Minister retiring April 30


Making images come alive in his preaching has always been important to the Rev. Dean Miller of Hagerstown Church of the Brethren.

Creating pictures in people's minds through the use of storytelling, puppets, drama, film and music helps them understand and keeps their interest, he said.

"My teachers always told me to 'Use words so vivid, that if you cut them they bleed,"" he said.

After more than 40 years of developing his dynamic style of preaching, Miller is retiring with plans to travel with his wife Karen, he said.

Miller said he still loves giving sermons as much as when he first began his ministry in the 1960s.

"When Sunday morning comes I'm excited," he said.

But the rigors of having to prepare regular sermons and be on call 24 hours a day is grueling, and the 65-year-old Hagerstown resident said he will call it quits on April 30.


Miller served as pastor at the 15 S. Mulberry St. church for a total of 16 years during which he formed bonds with many of his 425 parishioners, he said.

"I think he's an incredible preacher - very thought provoking," said the Rev. Gregory Shook, also of Hagerstown Church of the Brethren.

Shook praised Miller's ability to respond to the needs of his congregation and incorporate them into prayers.

A native of West Alexandria, Ohio, Miller was raised on a 200-acre cattle farm in the 1930s and 1940s.

He graduated from Lanier High School in 1953 and received bachelor's and master's degrees from Wheaton (Ill.) College in biblical literature.

Miller spent the following three years at the Bethany Theological Seminary in Chicago, graduating in 1960.

His parents were members of the "old order" German Baptist Church, whose members were similar to the Amish in their rejection of a modernized culture.

The Miller's were "put out" from their religious order during his high school years for their progressive thinking and use of a radio, he said.

His family and others who had left the church joined a more moderate branch that had formed into the Church of the Brethren, he said.

As he grew up, Miller recognized his gift for oration early and found it fit well with his spirituality, he said.

"I never struggled vocationally."

"It's satisfying to go before people and teach a lesson. It's a combination of what I like to do (oration) and what I believe," he said.

Seeing the late Martin Luther King Jr. speak before a crowd in Chicago remains one his most memorable experiences, he said.

Over the last 40 years, Miller preached before congregations in Arizona, Illinois and Pennsylvania, in addition to Hagerstown. He also served as leader of the denomination in the 1970s.

Miller decided to make a home in Hagerstown because it was a small city with the benefit of several nearby Maryland State Parks.

"I found it to be very welcoming community," he said.

Looking back on his career, Miller said he felt a sense of accomplishment.

"The work has drawn the best out of me," he said.

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