Alumni Spotlight

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mills1.pngOriginally from Maplewood, New Jersey, William Mills ’94 decided to attend Millersville for his undergraduate degree, before entering the seminary. Like so many alumni, he chose MU for its reasonable price, beautiful campus, and welcoming environment. “I loved biking on the long stretches of empty roads behind campus,” he says. “On weekends, I would often bike into downtown Lancaster.” Although Mills started as a psychology major, he landed in history and fondly recalls classes with Drs. Koester and Suziedelis as being especially valuable.

In addition to classes in his major, Mills was influenced by his English professor, Dr. Carballo. “He was a passionate teacher,” Mills recalls. “He often got excited about a topic. His face would light up when talking about Shakespeare or Matthew Arnold.” Just as he planned, Mills entered Saint Vladimir’s Theological Seminary in Crestwood, NY, following commencement at MU. He studied for the priesthood in the Eastern Orthodox Church before earning a Ph.D. in Pastoral Theology at the Union Institute and University in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Since then, he has taught at various institutions and found success as a writer, mills2.pngfocusing on scripture, prayer, and ministry. Mills approaches his writings and teachings as gardening. “You plant a few seeds here and there. There’s no guarantee that they will grow and blossom into flowers, but you plant the seeds anyway.” In addition to being a priest in the Eastern Orthodox Church, Mills is an accomplished author, speaker, and retreat leader. His fifteenth, and most recent, book, “Losing My Religion: A Memoir of Faith and Finding,” reveals Mills’ experience as the leader of a church which lost a third of his congregation during his six-year tenure, causing Mills to suffer his own crisis of faith. He says that he sees words, written and spoken, as central to his calling as a pastor and describes himself as a “pastor-writer.”

“Most of my time is spent with words,” he says. “Preaching is a ministry of words. Every week I have to say a few words to my congregation that will comfort, console, inspire, and encourage. When hearing confessions I offer a few words of encouragement to folks who are often beaten down by the tides of life. Every day I devote a few hours to writing and strive to find the right words for a chapter, article, or book.”

In “Losing My Religion,” Mills shares his life story, and in doing so highlights the realities and difficulties of leading a congregation. He looks specifically at the ways in which clergy members can struggle with asking for help in practicing self-care, since they normally fill the role of caregivers, not care receivers. This leads to anxiety, burnout, depression, and even trauma. Mills describes his journey as painful, but life-giving. He hopes that his story has lessons for all people, but especially his fellow leaders in faith.

“Losing My Religion” and the rest of Mills’ work can be found online at Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or in bookstores using indiebound.org.
 

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