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The Church of St. John the Divine | Episcopal Church Houston, TX > Article Details
Clay Lein on KHOU TV
Clay Lein on KUHF radio
wife, Jill, have been married for 31 years.
They met at Southeast Missouri State University
in Cape Girardeau, Missouri when he
was 17 and she
and Jill have three children.
has a bachelors in social work from UT Austin and is about to go to Portland to put her
passion for helping people to use with a certification in horticultural therapy - a new field "helping people in nature with plants.
John is 24 and is studying film and writing at the University of North Texas at Denton
after 3 1/2 years in the Army.
Joshua, 22, is a musician and will graduate from UNT next year with a degree in English.
grew up going to church, but "didn't know Jesus.
Looking back, Clay
feels that God used the scouting program in a formative way in his
As a boy scout, he
was part of a community where he
belonged, which he
feels is essential to growing boys.
"There were men and women that were adults that were telling me that I belonged, that I mattered, that I was valued, that I could learn things, and that I could impact the world in ways that no one else really was telling me at the time," he
believes that scouting "sees kids as important enough to invest in and capable of changing the world," and seeks to incorporate those same themes in Sunday school and youth groups at his
also views scouting as a uniquely valuable avenue for teaching leadership skills in young people and ascribes a significant part of his
own leadership training to his
time in scouting.
As a young adult, church "seemed completely irrelevant" to Clay
until, at the age of 27, an encounter with the Holy Spirit "proved He
At the time he
was a successful engineer with an MBA whose job at Intel
had him on a fast track to earn his
first million by age 30.
A self-described "all-in guy," Clay
knew when he
came to Christianity that he
needed to serve in some way.
worked with the youth ministry in his
church, got involved in life groups, joined the vestry and taught Bible study, but found himself called to a different path.
"Over the course of the next three years ... the Holy Spirit really began to stir in me a desire to serve Him 100% in ministry," he
had a strong sense that God was calling him away from the job he
loved to focus all his
time and energy "on helping people to discover a relationship with Jesus Christ that changes everything.
"Once I met God," he
says, "I knew that the way I could help people the best was to help them meet the same Jesus that changed me."
Clay received his Masters of Divinity from Trinity School for Ministry in 1995 and recently completed his Doctor of Ministry at Gordon-Conwell in Charlotte, North Carolina.
After serving as associate pastor of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pawley's Island, South Carolina, and executive pastor at Christ Episcopal Church in Plano, Clay founded St. Philip's Episcopal Church in Frisco, Texas in 2002.
In its 12 years of existence, St. Philip's
has grown to be the third largest church in the Diocese of Dallas.
When asked what makes it possible for a church to grow and flourish, Clay
says that it is crucial for the church "to get back to the basics of a transformed life.
Since announcing his
call to SJD, his
parishioners have shared stories with him about the changes that have occurred in their lives while at St. Philip's
"When I hear those stories, that's when I know that you've got a church that's growing - it's because transformation is happening here," he
"I believe that God is already doing that at St. John the Divine and I believe that He
wants to grow that even more."
Clay Lein preaching
sees two "big picture" requirements to building a community of faith.
"Single-minded focus on Jesus is the beginning of it all," he
, meaningful worship is a "gathering of people who are experiencing God, who are connecting with God's heart.
"I'm showing up and I'm expecting God to show up, too," he
explains, "and when He
shows up, no matter what songs we sing or what style of music or what words we use out of a prayer book, somehow there is an encounter, an experience, a conversation that happens.
My heart gets stirred, and I lift my eyes upward towards heaven, and I know that I am in his
There are so many ways of doing that - almost as many ways as there are different people."
has a passion for evangelism and a powerful vision for reaching out to the burgeoning population surrounding SJD.
"As families move in to the community, our best way to reach them is to be amongst them," he
Following Jesus is "a full-time job" according to Clay
, but he
acknowledges that it's hard for people to really know how to live their faith at the office or in school - beyond the structure of Sunday morning.
At St. Philip's he
has focused on showing his
parishioners how it looks to live their faith in the 167 hours every week that they are not at church with models, examples, images, and videos.
"When [people] see what it looks like, then suddenly they can begin to see themselves doing that," he
believes that it's important to equip people with "concrete and specific" tools for evangelism.
"We don't need to be telling people, 'Go out there and tell people about Jesus!'" he
vision for his
first year at SJD
as mostly about relationships.
"I'm stepping into a place where God has been at work for a good long season," he
Larry Neuhaus, chair of the search committee, was singularly impressed by Clay.
"Each time I visited with Clay
, I found him committed to Jesus Christ, very humble, very genuine, very dedicated to making the parish he
leads a Holy Place - vibrant and exciting," he
uses humor well.
