By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published December 10, 2020
ATLANTA—Faith has been complicated for Thomas Clements.
He didn’t claim it as his own until he wrestled with his addictions.
The excitement he found in alcohol and drug abuse led him to grapple with loneliness. He left college and was arrested 10 times for underage drinking. Through his visits to rehab and missteps toward sobriety, his faith took root.
The 35-year-old—sober since April 24, 2007—started a ministry he hopes will share God’s love with a generation who increasingly don’t sit in the pews or practice a traditional faith.
Prayer led Clements to begin a healing ministry for young adults to “overcome addiction, overcome obstacles to the faith and, maybe, they just want more of God,” he said.
With his struggles, Clements said he didn’t have a dramatic conversion like St. Paul falling off a horse, but an awareness of God leading and even healing him. And his hope is the new ministry shares God’s healing to his Millennial peers. It is known as Zenith Ministries.
“We’re seeking to use what we can to help people get in touch with Jesus, so he can lead them to wholeness,” said Clements. The community surrounding Zenith is key, he said, because faith “doesn’t mean your life is only rainbows and puppy dogs.”
His indulging in unhealthy behavior took him on an evolution of faith, from atheism to adopting the 12-step program’s belief in a higher power, followed by a mystical experience of Jesus then a confirmation of belief as a student at the now-closed Southern Catholic College, he said.
Clements later earned a master’s degree in theology at Franciscan University in Steubenville intending to be in front of a Catholic school classroom, which he did for several years at Holy Spirit Prep, Atlanta.
At the start of June, he left his position as a job recruiter after praying for years to focus on Zenith Ministries.
Guiding others back
Jude Saviano, 31, a law student at the University of Georgia, reconnected with Clements during the summer through the ministry. The friends met in 2007 at Southern Catholic. Saviano serves as the ministry’s director of operations. He worships with his family at St. Catherine of Siena Church, Kennesaw, and UGA Catholic Center in Athens.
“I feel God is calling me to help bridge the gap for many of my peers to return to God’s Kingdom here on earth. Sadly, many experience anxiety, anger and other turmoils on a daily basis. I envision Zenith to use new media to help guide people back to the faith,” he said in an email.
It’s been exciting building the ministry, he said. “I’ve loved watching it grow from its infancy and turn into what it is becoming. Every day our follower count grows and new ideas circle around the team,” he said.
With gatherings of “Pizza and Praise,” Instagram and Facebook outreach and a growing catalog of podcasts voiced by Clements, the Zenith Ministries team provides young adults with conversation and encouragement, whether or not they are churchgoers.
Obstacles to God and faith take many forms, from marriage or loneliness. Wounded people carry a lot of hurt, he said.
“People are just looking for consolation and encouragement and healing,” said Clements.
He said the organization’s catchphrase “To the Heights of Humanity” is meant to describe the reward for building a relationship with God.
“Life is like climbing a mountain, you’re trying to get to the highest point,” said Clements. “Essentially we’re trying to get to the heights of humanity, to the highest point a human can be which can only happen with God.”
The group is for men and women between 18 and 45. It offers monthly meetings, called “summits” at restaurants on the north side of the archdiocese. A current challenge is to spread the word so more people participate, although followers on social media are increasing.
The mission of the young ministry is to “teach, accompany and lead them to this better way of living,” Clements said. Zenith isn’t affiliated with any parish to broaden its appeal. Clements intends to meet with the Atlanta archbishop soon for guidance on the effort. He and his wife, and four children worship at Christ the Redeemer Church, Dawsonville.
“What we’re seeing is people want God, even if they don’t know it. Even if they think they’re going to be happy through other things, what they are really seeking is God.”
To learn more about the ministry, please visit zenithministries.com.