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Search Committee News
June 25, 2014
It is with great joy that we announce The Reverend Dr. Clay Alan Lein has accepted our call to be the fifth rector of St. John the Divine Episcopal Church. In our parish survey and town hall meetings, you indicated that among the most important things you hope for in our new rector is a biblically-centered, compelling, and inspirational preacher and teacher of the Gospel. The search committee, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, has been led to a priest who is equipped with such gifts. The grace of God was evident in many ways throughout our search, but most powerfully in our answered prayers for unity and accord. Clay was the unanimous choice of the search committee and his call was issued on the unanimous vote of the vestry.
In 2002, Dr. Lein (pronounced "Lee-in") was called to start a new church in Frisco, Texas, a growing suburb of Dallas. Clay has been the rector of St. Philip's Episcopal Church since that time, ministering to a congregation that has grown from its founding members to its current size of nearly 1,400 baptized members and over 700 in average Sunday attendance. It is currently the third largest church in the Diocese of Dallas. In May, St. Philip's completed an ambitious capital and building campaign to add St. Philip's Hall, a new education and multipurpose building, to the campus. Clay previously served as executive pastor at Christ Episcopal Church in Plano, Texas, which sent him out to begin St. Philip's, and associate pastor at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pawley's Island, South Carolina.
Clay received his Master of Divinity degree from Trinity School for Ministry and recently completed his Doctor of Ministry at Gordon-Conwell in Charlotte, North Carolina. He received a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering from the University of Missouri, and a Masters of Business Administration from Arizona State University.
Prior to entering the clergy, Clay was a product marketing engineer with Intel Corporation, based in Arizona. It was during this time that Jesus powerfully "showed up and became relevant to him" after a young adulthood spent keeping God at more than arm’s length. Clay loves to learn, and is passionate about helping people get their heads around the whole 'God thing.' He is the author of Ordinary Faith, published in 2008, about "finding real faith in ordinary life."
In accepting our call, Clay shared his excitement about coming to St. John the Divine. "We've been amazed and blessed by the prayerfulness of SJD. Thank you for that. It has become clear to us that God has laid a strong foundation of faith here and that St. John the Divine is poised for a real movement of God's Spirit. I believe that the best really is yet to be, and I'm grateful that Jill and I get to be part of it."
Clay is married to Jill Elizabeth Lein, whom Clay says "loved me to faith." They have three grown children: Jennifer, who soon will be moving to Portland to pursue a post-graduate certification in horticultural therapy, and John and Joshua, who are each completing their undergraduate degrees at the University of North Texas. Jill is truly Clay's partner in ministry. She is passionate about helping people of all ages live into the fullness of their gifts. A strong leader in her own right, she has helped to grow the music ministry, adult education programs, and children's ministry at St. Philip's. Most recently she has been the director of St. Philip's Preschool, pastoring over 200 kids and their families. In their spare time, Clay and Jill enjoy cooking, traveling, reading, and bird watching. Jill is no stranger to the clergy; her father was an Episcopal priest in the inner-city of Detroit, Michigan, where Jill spent her childhood, and her older sister is a priest in the Diocese of Michigan.
Bishop Doyle has expressed his great enthusiasm for this call and his belief that Clay will be a tremendous asset to the Diocese of Texas. The bishop and our new rector look forward to working with each other in the coming years.
In God's perfect timing, we are grateful that the Holy Spirit has brought Clay and Jill to SJD and we most joyfully welcome them to Houston! Clay's first day to preach and celebrate at St. John the Divine will be Sunday, November 23. This timing will allow Clay to finish well at St. Philip's and ensure a smooth transition for his beloved flock.
Your prayers and support have encouraged us during our twelve months of active search and six months of preparation preceding that. We believe that we have called the priest that God has anointed to lead St. John the Divine into the next phase of our life together. How fitting that we welcome Clay as we commence the planning and celebration of 75 years of Changing Lives for God in Christ. Clay will confidently build on the firm foundation set in place by our past rectors Larry Hall, Ben Benitez, Tom Roberts and Tom Sumners. The best is yet to be at SJD! We are sure that your prayers and your friendship will support Clay, Jill, and their family as they join our parish family.