I believe that this is the Holy Spirit in action.
I really believe Clay
is the best mixture of maturity, preaching/teaching skills, proper theology, drive, and magnetic personality that we saw.
Senior Warden Tom Knudson was equally impressed.
has such a heart for evangelism in the simplest sense of the word - telling people about Jesus and the difference he
has made in our lives," says Tom.
"I'm very excited about the opportunity we have to do just that for the thousands of people who are moving in to the new mid and high-rise developments near us."
Jill and Clay
in May and "fell in love" with the people of St. John the Divine.
"What captured our hearts is seeing the work that God has already done, through Larry Hall and through others; the foundation that's there, the faithfulness.
Clay's first day to preach and celebrate at St. John the Divine will be Sunday, November 9 at a One@Ten service in the Church.
More than just the new job, Clay
is excited about "these people that are wanting to be faithful to God in new ways.
Wherever I see that, I get excited!"
A more comprehensive interview with Dr. Lein
appeared in the Fall 2014 issue of the Vine.
HOUSTON - As an electrical engineer ...
HOUSTON - As an electrical engineer and a self-professed "angry atheist," Clay Lein had no truck with religion.
God, he was convinced, was fools' folly - a crutch for those who couldn't cut it on their own.
His wife, Jill, and her father, an Episcopal priest, were free to believe, of course, but the Bible stuff just wasn't for him.
Baseball, though, was another matter.
Seated in a study at Houston's St. John the Divine Episcopal Church
, as he
prepared to deliver his
first sermon as the 75-year-old congregation's new rector, Lein
tale of how a scoffing man of science was transformed - through the agency of sports - into a staunch believer.
At 53, Lein
has worn the clerical collar more than 17 years, as executive pastor at Christ Episcopal Church
in Plano, Texas, and, most recently, as rector at St. Philip's Episcopal Church
in Frisco, a Dallas suburb.
"I met Jesus and that was the beginning of a wonderful relationship that has changed every single thing in my life - my marriage, my priorities, my future - all for the better," he
For much of his
- raised as a Lutheran - was a cheerful atheist.
"God was irrelevant to me personally and to the world," he
All that began to change when, as a mid-20-ish Intel Corp.
engineer in Phoenix, he
was paid a visit by his
Searching for a church to attend during the visit, the older man stumbled onto a charismatic congregation that so impressed him that he
recommended it to his
, too, found the Episcopal church a good fit, routinely dragging her
spouse to services.
"I went to humor her
bluntly informed the clergyman that he
was a nonbeliever, but was impressed when the churchman seemed to accept him nonetheless.
The two men soon discovered a common bond: a favorite sport.
Before the priest departed, the nonbeliever had agreed to coach a church team.
coached for Jesus, but was unshakable in disbelief.
When invited to counsel teens at a summer camp, he
spurned the offer.
When reminded that summers at the mountain camp would be about 30 degrees cooler than in Phoenix, he
At first, his
duties were limited to serving as a father surrogate to the campers.
But things reached a crisis when Lein
was asked to participate in a healing session, physically laying hands on the teens and praying with them.
balked, then acquiesced, concluding that "I can do this.
I'm arrogant and proud of my gifts.
I can make something up: 'Oh creator of the universe, blah, blah, blah.'"
Then the first teen stepped up, and Lein
stretched out his
"Before I could open my mouth, words came into my head that were not of me and I prayed those words," Lein
"I saw big boulder fields like in Alaska, and on each were words - names of all the things he
was struggling with.
Each time, God got in the middle and the words that came out were not mine."
Next up was a girl who, as Lein
prayed, began sobbing, revealing the details of sexual abuse she
had suffered at the hands of an adult.
"That's when a question came into my mind," Lein
"I said, 'God, if this happens when I get out of your way for 15 minutes, what would happen if I got out of your way for my whole life?' It was an epiphany, a thought that just didn't sound like me.
It said, 'Try me.'"
knelt, and recited the Lord's Prayer, the only one he
knew by heart.
sprang into Christianity with a vengeance.
A month later he
agreed to mentor a church youth group; within three years he
felt called to preach.
"It never occurred to me to doubt the reality of God," he
said, the more he
persevered, the more the doubts faded.
With master's and doctoral degrees in theology, Lein
was ordained in 1996.
After stints as deacon at a South Carolina church and 5½ years as rector in Plano, Lein joined the Frisco church as its first rector in 2002.
12-year tenure, he
contributed to its growth to about 1,400 members.
established a reputation as a communicator who eschewed pulpit oration for a relaxed delivery.
St. Philip's spokeswoman Dianna Brannan recalled the Sunday when Lein perched atop a ladder and proclaimed, "I'm God looking down.
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