The Rev. Dr. Sonia Elaine Waters, age 51, died peacefully at home in Princeton with her spouse at her side on September 22, 2023.
Sonia was born in Cuckfield, England and immigrated to the United States when she was two years old. Sonia earned her undergraduate degree in literature with a minor in gender studies from Wheaton College, her Master of Divinity with honors from The General Seminary of the Episcopal Church, and her PhD in pastoral theology from Princeton Theological Seminary.
She served as an Episcopal priest at Grace Church, Brooklyn Heights, NY, Christ Church, Budd Lake, NJ, and Trinity Church, Princeton, NJ. Before and throughout her priesthood, Sonia committed herself to feminist advocacy work, focusing on the prevention of violence against women and serving as a crisis counselor and shelter advocate. She was a member of the Society of Scholar-Priests and served on the Mental Health Task Force of the Diocese of New Jersey.
In 2014, she joined the Princeton Theological Seminary faculty as Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology. Her book Addiction and Pastoral Care, published in 2019, has become a standard textbook in addiction studies. Her research interests included addictions, contextual pastoral theology, relational perspectives on the self, socioeconomics and mental health, and creativity. She wrote many scholarly articles and spoke at conferences including New Directions in Pastoral Theology, the Society for Pastoral Theology, and the American Academy of Religion.
Most importantly she approached each person she met with what she called “holy curiosity.” Recognizing the sanctity of each person’s life, she loved people into being better people. She lived her own life in faithful obedience to God. In her last season, she talked, taught, and preached about her illness and impending death with raw honesty, courage and the kind of faith in Christ to which we can all aspire. We thank God for her courage and wisdom and for all that she taught us in living and departing this life.
Sonia leaves behind her spouse The Rev. John Mennell, stepchildren Jack Mennell, Sarah Mennell (Connor O’Neill-Dee) and Grace Mennell, her parents Tony and Marilyn Waters, her brother, Ian Waters (Renee) and nephews Ethan, Elliot, and Owen.
She touched the lives of so many with her pastoral wisdom, inspirational courage, and, above all, her unwavering Christian witness. A lasting charge, offered in a final letter to her colleagues, will resonate with all those whose lives she touched: “I pray you choose joy. Anything else is a waste of time.”
Sonia’s funeral service will be held at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Montclair, New Jersey on Saturday, September 30 at 3:00 p.m. In lieu of flowers donations may be sent to St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Rector’s Discretionary Fund, 73 S. Fullerton Ave., Montclair, NJ 07042.