Friday, July 10, 2009

The Reverend Chad Miller, 34, Dies in Kayaking Accident

Here is a story from the Presbyterian News Service of interest to both Presbyterians as well as Kayakers.

July 10, 2009
by Jerry L. Van Marter
Presbyterian News Service

NEWARK, DE — New Castle Presbytery continues to mourn the loss of the Rev. Chad Miller, 34, who died in a kayaking accident along with his brother, Chris, 28, on June 9.

Miller was associate pastor for mission at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, DE, the presbytery’s largest congregation. A memorial service was held at the church June 14 in lieu of the regular Sunday liturgy. The service was led by Westminster’s other two pastors, the Rev. Greg Jones and the Rev. Anne Ledbetter.

More than 1,000 persons crowded the Westminster sanctuary for the service. Every standing-room spot also was filled. Two choirs and a quartet provided music at various times.

Approximately 20 ministers and elders in New Castle Presbytery who were unable to attend the memorial service gathered at Westminster June 24 for a service of remembrance.

In his weekly column for the New Castle Web site after the tragedy, Executive Presbyter James L. Moseley penned these words:

In a church which begs for the energy and idealism of younger adults the loss of a bright, talented and often testy spirit such as Chad Miller is a double tragedy.

Chad and his brother, Chris, drowned when their kayaks were pulled under by the rising waters of the Brandywine River spilling over a low water dam. This all took place early last Tuesday afternoon. The news media and local papers have documented at length the events of the day as described by witness at the site.

Chad was having a ball. After days of overcast skies the sun had finally broken through. The river current was accelerated by the recent rain fall and he was relishing the company his brother who had driven down from New York for the day.

As a former camp director and frequent paddler I know the rush of a perfect day on the water. Part of the thrill is to challenge oneself to negotiate more and more difficult passages and rapids and spill ways.

Chad loved to challenge himself and he challenged just about anybody with whom he had any contact. He certainly challenged me.

One Sunday when he was filling the pulpit, the opening lines of his sermon began by bemoaning the fact that he had, on the previous day, wasted a perfectly good Saturday attending a meeting of the presbytery. He proceeded to note how long the meeting had been and how long winded were the speakers. I suspect I was one of them.

His pronouncement got under my skin right away, and I had to struggle mightily to hear him out in order to discover what point he intended to make. Though I don’t remember the particulars of the exegesis I do recall the impression he left with me that day. It’s one worthy to share with any who love the church and long for its renewal in a time when it seems unable to break out of old patterns of church business.

Beneath the obvious irritations about boring meetings, I believe Chad was expressing a deeply felt though diminishing hope that the Church of Jesus Christ might one day live up to its calling to love the world into a new reality… A reality where healing and justice and goodness and godliness and loving kindness would overshadow all other concerns of propriety, paychecks and church politics. The urgency in his preaching and restlessness in his demeanor seemed to reflect such frustrations.

What Chad may not have realized is that all of us who love and serve in the Body of Christ have the same hopes and experience many of the same frustrations.

Chad was one of those young whippersnappers we hope will push the institution to do more and be more than it has ever done before. It is a lot to ask.

Whatever it is we admired about Chad, whatever we hope for from the other young clergy, must be something we find inside ourselves.

No one keeps us from living fervently and from hoping and praying and working for a radical, Jesus loving, people serving church. We dare not place such hopes on the generations following. It is our work.

If we wish to honor young hearts and minds such as Chad Miller's we need to make more room for their voices in the assemblies of our church. And, as they sound off, we need to listen for what is fearful and fresh.

Chad, thank you for challenging us to want more and to expect more from ourselves as those who follow the path of the one whose extravagant love redeems us all.

1 comment:

Brian Vinson said...

Great words. I can't believe it's been 5 years.