Laura Hobson, WCPO Contributor
WYOMING, Ohio - The Rev. Eric L. Miller isn't your typical church leader.
He runs three to six miles in his neighborhood — and outside it if he wants some peace and quiet — and is trained to drive the fire engine for the Wyoming Fire Department where he is chaplain.
He's a young leader set on growing his congregation.
Miller knew early in life that he would choose the ministerial route.
That path has taken him from Parkersburg, West Virginia, where he was born in 1977, to Wyoming where he has led Ascension and Holly Trinity Episcopal Church since 2010.
“I love to preach,” said Miller, who takes the full week to prepare his sermon, usually basing his thoughts on the gospel and then adding an everyday application.
One of Rev. Miller’s mantras is to take the joy and confidence beyond the walls of the church, said Ariel Miller (no relation), who serves on the church’s board of directors and has been a member of the church since 1991.
“He represents a way about being Christian, seeing God in everyone,” Ariel Miller said.
The Rev. Miller grew up in a family that was Episcopalian. His parents were work-oriented and expected their children to go on to college. By his junior year at West Virginia University where he graduated with a double major in psychology and communications in 2000, he felt called to be a priest. As a college sophomore, he had been recommended for the priesthood by Good Shepherd Church in Parkersburg.
The process of becoming a priest involved approval from the vestry and the Commission on Ministry, which met in Wheeling, West Virginia. Once approved, he attended Virginia Theological Seminary and received his ordination and a master’s in divinity by May 2003.
One of his first assignments was as a seminarian intern at Church of the Resurrection in Alexandria, Virginia.
Next, he was a curate for two years at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Huntington, West Virginia, then rector of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, where there were 100 members. Miller had every intention of staying in West Virginia, but realized St. Stephen’s was as big as it was going to get. And he wanted to lead and grow a church.
In Wyoming’s Ascension and Holy Trinity, he found an engaged parish. With 130 to 140 parishioners, he is looking to grow the congregation.
The church has several strong ministries, including guided meditation, free and open to the public, led by Maurice Bason and Terry Kessler. Both are cancer survivors and members of the parish. That fits right in with Miller’s belief: “The best ministries are lay led.”
The church participates in interfaith ministry, has a health ministries team and a parish health fair, a Stephen Ministry, which helps people through the transition of grief, and yoga classes.
The church has community dinners jointly with St. Simon’s of Lincoln Heights once a month.
Ministrels, an unusual group of singers, perform for people in need of music, even going to their houses. Canines for Christ uses the church space, which has evolved into a pet therapy program.
Miller has been married for 12 years to Rosemary, who works part-time as a pharmacist at CVS and is a new Sunday School teacher.
“I love her more than anything in the world,” Miller said. “She is extremely supportive.”
They and their children, Nathaniel and Lucas, live next door to the church in the historic area of Wyoming. The rector often runs or walks through the neighborhood with his English Labrador dog, Grace. But, since he is well known there, he will sometimes drive to nearby Glenwood Gardens in Woodlawn for peace and quiet. He runs three to six miles at a time.
Miller serves as chaplain for the Wyoming Fire Department. He even goes out with the firefighters who ride on Rescue 97. He has been trained to drive the fire engine. He provides counseling, as needed. On the regional level, he serves as a member of the Southern Ohio Diocesan Council. In 2015, he assumed the role of secretary.
The family plans to stay in Wyoming.
“I love the people here. My wife loves it here. I would like to see some stability,” he said. “I don’t see this as a stepping stone."