Trinity Lutheran’s pastor Miller to retire |

Trinity Lutheran’s pastor Miller to retire

by Linda Hiller, Staff writer

After 19 years of faithful service to Trinity Lutheran Church, Pastor Larry Miller is retiring. He’s not quite ready to lie down in green pastures, though.

Miller, 61, said his decision to retire coincided with the retirement this year of his wife of 39 years, Mary Ann, a Carson Valley Middle School teacher.

“It just seemed like a good time to retire, while we both have our health, and while it’s possible to do it,” he said. “It’s an official retirement, yes, but there’ll be other opportunities for pastoral services.”

Miller’s near-two decades at Trinity Lutheran is only part of his 37-year career in the ministry.

He was born in 1938 on a farm in Nebraska and grew up a block away from the town’s Lutheran church. Though no one in his family was in the clergy, during his freshman year in college, young Miller decided accounting wasn’t for him and switched to become a clergyman through the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

After completing his theological studies, in 1961, he received a vicarage assignment to Miami, Fla., and married his sweetheart, Mary Ann Pingel, that same year. For the next 18 years, the Miller family, which grew to four with the births of Lori and Timothy, enjoyed calls to Anderson, Texas; Arroyo Grande, Calif.; Port Arthur, Texas; and then in 1981, to Gardnerville.

n Many changes here. While at Trinity Lutheran, Miller has overseen many changes: the old parsonage was converted to office and classroom space; a Board of Elders was established, as well as a Board of Education; a child care center was founded; and a director of Christian Education Intern Program was initiated. During recent years, several remodeling projects have updated the stately brick building at 1480 Douglas Ave., designed by renowned Reno architect Frederick DeLongchamps and built by Herb Dressler in the early 1950s.

Miller has been a delegate to national Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod conventions and served for six years as a district counselor for the California-Nevada-Hawaii District Lutheran Women’s Missionary League. He has been the Circuit Counselor for Circuit 10 of the California-Nevada-Hawaii District, is a past member of the Minden Rotary and has worked with local ministerial groups.

n A few changes overall. During his 37 years with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, Miller said he has seen a few changes.

“There has been a stronger emphasis on mission outreach,” he said. “It has opened things up, which I think is a good thing.”

In Gardnerville, Miller said the variety of names on the roster of 500 Trinity Lutheran Church members has changed.

“Years ago – even when I came here – you used to see mostly German names on the roster,” he said. “Now, that’s not true.”

The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod originally came from Germany to America around 150 years ago and is headquartered in Missouri. The Gardnerville Trinity Lutheran church was founded in 1895 and was housed in a church building that still stands by the Lutheran Bridge on Centerville Road.

n Longtime member reflects. Clarence Godecke, 79, who grew up attending Trinity Lutheran and still attends church today, said he has appreciated Miller’s touch on the church.

“We’re going to miss him,” said Godecke, former church president. “He’s been a good pastor and the church has grown with him.”

Godecke said Trinity Lutheran has had its share of minor stresses over the years – just like any other congregation – but Miller’s influence effectively diffused the hotspots.

“In most churches, there can be a little stress, but I think he handled all of those times in the best way I’ve ever seen anyone do it,” Godecke said. “He’s been a very effective pastor.”

n What he’ll miss. Among his favorite activities at Trinity Lutheran Church, Miller said he will definitely miss the bustle of Sundays.

“I always enjoy the Sunday activity,” he said. “It’s a special time with people coming together. I’ll miss that people contact, but we’ll be readjusting to a new schedule.”

Miller also said he’ll miss teaching Bible classes to adults. This week, he has been cleaning out his office, making way for the interim pastor, Russ Howan, from South Lake Tahoe.

“Actually, this can be a great time for a congregation,” he said. “It is a time for re-evaluation, although emotionally, it’s a concern, but I will try not to be too involved to let the new pastor find his way.”

Larry and Mary Ann’s two children, Lori, 37, and Tim, 34, have five children between them. Visiting children and grandchildren will be at the top of the Millers’ list after his retirement.

“As a pastor, you don’t usually get Sundays off,” Miller said. “We’ll look forward to doing some traveling in our RV.”

n Writing final sermon. Miller’s final church service will be Sunday, Aug. 13, at 10:30 a.m. He said he has been working on the sermon for that service, although he wrote most of it three months ago, right after announcing his retirement.

“Early one Saturday morning around that time, I awakened early and couldn’t go back to sleep,” he said. “I just had to get out of bed and go downstairs to get a piece of paper and write all my thoughts down. I can’t tell you exactly what the sermon will be, because I want it to be a surprise, but the theme is ‘God is so good.'”

Miller said his children and grandchildren, brother Gene and mother, Lena, will be coming to Gardnerville for the special Aug. 13 “Retirement from Ministry” service.

In addition to his special sermon, music will be featured Sunday, including solos by church members Eileen Bianchi, Howard Bennett, Lori Koehler, the Millers’ daughter, and a brass quartet.

Following that service, a picnic will be held at Bently Science Park beginning at 1 p.m. The public is invited to both events. A free-will donation is welcome, but not required, to cover food costs for the picnic. RSVP to the church, 782-8153, if you plan to attend.

“This will be our last official contact with people I’ve known here for years, but we’re not leaving town,” Miller said.