Matt Warren Returns to Orinda to Serve as St. Stephen’s Rector

(Jeff Heyman, Photographer)
Matt Warren, the new rector at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church makes faith relatable by incorporating humor into his sermons. This fall the church will offer his class, “The Gospel According to Ted Lasso.”

    Life has come full circle for Matt Warren. Son of the late Doug Warren, who served as St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church’s rector from 1986 to 2003, Warren returned to Orinda last month to take over the position his father once held.
What’s your Orinda origin story?
    I’m basically an Orinda native, moving here when I was seven, when my dad took the job at St. Stephen’s.
    I had a rocky start. We moved from Phoenix, which is almost completely flat. The driveway to the rectory is about a 40-degree slope and I thought I could take my bike to the top of the hill and go down the middle fork of the parking lot. I had never gone that fast before and I went head over handlebars and broke my jaw in eight places. So my first night in Orinda was spent in Oakland Children’s Hospital.
    Many of the parishioners who remember me, have warned me not to let Abby and John ride their bikes down the hill.

What was it like growing up as the son of a church rector?
    I definitely felt at times like I was in the spotlight. I felt pressure to be the prototypical good kid, not a troublemaker.
    The good thing is, a lot of my success is due to me feeling incredibly comfortable talking to adults, because that’s what coffee hour was. Being a rector’s kid erased any social anxiety, so when it came to talking to college admissions officers or job interviewers, it seemed completely natural.

Did you ever think you would move back to Orinda?
    I had hope. Orinda was a great place to grow up and I’m excited to be back. It has a very small-town feel. Your neighbors are familiar. You can’t get in and out of Safeway without bumping into someone you know.
    At the same time, there are vast cultural opportunities that come along with living in the Bay Area. Whether it’s going to see Hamilton or to the DeYoung or a Warriors’ game, those things feed your soul – and allow you to connect emotionally when preaching.

Tell us about your family.
    I met Kristy the first day of college orientation and we started dating in the spring. We just celebrated our 19th wedding anniversary. She’s the assistant superintendent and director of curriculum and instruction for the Plumas County Office of Education, so she’ll be working remotely this year.
    Abby is a sophomore at Miramonte. She plays golf and basketball, but her passion is pitching softball. I’m looking forward to watching the Lady Mats this year.
    John is in the eighth grade at OIS. He loves swimming and he’s excited to give water polo a try. He’s also a speed Rubik’s cuber and goes to competitions. I think he’s in the top 5,000 worldwide.

Did you always know you would make your career in the church?
    No, in the fifth grade I wanted to be a college professor. I love government and I planned to be a politics major.
    I went to the seminary, not to become a priest, but to learn how to lecture and to get a background in counseling, which I thought would be helpful on a college campus.
    Then I began to question if I had the gifts to be a priest. It took a couple of years to find the answer. I wasn’t sure I had the calling, but a wise friend said, “A lot of people get drafted. That doesn’t mean you can’t enlist.”

What’s your approach to using humor in your services?
    I think 90% of it is admitting it’s ok to have a sense of humor and be a spiritual person. So many of us associate spirituality with seriousness, but you can be serious without being somber. You can be seriously funny.
    It’s also about making faith relatable. I wrote a class called “The Gospel According to Ted Lasso,” which we’ll be offering this fall.

St. Stephen’s, like many churches, was closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. What lessons do you think we learned during that time?
    One of the most unfortunate things was when we hosted online services, we kept telling ourselves it doesn’t matter if we’re together physically, as long as we are united in our faith.
    Although intentions were good, it made it really easy to not come to church. I think post-pandemic, the job of clergy is reminding people our presence matters in terms of community. My role is to gather and guide. It’s the connections we make that give spiritual life meaning and depth.
    As important as the pulpit is, coffee hour is the place where souls are actually saved.

Do you imagine finishing your career at St. Stephen’s?
    My dad was the longest serving rector of St. Stephen’s at 17 years. If I can’t beat him, I’d at least like to finish in the medal position.

Kathy Cordova can be reached at

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