Jersey. The Stephans family had two children, Alexander and Margaret.
A Time To Plant
Indelible imprints were left on the lives of Alexander and Margaret by their mother Lola. Alexander came from a home where the doctrines of the African Methodist Episcopal Church were imprinted upon his heart. He accepted the Lord as his personal savior at the age of 8 and attended St Luke AME Church in Newark, New Jersey. At the age of 17, Reverend Stephans became the youngest church school Superintendent at St. Luke.
Reverend Stephans received his primary and secondary education from the Newark publics school system, graduating from West Side High School. Upon being challenged to further his academic qualifications by a close relative, he enrolled in the prestigious Wilberforce University in Ohio, the Nation’s first private HBCU founded by the AME Church. While at Wilberforce he joined the Upsilon Chapter of Omega PSI Phi Fraternity. After graduating from Wilberforce with a Bachelor of Science degree his education, his education was placed on pause as he was drafted into the US Army and sent to fight in the Korean War from 1951-1953. Following his honorable discharge from the Army he returned to Newark. Shortly thereafter he began working for General Motors, and while at the time it was considered a solid employment opportunity Reverend Stephans knew he had a higher calling and enrolled at Paine Theological Seminary, located on the campus of Wilberforce University. Upon graduating from Paine, he enrolled at Boston University School of Theology where he continued to cultivate his ministerial skills. Later still, he enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania where he earned a Master of Science in Social Policy and Practice in 1972. His love of ministry, education, and serving his community, provided him with the blueprint he expanded upon and applied throughout his life.
A Time To Cultivate
Reverend Stephans served as the president of the NAACP Lancaster Chapter during the height of national and local racial tensions circa 1962-1965. Working closely with the police commissioner, he led several protests and marches in downtown Lancaster to fight against an invisible yet blatant cloak of racism that restricted blacks from securing higher paying job opportunities and segregated the community. He also sponsored bus transportation to Washington, DC in order to attend the March on Washington on August 28, 1964, where the famous “I Have a Dream” speech was delivered by the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Upon moving to Philadelphia in 1966, Reverend Stephans taught at Simon Gratz High School for a season before obtaining employment with the City of Philadelphia, Department of Public Welfare – Youth Conservation Services, initially working with city youth coordinating efforts to foster truces between rival gangs. During his employment with the city, Reverend Stephans held numerous positions including Administrator of Social Services and retired from the Department of Human Services after more than 25 years of service. After retiring from the City of Philadelphia and the formally from the ministry, he continued to give back to the community by volunteering in several elementary schools as a substitute teacher, a commitment he continued until the start of the Covid Pandemic.
Preaching the Word of God, pastoral care, counseling, educating future pastors, and being among Gods people were his passions. He pastored and led as Presiding Elder numerous A.M.E churches in Delaware, New Jersey, and throughout Southeastern and Central Pennsylvania. Some of which were Bethel AME in Pennington, N.J.; St George AME in Lewes, DE; Bethel AME in Lancaster, PA; Mt Zion AME in Devon, PA; Thornbury AME, in Cheyney, PA; Shorter AME, in Morton, PA; Zion AME in Philadelphia, PA; Bethel AME in Lansdowne, PA; and Greater Mt Olive and Allen AME Churches, also in Philadelphia.
Additionally, Reverend Stephans held other roles of significance during his pastoral career including Chairman of the Philadelphia Conference Board of Examiners; Dean of the Ministerial Training Institute (1976-1985), Chairman of the First Episcopal District Board of Christian Education (1985-2005). He also served as Presiding Elder of the Progressive Harrisburg District from (1994-2001). Reverend Stephans entered Supernumerary Status in 2005; culminating 50 years of active ministerial service in the AME Church and was Superannuated in 2010.
Reverend Stephans loved to travel and traveled extensively throughout the world. He visits to Jerusalem, Egypt, Scandinavia, South Africa, Western Europe, and the Caribbean were his favored destinations. He and Mrs. Stephans especially loved taking Cruises.
A Time To Love
Alexander met his future wife and love of his life, Freda Jean Stewart, while a student at Wilberforce. After dating while he completed most of his higher-level academic learning, they were married on March 21, 1964, at Bethel Lancaster where he was the Pastor at the time. From their union two offspring were born; a son, Cortlant, and a daughter, Chrystal. In addition to raising their children in God honoring fashion, they opened their home to family and friends alike hosting a multitude of church gatherings and celebrations . Despite being a full-time pastor and working full-time in a secular position, Reverend Stephans always made time for his family and kept them a priority. In addition to the tremendous love and esteem he held for his dedicated and loving Wife, he was equally proud of his children and their self-sufficiency.
A Time To Transition
On Saturday, August 13, 2022, Reverend Stephans peacefully transitioned leaving behind a legacy of service, generosity, and love. “Well done my good and faithful servant” Mathew 25:23
A Time To Mourn
Reverend Stephans leaves to cherish many fond memories of his extraordinary life: His wife Freda Stephans, son, Cortlant Stephans, daughter, Chrystal Jonas (Michael), sister, Margaret Harden, nephew, Keith Harden, great-nephew, William Harden, and cousin, Freida Hester. Very Special Friends: Reverend and Mrs. William Gray, and Sister Annette Sanders. Through marriage Reverend Stephans was a part of a large extended family of in-laws, nieces, nephews and cousins who also mourn his loss. Lastly, a large community of congregants and friends within the AME church will also truly miss his faithfulness and commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ.