Minister Reflects On A Life Of 'Witness To The Power Of God'

September 18, 1991|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff writer

WESTMINSTER — If the Rev. Connie S. Miller wrote her life story, she would describe her 37 years as a journey out of darkness and into the light.

"My life witnesses to the power of God, working in the midst of our struggles," she said. "I could have ended up in all the wrong places, but I am here because God opened doors for me."

"Here" is Grace Lutheran Church and the opportunity to work with a pastoral team, ministering to a congregation of about 2,000.

In August, she moved from St. Peter's Church in Hampstead to become an associate pastor at Grace. Staying in Carroll County, where she said she enjoys a rewarding relationship with her Lutheran colleagues, was part of her life's itinerary.

Miller, now in what she calls the happiest time of her life, said she has had her share of struggles.

Her parents died when she and her two sisters were teens. A brief marriage ended in divorce, and she found herself a single mother with little in the way of income, opportunity or family support.

"I had to figure out who I was in a period of turmoil and darkness," she said. "I didn't have a lot of ropes to hold on to, either."

She went to York College in Pennsylvania and graduated in 1979 with a degree inbusiness.

The corporate world was not for her. Her experiences reawakened the Lutheran faith of her childhood, she said.

Acting on a "strong call," she enrolled in the Lutheran Seminary in Gettysburg,Pa., which began accepting women in the 1970s.

"With the ordination of women, the church is coming to wholeness," she said. "Adam by himself was good, but he was not complete until Eve was created."

The seminary accepted her, she said, "with some skepticism" about whether a single mother could handle the work load emotionally and physically.

"If there's a challenge, I am determined to meet it head on," she said. "I have been a fighter and survivor all my life."

Withchild support her only income during the first two years at the seminary, money became a major obstacle. She used food stamps.

"I was raised with middle-class family values," she said. "I remember how humiliating it was to walk into that government office and ask for help."

The experience gave her "compassion and empathy for anyone whose circumstances force them onto welfare."

She needed help, which she called a means to her goal, for a year. The third year at the seminary was a paid internship.

Following her ordination in 1983, she became pastor at St. Peter's. Two years later, she met and married the Rev. Thomas Miller, the former pastor of Uniontown Lutheran Church.

The couple live in Hanover, where he is now pastor of St. Bartholomew's.

The family includes their two sons, James Wilson, 17, and Christopher Miller, 14. The Millers try to maintain a lifestyle consistent with their Christian calling, she said.

The pastors often experience the trials inherent in being parents of teens, she said. They may be more adept at blending Christian ideals into those trials, though.

"The kids think it's terrible how we bring the Bible into every conversation," she said with a smile.

From her standpoint, the last six years have been "the icing on the cake" she said, althoughthe struggle is still there.

"The balance is not always easy," she said. "We have a nice lifestyle and we are thankful, but the quality of life must come from within, not from the more-is-better syndrome."

At Grace, she will be working with Christian education and youth, overseeing the Sunday School programs for children and adults. Shealso is involved in the social ministry.

"After preaching and sending others out to help in community programs for the needy, I wantedhands-on involvement myself," she said.

She calls evangelism -- the Christian responsibility to witness to the community -- her primary responsibility.

And, she said, she is "ever mindful" of her roots.

"Who I was and who I am is an unspoken witness in and of itself," she said.

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