Trinity Exterior


INTERVIEW WITH THE REV. TODD MILLER

Marc Pollina: In the spirit of Trinity Parish, I thought a fun way to start our interview would be to ask you to capture the essence of Todd Miller in three simple words. What "trinity of adjectives" best describes you?

 

Todd Miller: Let's see... I'd have to say, "integrity," "consistency" and "prayerfulness." I like to think of myself – and those who know me tell me that I am – a person of integrity. And I tend to be quite consistent – by "consistent" I mean things like "reliable" and "steady." And I take time to pray every day. Prayer is really important to me; I couldn't get through my day without it.

MP: I know that both of your parents are teachers. How do you feel being the child of two teachers has shaped who you are, and how do you feel this unique upbringing helps you in your role as Rector at Trinity Parish?

 

TM: Being raised by two teachers impressed upon me the importance, not just of "education," but of what we in the Church call "formation." I think that being formed as a Christian is key to the Church and to our mission. It's so important to take responsibility for our own spiritual growth and development. There's a wonderful phrase from a man called Tertullian, who talks about how "Christians are made, not born." We're not Christians merely because we were born into a Christian household. There's a lot of work that goes into it.

In my role as Rector, I try to communicate the importance of taking responsibility for our spiritual growth and development. Things like taking regular time to read the scriptures, to pray, and for Sabbath and renewal – these practices can be so life-giving. And they tend not to happen, unless we are intentional about them. Like my parents, I also hope to teach by example.

MP: You have emphasized the "power of listening." Part of being a teacher is being a great listener. Could you describe how your listening skills are important to you and to Trinity?

 

TM: A key word to me is "discernment." Discernment seeks to learn things like, "Where is the Holy Spirit active in a person's life?" To discern requires listening to people's stories individually, listening to the "story" of Trinity as a parish, listening to how our lives intersect with God's story, the Gospel.

By listening to these different stories, and listening to where we are now, we can hopefully discern where God might be leading us in the future. In a wonderful way, then, we can listen ourselves into a new place.

MP: That ties in nicely with your thoughts on Christian formation, yes?

 

TM: Yes, it's premised on the belief that God is already present and active in everyone's life; we but need uncover God's presence. That's where the treasure of the Church lies: that God is already present in every one of us.

MP: You followed a very interesting path to priesthood. How did you receive your call?

 

TM: I know this sounds kind of odd, but I remember waking up one day in the fifth grade knowing that I wanted to be a priest. And it never changed. I did have some really great role models who happened to be priests; I'm sure they had some influence on me. Like the pastor in confirmation class. He had something I wanted. I didn't know what he had, but I knew that I wanted it. Maybe my call also had to do with my being an organist. As an organist, I worked closely with clergy. Being around them so much might have "rubbed off" on me.

MP: You told me that Trinity has "potential and possibility, eagerness and hunger." In your opinion, what assets does Trinity possess that will help us realize our potential, and what challenges may we encounter along the way?

 

TM: I'm impressed with Trinity's conviviality, particularly considering its roots, "con" meaning with, and "viv" meaning life. From what I've experienced so far, it's clear that members of the congregation enjoy each other's presence. People care for each other. Trinity is a warm and caring place. I think Trinity's conviviality is one of the gifts that will help us realize our potential. We're all "in life" together.

I think the greatest challenge Trinity faces is to keep our focus on why we're here – to help carry out God's mission to reconcile all people with God and each other in Christ. There is so much that distracts us from our purpose. It's a challenge to hear Jesus say, "Do not be afraid," and to really believe it and live it.

MP: Many readers may not know that you were a brother in The Society of St. John the Evangelist in Cambridge for nearly seven years. How did your experience as a monk shape who you are today, and how did it prepare you for priesthood?

 

TM: I have good memories of my time in the monastery. It was great formation for me. One thing I learned is that worship together is extraordinarily powerful. I think that in worship humans are more closely united to each other than at any other time. My hope is that we experience that intimacy, that power, at Trinity.

I think the monastery built my trust in the Holy Spirit, too. There, in a small community of men with many claims on us that might overwhelm us, I learned that every community already has all the gifts and all the wisdom that it needs to do to carry out the work God is calling it to do. We but need listen to where the Spirit is calling and be open to receive the Spirit's gifts. God will help us get done what needs to be done.

MP: How important is it to you to grow Trinity Parish?

 

TM: : I must confess I'm a little suspicious of those who insist that we must grow the numbers of the parish, because what I read in scripture suggests that it's God who gives the growth. A parish can be an extremely faithful and wonderful place, and when you look at it you can say, "This is the Body of Christ being lived out." But, it may only be a community of a few people. It's not uncommon to see huge, mega-churches with 2000 members, and I'm sure the Spirit is present there, too, but sometimes numbers can be deceptive. After all, didn't everything begin with just a group of twelve?

MP: We're blessed to live in a spiritually and culturally diverse area that offers ample opportunities for outreach. We're also fortunate to have eight Episcopal churches within Newton, affording us opportunities to collaborate and share resources. How do you see Trinity interacting with the community it serves?

 

TM: One of the gifts God has given us at Trinity is that there are eight Episcopal churches in one town. Some may see this as a detriment and ask, "How can all those parishes grow and thrive in an already-saturated environment?" On the other hand, we can look at it and say, "How can we take advantage of this tremendous opportunity?"

One of the opportunities for me is that I have so many colleagues close at hand. One of the opportunities for Trinity as a whole is that we have eight communities trying to live and be faithful to the Gospel. That makes for some great hybrid vigor. How can we harness that hybrid vigor and put it to use in service of the Gospel? How can we help each other as Christians? I feel it will take a lot of administrative vision, persistence, and trial and error, to make that "hybrid vigor" happen. I am committed to collegiality with my peers and to explore how we can work more closely together.

MP: Let's step outside the walls of our church and our community and go up to the 50,000-foot level for a minute. It's a great time to be an Episcopalian. Agree or disagree?

 

TM: Agree! The Episcopal heritage – our love of beauty, joy and mystery, of welcoming questions and living creatively in the tensions all this creates – has much to offer. I realize, though, that some people might say the Episcopal Church is falling apart. The conflicts in the church today are not crises, but an opportunity. I am hopeful that our discussion will lead us to take a hard look at who we are. What makes us Episcopalian? What makes us Christian? What are the bonds that unite us as people of God? And – perhaps most importantly – what is God calling us to do and be in this world?

A former Roman Catholic archbishop once said that we Episcopalians are the "Green Berets" of the Church because we push the envelope and try and test things in a way that other denominations can't. In many ways the Episcopal Church might look like the Roman Church, but structurally, we're much more nimble.

MP: Music is an important part of your life and life at Trinity. How did your passion for music begin? MP: If I shuffled your iPod, what three songs would I find?

 

TM: I grew up playing piano, and as soon as I could reach the pedals, I began taking organ lessons. I love music. I'm especially interested in how music serves the liturgy and draws people into worship; that's where my passion lies! And I'm captivated by the power of singing, especially singing together. There's something about singing that's life-giving.

MP: We started with a trinity of words that describe you. Before we go, what's one thing about you we'd be surprised to learn?

 

TM: That changes from month to month! Right now, you'd find plenty of Chopin, some Beatles tunes, and a lot of good a cappella singing.

MP: We started with a trinity of words that describe you. Before we go, what's one thing about you we'd be surprised to learn?

 

TM: People are fascinated that I brew beer.