St. Paul’s newest pastor always sought spiritual path

Posted 8/5/20

Rev. Kline is seen here with his wife, The Rev. Jessie Thompson, who is also an ordained Episcopal priest. The couple got married, moved across the country from the West Coast and were ordained this …

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St. Paul’s newest pastor always sought spiritual path

Posted
Rev. Kline is seen here with his wife, The Rev. Jessie Thompson, who is also an ordained Episcopal priest. The couple got married, moved across the country from the West Coast and were ordained this past year.

by Len Lear

The Rev. Daniel Kline, 31, the newest clergy member at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Chestnut Hill, grew up in Roxborough, the son of a roofer, went to Phil-Mont Christian Academy in Erdenheim, a small school with just a 10-to-one student-to-teacher ratio, and then the University of Valley Forge, an Assemblies of God (the largest Pentecostal denomination) Christian school in Phoenixville, where he became an ordained minister in 2009.

Four years later Rev. Kline graduated from Westminster Theological Seminary in Glenside, a Presbyterian institution, with a master's degree in divinity. Rather than stay in the U.S., Rev. Kline then walked out on the high wire and moved to Fiji, an island group in the South Pacific more than 8,000 miles from Philadelphia with a population of about 700,000, to become a professor in the Fijian Assemblies of God seminary. He also did some work as a prison chaplain, where there was more of an interfaith element.

“I went to a remote country like Fiji because there is more academic opportunity there,” said Rev. Kline. “A master's there is like a doctorate here. I wanted to test my teaching chops. I spent one year there and learned a lot being able to minister in a cross-cultural context. I liked it but didn’t love it enough to pursue a career as a seminary professor. I was focused on training Assemblies of God pastors to work in their local churches.”

Rev. Kline returned to Philadelphia and took time off because his mother, grandmother and grandfather all had cancer, and he wanted to help care for them. Meanwhile, he needed a job while waiting for a pastor's opportunity to open up in the area, so he took a job with Snap Kitchen, helping to open nine stores in the Philadelphia area. “It was a lot of fun,” said Rev. Kline, who worked for Snap Kitchen for two years.

(Snap Kitchen is a health food startup based out of Austin, Texas, that specializes in gluten-free fast food. They have brick and mortar stores. “I used to say it’s like if Wawa and Whole Foods had a kid together. I liked being a part of launching in a new market, and I feel really proud of all of the work we put in.”)

Meanwhile, Rev. Kline also took a part-time position at St. Anne's Episcopal Church in Abington. “While working at St. Anne’s,” he explained, “I decided to become an Episcopalian. I grew up with one foot in the Presbyterian world and one foot in the Pentecostal world. My spiritual pilgrimage was focused on figuring out how to piece together those two very different expressions of Christianity in my own life. I ended up finding a hybrid of those traditions, and then some, in the Episcopal Church. Episcopalians have ... progressive social action, mystical experience, rational thinking and ancient practices, all things I value. Other churches have those things, too, but I happened to find them all in the Episcopal Church.”

Rev. Kline then went to a seminary in Berkeley, California, the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, for one year for post-master's degree work and then back to Philly. He took the position of assistant rector at St. Paul's Episcopal Church last year, and on Jan. 11 of this year he was ordained at St. Paul's. “We just reopened two weeks ago,” the new assistant rector told us. “We had lots of digital services before that. Pastoral care calls are now OK with social distancing and masks, but most parishioners at St. Paul's want the pastoral care calls by Zoom.”

When Rev. Kline was growing up, he was not even familiar with St. Paul's, although he did have a part-time job at Antique Gallery in Chestnut Hill. “One of the things I did was polish silver, and now I am holding up a silver chalice (at church services). I was drawn to this work at a young age ... I knew I wanted to follow a spiritual path, to seek transcendence to a higher power.”

St. Paul's Episcopal Church has about 150 to 200 members. Many area families been with the church for several generations. “Chestnut Hill is a unique neighborhood,” said Rev. Kline. “It is a wonderful place to help me along my spiritual journey.”

Rev. Kline's wife, The Rev. Jessie Thompson, is also an ordained Episcopal priest. Last year they got married and were ordained. (They also have a 15-year-old rat terrier named Porkchop.) Rev. Thompson, a native of Portland, Oregon, is a graduate of The School of Theology and Ministry at Seattle University, a Jesuit institution. She is the priest-in-charge of two parishes in Delaware County: St. James Episcopal Church in Prospect Park and St. John the Evangelist in Essington.

For more information, email dkline@stpaulschestnuthill.org Len Lear can be reached at lenlear@chestnuthilllocal.com

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