Grace and Peace,
Your search committee has been on the road visiting candidates and meeting approximately twice a month since January first, working to discover who will be the fifth rector of St. John the Divine. While we have not yet found the person who will follow Larry Hall, we continue to find priests from all across the country who appear to have the qualifications to be our next rector. Members of our committee are planning visits to their cities and parishes in the next few months to conduct more interviews with these candidates. At this juncture, I want to make several observations.
First, The Church of St. John the Divine is well known and respected as one of the leading parishes in the Episcopal Church by everyone we have interviewed. Every priest I have spoken with has characterized us as a thriving parish which is carrying out the Lord's work in many ways. They are amazed at the number of weekly services we have and the many outreach programs we support, and many have commented about our wonderful web site. Larry Hall is also known well by many of the candidates.
My second point is that while this process may seem like it is taking a long time, the search for Larry Hall took 18 months. If you consider that we have been reviewing and interviewing candidates for only 10 months at this point, we don't seem to be taking a long time to make this very important decision for the future of our parish. Our committee is a diverse and dedicated group who represent all constituencies of our parish. Each one of us takes this search very seriously and we are all confident we will discover the next rector of St. John the Divine.
I ask for your patience as we do this work. We are all very curious to find out who our next rector will be and when he or she will arrive. We pray those questions are answered soon, but we also realize this search will be concluded in the Lord's time, not ours. Please continue to keep this process and our parish in your prayers.
Peace be with you,
Search Committee Update - January 21, 2014
November, December and January have busy months for your search committee. Since my last report we have continued to discover priests to add to the list of potential candidates and have researched and reviewed information about them. We met for discussions and made initial visits to some promising candidates.
We made progress in November and the first part of December, but we were not very active during the Advent and Christmas season due to priests' understandably busy schedules. We met last weekend and are now back into the swing of the search. I again ask for your patience and prayers as we continue our search to find the priest whom God has chosen to be the fifth rector of St. John the Divine.
On a personal note, I apologize for the long gap since my last report. My mother suffered a stroke many years ago and moved into the Hallmark last October. She fell ill and died six weeks later, in late November. I was overwhelmed by dealing with the details of her move, illness and death and put off my update until now. I will be more current with my updates going forward.
Peace be with you,
Search Committee Update - November 11, 2013
October was an active month for the search committee. Subgroups traveled to meet with three candidates in their home cities and attended services at their parishes. We will visit another of our candidates later this month. In addition, we are in conversation with one additional candidate and hope that he will allow us to have a more formal visit with him in the near future. Several names were proposed during the month and the committee is reviewing their credentials as I write this update.
It seems at this juncture that we have been on this search for a long time, in part because the committee was introduced by Larry Hall in January. We ask that you remember that we were commissioned to begin the actual search in June, after considerable training and preparation. Travel and vacations by committee members and potential candidates made it difficult to establish contact during the summer. No one feels the length of this effort more than the search committee, but be assured that this wonderful group is as committed today as they were in January. We are encouraged by the quality of both the candidates we are actively meeting with and others that we are reviewing.
I very much appreciate the patience and understanding of the many parishioners who have visited with me about this process. As always, the committee members and I are happy to answer any questions about the search process.
Isaiah 40:31 has great meaning to me these days:
But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
Search Committee Chair
Search Committee Update - October 4, 2013
Your search committee has ramped up activity since Labor Day. Since our process began in earnest last spring, we have received the names of over 30 candidates. Individual committee members reviewed the credentials of specific candidates and reported their findings to the committee. We then refined this list by eliminating some candidates that did not appear to be a good fit due to age, experience, or tenure at their current parish.
All committee members then reviewed each of the candidates who met our criteria. Once this individual research was complete, the committee as a group reviewed the candidates and selected those we wished subgroups of committee members to visit personally. I have contacted a number of the chosen candidates and asked them to consider the opportunity to continue their ministry at St. John the Divine. Some declined our invitation to be considered, while others are willing to be visited.
