Thomas Kleinert, Sr. Minister
I was born in Kaiserslautern, Germany, as the second of three children, and grew up near Heidelberg. My church in the south-west of Germany (Evangelische Landeskirche in Baden) is a united church with strong roots in both Lutheran and Reformed traditions, and it has planted and nourished in me a liberal spirit and a generous faith.
Theological education and pastoral training in Germany differ significantly from seminary training in the U.S. but I don’t want to bore you with details. I graduated from Heidelberg University (Ruprecht Karls Universitaet) with a degree comparable to a M.Div. and received additional training at my church’s seminary in Heidelberg.
I have work experience as a cabinet maker and carpenter (I worked weekends and during semester breaks), and I spent one semester of work/study as a worker at a General Motors plant (I also was an intern with the metal workers’ union IG Metall). I served several congregations in Germany before my interest in ecumenism and particular experiences in parish ministry led me to pursue one year of ministry and study in the United States.
I came to Vine Street in April 1994, where I served for one year as Visiting Minister and for three more years as Assistant Minister. I stayed much longer than originally planned because I enjoyed being part of Vine Street’s mission and because I fell in love with Nancy.
Nancy and I were married at Vine Street in June 1995 and we have two children, Sarahbeth and Miles.
We lived in Virginia for six years, where I was the pastor of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). In 2004 I accepted a call to become Vine Street’s Senior Minister, and it is good to be part of this community of faith again.
I am trying to keep this short. How can I describe briefly where I stand theologically? Generally speaking, I believe that the truth of the gospel is not something some of us have and others don’t, but rather something we are called to be together. Theology is a wonderful and difficult endeavor, and I suspect that a diversity of voices is not only necessary to keep us all humble, but also pleasing to God. I do not have much patience with appeals to openness, though, when they are little more than theological laziness and lack of commitment. My faith has been formed in the protestant tradition of Germany, and probably more profoundly than I can imagine by the German church’s almost complete failure to rise against Nazism.
I have a passion for worship, for preaching and teaching, and I love reading, listening to music, singing, cooking and eating, and talking all night with friends over a good glass of wine.