St. John’s Baptist Church

Worship | Sundays @ 10:30am

Celebrating Lee Gray on His 25th Anniversary with St. John’s

Rev. Lee Gray has been a part of the St. John’ family since 1997. We are now joyfully celebrating his 25th year with us as a permanent staff member.

This Sunday, following worship, we will share fellowship in Lasater Hall to celebrate his ministry among us as a full-time minister on our staff.

At the beginning of last week’s Christmas Eve worship celebration, we recognized Rev. Lee Gray for more than 25 years of ministry in the life of St. John’s. He served as a seminary intern prior to beginning his tenure on staff. Recognizing him on Christmas Eve allowed us to include many of the students (now young adults and median aged adults) whose lives he shaped through his twenty-two years as Minister for Youth and Young Adults.

As Lee continues to minister alongside us, he now serves as Minister for Congregational Care. He also provides leadership to our recreation ministries. His servant spirit, capacity to express compassion, and initiatives toward the needs of others continue to make us a healthier church. We are grateful for him and look forward to additional collaborative ministry in the years ahead.

Lee is a native Charlottean who grew up attending Providence Baptist Church. By his senior year in high school, he had become committed to being in an intentional relationship with the God of love revealed in Jesus Christ. He attended Campbell University and majored in Religion and Philosophy where he discovered an interest in philosophical religious thinkers. After graduating from Campbell, his father encouraged him to take some business courses at UNCC to make him eligible for the MBA program. However, during that year, he decided his path was to attend seminary and entered the Master of Divinity program at BTSR (Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond).

By May 1997, all he needed to complete his coursework was to serve a yearlong internship. Lee’s mother, Libby, was friends with long time St. John’s member Ned Burgess. In a conversation between the two, Ned discovered that Lee was looking to work with youth, preferably at a theologically progressive church. Ned told Libby that St. John’s was shortly announcing an opening for a Minister to Youth and Young Adults. Ned let then Senior Minister; Dr. Richard Kremer know that Lee would be contacting him. After meeting with the Youth Committee at 300 East, Lee was offered an internship that would continue through the next school year and would meet his degree requirement. Lee says it probably didn’t hurt that the then President of Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, Dr. Tom Graves, was a former pastor at St. John’s who put in a good word for Lee. Dr. Graves also pointed out that Dr. Claude Broach’s memorial service was scheduled for the day before Lee was to start and that if Lee really wanted to get a sense of what St. John’s was like, he should attend that memorial service. By attending that service, Lee realized that St. John’s was definitely the kind of church where he would like to begin his ministerial career. A search committee was established the next spring to hire the “permanent” Minister of Youth and Young Adults. After working with Lee, the Youth Committee recommended that Lee be offered the job as the “permanent” Minister of Youth and Young Adults. Including the internship, he served in that role for 23 years.

During those 23 years, Lee’s work included planning for and helping youth prepare to lead worship on Youth Sunday, delivering the Senior Recognition Sunday message, and going on MANY retreats, mission trips and ski trips. These mission trips included ten Habitat Trips to Sea Island, SC. He also planned and coordinated multiple mission trips to New York, Atlanta, and Washington DC and mission trips to Puerto Rico, Canada, Miami, and St. Louis. It should be noted that a lot of these trips were scheduled to cities having Major League Baseball teams in order for Lee and the group to attend a game .(It should also be noted that Lee survived the Class of 1999 which, if you know, you know is a very impressive feat in itself.) Almost all of these trips were exclusively high school students due to the level of responsibility needed to conduct the mission projects. Later a shorter, local mission trip was created for middle school youth. He made sure all the youth were also involved in local missions such as the Men’s Shelter, Crisis Assistance, QC Family Tree, and yearly Christmas parties for under-served children. All of these activities paved the way for their involvement in future mission activities. Because of the relationships formed through these years, Lee has been able to keep up with many of St. John’s former youth throughout the years. Some of these former youth have come back to help work with our youth themselves and have developed into church leaders. Many of the youth will say that their participation in the Youth Program under Lee’s guidance allowed them the freedom (and encouragement) to wrestle with their own faith, gave them the opportunity to question the Bible and Christianity, and made them much more open-minded and affirming people. He has officiated at the weddings of several of those who were youth during his years as Youth Minister.

Lee was ordained to the ministry in May 2014 during a Sunday morning service.

During his 23 years as our Youth Minister, Lee came to know people of all ages in the life of St. John’s through various activities, including visitations in homes and hospitals. He was also caring for his sister and aging parents. All of this was the perfect preparation for his transition in 2021 to our Minister of Congregational Care. Although all of our ministers are engaged in pastoral care, this role has a larger role in caring for the entire congregation, in addition to working alongside church leaders to broaden relationships within and between all of those in the congregation. In this role, he serves as the staff liaison to the Pastoral Deacon Panel. He has continued as the coordinator of the children’s and youth basketball programs as well as the men’s softball and basketball teams. He also currently serves as the Moderator of the United Baptist Association which supports our ministry to the homeless through Hope Chapel.

Lee is the father of two boys, Wilson and Warren, who have grown up at St. John’s. He enjoys spending time with them walking and exploring nature, as well as supporting them in all of their activities. Lee is an avid reader with broad and spiritual interests. Due to his father having season tickets to N.C. State football games, he is also an avid Wolfpack fan. (While he attended Campbell and thus being a faithful Camel, there is no bigger NC State Wolfpack fan than Lee. Even his study of religion could not help him there.) His other interests include playing basketball and enjoying ethnic food of all types. He is a big music fan (junkie!) and loves the likes of Bob Marley, Dave Matthews, and Billy Strings. All of these have contributed to his being so relatable to some over many years.

Please congratulate Lee on his (actually more than) 25 years with us and offer him your thanks for all of his work.

(Editorial comments provided by a member of that Class of 1999 and a North Carolina fan.)