We are now beginning to visit with candidates in person. Please remember that this is an ongoing process and that we may be at this stage for a number of months. We continue to receive and enthusiastically consider names of potential candidates. Each name we receive is given the same consideration as those received at the beginning of this process. We will notify the parish when we feel we can no longer accept candidate names.
As I have stated in previous updates, your search committee is taking a great deal of time and expending great energy reviewing candidates and preparing to make personal visits. I am so very thankful to have such a dedicated and diverse group of parishioners working with me on this search.
Our committee is continuously praying for God to reveal the individual that He has selected to be the fifth rector of St. John the Divine, who will build upon the great work that Larry Hall, our clergy, our dedicated staff, and our many parishioners have done to make this parish the beacon of faith, hope and love that it is today. We ask for your patience and continued prayer as we continue along this path. Additionally, we invite and welcome anyone who feels so moved to join us in the chapel at 7:30 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. each Monday (except for the third Monday of each month) to pray with the vestry for our parish and the candidates we are considering. Be aware that we do not pray for candidates by name. The committee is bound to protect the confidentiality of the search and the identities of the candidates we are considering.
Please feel free to ask any committee member or me any questions you may have about the search. We will do our very best to answer any questions as directly as we can, subject to protecting our oath of confidentiality to the candidates.
Search Committee Chair
Search Committee Update - August 14, 2013
Your rector search committee has had a busy summer. We are in the active phase of our search. Candidate names have been, and continue to be, provided to the committee from numerous sources including the diocesan office, parishioners, and friends of parishioners. Members of our committee have discovered viable candidates as well. While we have not met as often in the last couple of months as we did earlier in the year, we have continued to study candidates and are beginning the process of determining which candidates we wish to actively consider and are doing more research on those people.
As I have stated before, we cannot be definitive about where we are exactly in the process and we cannot disclose any details about individual candidates we are considering. I will say that our committee is studying numerous very strong candidates, judging by what we have seen on paper and on their parish web sites. We are very encouraged about where we are in this process and are looking forward to our visits with them
This phase of the process can take from several months to many months. I ask your continued patience and prayers as we continue this important work for our parish. Now that the summer months are drawing to a close, we will pick up speed again. Many of you have been gracious in thanking me for our work. I need you to know that you have a wonderful, engaged and enthusiastic committee spending a significant amount of their time researching candidates and meeting to discuss them. In addition, members of our committee have been authoring the prayers for the search committee which are sent out each week. We would welcome any prayers from parishioners as well.
Our prayer is that God will soon bless St. John the Divine with a fifth rector who will carry on the rich traditions of worship, education, outreach, and fellowship that the Rev. Larry Hall, our clergy, and our staff have so faithfully led us to experience.
Peace be with you,
Search Committee Update - June 5, 2013
Under the leadership of Alecia Lawyer and with the assistance of numerous members of the staff of St. John the Divine, the search committee has published our Parish Profile. The profile was approved by the vestry at their last meeting and an electronic copy is available for all to read on the web. You can access it on sjd.org by clicking the 'SJD Parish Profile' tab to the right of the home page slide show, or directly here.
The main purpose of the Parish Profile is to give rector candidates a snapshot of the many attributes of St. John the Divine. The search committee and vestry are very enthusiastic about this publication and believe it will be a useful tool for anyone who visits our parish. Alecia and other members of our committee and the SJD staff spent many hours creating and editing this piece to make it the very fine finished product that you will see. I hope you will take this opportunity to read it. I know you will be impressed by how rich our parish is in the many ways we worship, the ways we offer ourselves in our many ministries, and the joyous faces you will see.
The search committee is currently reviewing the various candidates that have been referred to us by the Diocese, parishioners, and others who are aware we are in a search process. We will narrow the list to the most qualified candidates and begin visiting their parishes in late summer or early fall. Because of summer vacations, we will most likely begin our serious interviews in August.
