What makes an effective minister ? Someone who is an excellent preacher, teacher, administrator, a person capable of loving and supporting other people. All of these characteristics could be ascribed to someone who is a beloved clergyperson.
Yet, for me, when I think about clergy who have really been remarkable, I think of someone like Rev. George Atkinson. Rev. Atkinson was a American Congregationalist minister from New England. He migrated to the Pacific Northwest in the nineteen the century and he was the founding pastor of the First Congregational Church Portland, Or ( 1851). He went to become the champion for implementing public education in Oregon and Washington.
According to the book “ Atkinson Pioneer Oregon Educator“ by Rev. Dr. Don Sevetson ( 2011 ) Rev. George Atkinson made several trips from the East Coast to the Oregon territory raising money from churches and other sources to purchase books and to start schools in Oregon. His life made a remarkable impression for the legacy of public education .
Another minister who has had a remarkable life is Rev. Dr. Mark Henry Miller. Mark was born on Portland, Or and graduated from Stanford University, Yale Divinity School and Eden Theological Seminary. He has been a local church pastor, a conference minister, an interim conference minster and now a writer of murder mysteries. He has published eight novels featuring his protagonist character Tricia Gleason who has been an Oregon State Police Department Homicide Investigator turned fishing guide and then becoming a minister. Miller’s novels weave theology, murder and fishing together but not necessarily in that order.
Rev. Dr. Mark Henry Miller has now published his Autobiography “ River Runs Through Me” ( Amazon 2020 ). Again, what makes this a rewarding read is that, in contrast to other autobiographies where there is recitation of what chronological events occurred, this book nightlights events over a fifty year ministry.
Early on Mark distinguishes his athletic talents in baseball. He develops skills as pitcher from practice at Miller Field ( home location at NE 25Th And Holman in Portland, Or ) to becoming a star player at Stanford during their games at the Sunken Diamond.
There are references to important historical events during the 1960’s . Miller writes how he overslept and missed a meeting for a panel discussion with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He also describes that his church St. Paul’s United Church Of Christ Chicago, Il housed demonstrators at the Democratic National Convention. Years later, he recalls that tow of those demonstrators, now lawyers, greeted him briefly after church serviced and thanked him for the hospitality that the church extended to them.
Of course, no Mark Miller book would be complete without references to fishing. As the author has noted “ If there isn’t fishing in heaven, I’m not interested. “ Throughout “ River Runs Through Me “ there are vignettes of fishing for Coho Salmon and Steelhead in the waters of Oregon, Washington, Colorado and especially at Buoy Ten where the Columbia River empties into the Pacific Ocean.
It’s fitting that this book is entitled “ River Runs Through Me. “ Mark has cited the influences, the tributaries that have contributed to his river of life. Similarly, Mark has not generated tributaries in the lives of others that helped them to discover and relish their own river of life.
Mark writes how he responded to the grief and anguish that a local church experience when their pastor and his wife were murdered in 1999.
He also writes movingly of coming to the defense of a socially awkward boy who made carvings out of butter. He then notes on the day that he was leaving his church for new pastorate, the same young man came and presented Mark with a going away present.
“ a cube of butter made out of rubber “
Mark Miller reminds us that our lives can be refreshed and that we too can be the source of nourishment to others as we share the love of God made known in the person of Jesus The Christ.
Like those who fish, who extend their lines, we too extend our lives to others to share in the Good News that we have received.
Mark would remind us that
“ tight lines are always the best “
Not only for catching fish but also for catching the very best that life has to offer us.
May it be so.