Meet the new Methodist minister at Hope United
Do not let the North Carolina license plates on his car fool you. Pastor Lee Miller, who began serving Hope United Methodist Church on June 28, is a midwestern boy through and through.
“I was actually born in the hospital in La Crosse, Wisconsin,” Miller says. “I spent my early years living in La Crescent before my family moved to Coon Rapids.”
The reason for the move was because Miller’s father, who is also a Methodist minister, began serving a congregation in Coon Rapids, which is a northern suburb of Minneapolis.
“I was the youngest of three boys,” Miller comments. “I graduated from high school at Coon Rapids.”
Miller shares he was active in 4-H when he was growing up.
“I have fond memories of being at the State Fair,” he notes. “Although a hot day like we have been having would make it uncomfortable in the dorms we stayed in.”
And, like many Midwesterners, Miller enjoys the outdoors.
“I enjoy hunting and fishing,” he says. “I actually was a Boundary Waters tour guide for two years.”
So how does a Minnesota boy end up with North Carolina license plates on his vehicle?
“I went to Divinity School at Duke University,” Miller explains. “I served a congregation in Henderson, North Carolina, for four years on a part-time basis while I was at the seminary.”
And now Miller, who is 26 years old, is back in Minnesota.
“My wife Rachel and I are happy to be back in Minnesota,” Miller states. “My parents are in Hastings now, where my father is the pastor at Resurrection Church.”
But there is more to the Minnesota connection for the young pastor and his wife.
“Rachel grew up in Wykoff but we did not meet until we were both attending Hamline University in St. Paul,” Miller says. “One of my brothers works in construction in Grand Marais and my other brother will be moving to Faribault next year after he has completed his residency for being a doctor.”
Miller says he realized at a young age he wanted to go into the ministry.
“I felt a personal call in the seventh grade,” he notes. “My two older brothers were not in the ministry and there was no family pressure for me to become a pastor.”
One of the biggest challenges he is facing as he begins his ministry at Hope is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is hard not being able to do as much face-to-face interaction with members as I would like to do,” Miller comments. “So much of what a pastor does involves personal contact.”
He says Hope will be having their first in-person service, since the pandemic began, on July 12.
“You will see tape on the floor marking six foot distances and we have seating roped off in order to comply with the recommended guidelines,” he explains. “We will also continue with our online services.”
He shares what he believes has been a positive result of the pandemic.
“COVID-19 forced a change in the way we do things and we are now reaching people we were not reaching before,” Miller states. “There are shut-ins and elderly people who find it difficult to venture out. We now have options for them to worship we did not have before COVID came along.”
The church will continue to have Sunday sermons available on YouTube, according to Miller.
“I also do morning devotions on KBEW Monday through Saturday,” Miller notes. “Our Sunday service is also broadcast on the radio.”
Although he is unable to get out and visit congregational members like he wishes he could, Miller says he is still meeting many new people.
“In a smaller town such as Blue Earth, you kind of stick out when you are not from around here,” he explains. “Bruce Ankeny, who is a member at Hope, makes sure to introduce me to people when I stop in for a coffee at his shop. Of course, I don’t think you are allowed to be a pastor if you do not enjoy coffee.”
Another way Miller hopes to get to know people is by attending community events.
“I enjoy sports, so I am looking forward to attending some baseball games,” he comments. “I hope I am able to attend some football games, but who knows what will happen because of COVID-19. You feel bad for those making the decisions and for those who have to live with the decisions.”
Miller shares he likes what he has gotten to know about the area so far.
“Rachel is a freelance web designer and social media marketer so she is able to work from home,” he says. “Rachel and I love to take our dog, Kona, for walks around town. It is something we enjoy doing together.”
For now, he is working at getting settled into his new job.
“The first 100 days I just want to get to know the congregation,” Miller comments. “I want people to know I care about their interests and concerns and I want a church community which is reaching out to the least and the lost. We want to be a home for the weary and heavy laden.”