I can tell you that we feel that we have a number of highly qualified candidates to choose from and we look forward to taking the next step of personal visits. I want to encourage you to continue submitting the names of anyone you think we should consider. We will be placing a notice of this position on several Episcopal sites in the near future so that this exciting opportunity can be seen by any priest considering another calling for their ministry.
As always, I ask your continued prayers for the search committee to discover our next rector, for the clergy and staff of St. John the Divine, and for the person God has already chosen to be our fifth rector.
Larry Neuhaus, Search Committee Chair
Search Committee Update - May 17, 2013
The Search Committee is now entering the next phase of our search process. We have prepared ourselves by discovering the attributes our parishioners seek in our next rector, receiving instruction from the diocesan staff regarding how to ask questions to efficiently glean information from the rector candidates, and learning what resources are available to us from the diocese. We have a list of candidates and are about to begin screening them using the data that has been given to us, the candidates' parish web sites, and any other resources we can uncover.
In this phase of our search, we will narrow our list to the candidates that we want to interview. We will then ask those individuals if they would like to be considered for the position. Members of the committee will go in small groups to the parishes of those who respond positively to conduct the interviews. We ask for your prayers for our discernment in finding the person that God has chosen to be the fifth rector of St. John the Divine.
At this time we must ask for your patience and understanding because we will be unable to disclose anything about any of the potential rector candidates. What I can say at this time is that there are some very attractive candidates on paper. Please do not press any of the members of the Search Committee for names or hints of names of whom we are considering. We are extremely sensitive to the confidentiality of this process. Our search would be compromised if this confidentiality is broken with any of our candidates.
I ask for your continued prayers for the Search Committee, the clergy, and the church staff, and for patience and confidence for everyone as we begin this period of transition. We are entering a bittersweet time as we celebrate the ministry of Larry Hall and anticipate the arrival of the fifth rector of St. John the Divine in the near future.
Peace be with you,
Parish Visioning Survey Results
Below is a link to the results of the parish survey and the visioning conversations which were held earlier this month. I know that you will find the information about St. John the Divine, the demographics of our parishioners, and the skill set and personality we desire for the fifth rector to bring with him very interesting. It was also abundantly clear how much we all love Rector Larry Hall, the other clergy, and our staff, and how much the clergy and staff love our parishioners in return.
At this juncture I want to thank members of my Search Committee, the SJD staff, and others too numerous to mention for their devotion to arranging the logistics of both the survey and the visioning conversations, facilitating the visioning conversations, and accurately and quickly providing you with this information. While all of our committee participated in this work, I especially want to thank Tom Knudson for the untold hours he spent developing the survey and visioning questions, creating the online survey, tabulating the results of both the survey and visioning conversations, and finally creating the report you have before you. I would also like to thank the following staff people who worked overtime to make the Visioning Conversations such a great success: Debbie Lazarine, Trey Thompson and his crew, Becca Rivas, Marilyn Gore, Kathy Golvach, Andrea Meier, Rebecca Llenos, Juanita Cavazos, Jewel Wright and Jackie Skeffington.
Please continue to keep us in your prayers as we continue along our path. Our next meetings will be with Diocesan staff who will work with us on the best practices for interviewing potential candidates. We anticipate that we will have a Parish Profile using much of the information we have gathered from our survey and visioning conversations by early May, at which point we will begin analyzing information on the individual candidates, selecting a group who we believe could be a good fit for our church, and going out to visit their congregations. At that time, the Search Committee will become very quiet regarding our process out of respect for the candidates. Committee members will be able to answer very general questions but will not reveal who we are considering. I would very much appreciate your respect for the confidentiality we will work under during that time. You are, of course, able to communicate with me and we would appreciate the names of any potential candidates you can give us.
Search Committee News Blog
The search committee will be posting periodic updates on the Search Committee News blog on the SJD website. New posts will be copied on this page and all posts will be archived on the blog page.
Introducing the Search Committee
Your search committee has been working diligently since December, 2012, preparing for our upcoming search to discover whom our Lord has chosen to be the fifth rector of St. John the Divine. We have been developing a brochure which will be the tool we use to illuminate to potential rector candidates the many facets and attributes of our parish. We are asking for your participation in our preparation of this brochure.
