Members of Trinity Episcopal Church have known the Rev. R. Cameron Miller as a gifted writer and preacher since his arrival in Buffalo 14 years ago.
Miller now hopes that preaching to a smaller congregation will allow him to take his writing to a much wider audience.
Miller, 58, announced this week he will be leaving Trinity to serve as the part-time priest of a small Episcopal church in northern Vermont, where he also will be able to spend more time on a writing career.
“I have a couple manuscripts that are sort of in the editing phase that I started a long time ago, and I hope to get published,” Miller said. “I never knew if I was a preacher who wrote or a writer who preached, and I’m still not sure.”
Being rector of Trinity, a congregation of 600 families with a complex of large historic buildings on Delaware Avenue, didn’t allow enough time for such writing, said Miller.
In Newport, Vt., a ski town of 5,000 people near the Canadian border, Miller will serve as part-time priest at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, with pastoral duties two days a week.
Miller categorized one of the manuscripts as historical fiction and the other as fiction, with spiritual and religious elements. The latter is set in Buffalo. He plans to tweak the manuscripts and shop them to a publisher.
Trinity members received a letter this week from Miller, who wrote that he was “grateful beyond words for the experience of serving you. No one in my profession could ask for or find a more exciting, challenging, and embracing community than the one we share right now at Trinity.”
In an interview, Miller described Trinity as an “incredibly vibrant congregation.”
“It’s very painful to leave because we love this place,” said Miller, who is married with four children. His youngest child expects to graduate from City Honors School this year.
A native of Muncie, Ind., Miller had been pastor of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church on the campus of Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, prior to succeeding the Rev. Ward B. Ewing at Trinity.
Miller is known in Buffalo for his dynamic preaching, unabashedly emphasizing what he calls “a progressive theology.”
“He has the ability to make his preaching relevant to today and what the world looks like today,” said Denise M. Mlynarick, the church’s senior warden.
He also helped create a fuller sense of community inside Trinity, she said.
During his tenure, average weekend attendance at services grew to about 300 people from 170, bucking an overwhelming trend of declining participation in urban mainline Protestant churches.
The Episcopal Diocese of Western New York designated Trinity as an experimental liturgical center, allowing the church to offer a “blended” service on Sunday mornings that features ancient Christian worship combined with contemporary prayers, Bible readings, poetry, as well as pipe organs, a jazz piano ensemble and choir music.
The church also added Trinity @ 7, a Sunday evening session that emphasizes jazz and literature in a candlelit setting with almost no mention of religion.
Congregations can no longer operate as clubs affording benefits only for members, said Miller.
“Progressive churches, particularly in urban areas, have to be about who’s not here yet,” he said.
Miller plans to remain at Trinity through mid-April and promised in his letter “to preach the heck out of the next few months.”
Mlynarick was scheduled to meet with Bishop R. William Franklin of the Episcopal Diocese to discuss the process of searching for Miller’s successor.