Rev. Chuck Van Houten departs Stony Brook Community Church

Rev. Chuck Van Houten departs Stony Brook Community Church

Rev. Chuck Van Houten. Photo courtesy Chuck Van Houten

By Peter Sloniewsky

After 11 years at the Stony Brook Community Church, the Rev. Chuck Van Houten has been reassigned. Van Houten will join a “cooperative parish” — a parish including multiple United Methodist churches across a region — in Connecticut entitled the New Room Parish on July 1, as part of a consolidating measure taken by United Methodist leadership to maintain ministries amid a trend of dwindling clergy numbers. 

Despite his move and general trends of United Methodist pastoral consolidation, Van Houten said that he believes “the future of the church is strong because of the faith and the commitment of the good people in our churches,” but also described this time as a place to rethink “what church is, how church functions and what church can become in the months and years ahead.” 

Located on Christian Avenue, the Stony Brook Community Church was erected in 1860 and has been involved under Van Houten’s leadership in a large variety of charitable causes, including Habitat for Humanity, Meals on Wheels, homeless shelters and soup kitchens across Long Island. Its stated message is to not only worship, but also “to bring positive change to the world through prayer and service.”

A native of Long Island, Van Houten first received a bachelor’s degree of fine art in music with an emphasis on vocal performance from Long Island University at C.W. Post. After serving as a bass soloist for a church in Port Washington, he was inspired to enter the New Brunswick Theological Seminary, eventually graduating magna cum laude from Drew University in 1999 with a master’s degree in divinity. 

Van Houten moved on to work as an associate pastor in Westchester, where he was a member of the resident Circuit Riders rock ’n’ roll worship band. Today, he continues to present a uniquely musical perspective to his faith, including rock ’n’ roll worship services. Following his time in Westchester, Van Houten led the Centerport United Methodist Church for 12 years until his appointment to Stony Brook in 2013. In Centerport, he notably made substantial fundraising efforts whose effects are still felt today. 

Stony Brook reflections

Despite his optimism for the future, Van Houten did express regret at leaving: “I have loved living in the Stony Brook area. This community has been a wonderful place to meet new people, live, do ministry and share in one another’s lives.” 

Specifically, he reflected upon one of his most meaningful ministries, wherein the SBCC partnered with the Three Village Central School District to hold monthly food collection Sundays at local supermarkets. Noting that, he “would often take that opportunity to let folks know that food insecurity does exist in our local area,” Van Houten described conversations about food insecurity raised during such work as “very gratifying,” and as “eye-opening for some folks” while also “quite meaningful for our church.”

New pastor-sharing system

Van Houten also clarified that he had been advised that no new pastor would be sent to the SBCC, largely due to the aforementioned shortage of clergy. Instead, the congregation of the SBCC will become more heavily involved in the new ministerial model of sharing pastors with other local United Methodist churches. 

That being said, he maintained his optimism for the future: “I believe that God is doing a bold new thing among the people called United Methodist … their faith and hope in the gospel of Jesus Christ and a God of love remains strong.” Describing the community as an “inspiration,” he clearly expressed hope that the new pastor-sharing system guiding the SBCC in the future would continue to hold together the United Methodist community on Long Island.

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