April 7 will be a very important Sunday for all of us. We are preparing to have a number of simultaneous small group "town hall" type meetings at our traditional Sunday school hour, beginning at 10:00 am and ending an hour later. The object of these meetings is for the parish as a whole to give input to the committee and the vestry regarding the qualities the parishioners would like the next rector to have and the future plans for the parish.
We are also preparing a parish-wide survey which will give all parishioners the opportunity to give their input by answering the survey questions and adding their personal thoughts. We are planning to have the survey available from the middle of March until after the town hall meeting day of April 7.
To be clear, the search committee is a committee of the vestry. We report our activities to the vestry at their monthly meeting. The vestry will have the final say in all that we do as a committee.
Our committee consists of 19 hard-working parishioners, all of whom are taking this assignment very seriously. The committee members are: Senior Warden Tim Arnoult, Buddy Bailey, Andy Breckwoldt, John Cain, Craig Childers, Ann Cochran, Max Evans, Lori Gobillot, Junior Higgins, Tom Knudson, Alecia Lawyer, Kenny Meyer, Dana Miller, David Modesett, Meg Rice, Doug Selman, Keith Short, Eric Wade and me. To a person, we realize the importance of our charge to discover whom God has already chosen to be our next rector. We are striving to be as open and candid with the parish as we can be, considering that when we begin interviewing candidates we must be very mindful of the confidential nature of the information we will be studying. We will, above all else, respect the candidates' privacy while we are in the process of interviewing them and, therefore, will not be able to share with parishioners the details of whom we are considering until the proper time to reveal that information. We do want you to submit names of priests to us whom you feel should be considered for this position, as some parishioners already have done.
The first thing the parish as a whole can do is pray for the committee's work, pray for God to reveal to us the candidate He wants us to discover, pray for the parish to have patience and confidence as we go through this transition, pray for the clergy and staff that they may find peace during what may seem an uncertain time to them, pray for Larry Hall as he approaches the time to give up his leadership of our parish after giving us his many gifts for so many years of ministry to us, and pray for the the priest who will lead us in the future, even though we do not yet know him or her. In order to assist you in this important contribution, our committee has and will continue to publish prayers for parishioners to use during their prayer time. Look for these prayers in the weekly pew sheet and the weekly SJD electronic newsletter.
We all need to express our appreciation to Larry Hall for his generosity in giving us the luxury of allowing our committee, the vestry, and the parish to execute this vital mission in a methodical way. His flexibility as to his retirement date and his gift of a long lead time prior to his mandatory retirement have allowed us to use all of the resources available to us, including the diocesan office, to assist us in discovering our next rector rather than rushing the process, being without a rector, or having an interim rector.
Lastly, this is the first of at least monthly updates the search committee will write to you. In addition, please do not hesitate to ask any committee member or me any question you may have about what we are doing. Thank you.
Larry Neuhaus, Search Committtee Chairperson
Weekly Prayers for the Search for the 5th Rector
The Search Committee has established a prayer committee to lead us prayerfully through the transition process of calling the 5th rector of St. John the Divine. As part of this responsibility,we are undertaking to write out prayers to be distributed to the parish. Our hope is that the congregation as a whole will lift up our church during this time. God loves to see the unity of his people and what better way than to pray together!
We hope and pray you are blessed by them as we all approach the throne of grace in unity.
Prayer for the week of January 21
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind and with all your soul.
Little words sometimes have big meanings. When we read the word "all" in The Bible, this word never means "most of the time" or "almost" or "it is okay to complete ninety percent of a task". All means All...for it is the Holy word of God.
As we contemplate these words from Deuteronomy, let us All pray:
We give you thanks, Lord, for our Rector, Larry (H)All, who has given just that in serving our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and All at St. John the Divine for over thirty years! Let us All continue our daily prayers for the search committee to discover the one whom God has chosen to continue our quest for knowing Jesus in All ways.
We pray All these things in the name of Jesus, who gave his All for us. Amen!