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Rabbi Fuchs And The Rev. Miller: Theological Titans Retiring From Their Pulpits

Susan Campbell

April 13, 2011

Within the next few weeks, two Hartford area theological titans who happen to be friends - will step down from their respective pulpits and into retirement.

The Rev. Gary Miller's last Sunday is May 1 at Hartford's historic Asylum Hill Congregational Church. Rabbi Stephen Fuchs will retire from West Hartford's Congregation Beth Israel in June.

Fuchs became senior rabbi at Beth Israel in '97. Miller came to Asylum Hill as senior pastor two years later, and almost immediately met Fuchs.

"One of the first collaborations with a community leader when I arrived here was with Stephen," Miller said. "He provided me with stability when I first arrived."

Miller called Fuchs "a passionate voice, not only for his tradition but for human justice. He is a visionary in how he sees our history being impactful on our future. Bottom line? I just really like the guy."

Seeing two faith leaders apply their theology in such a public and steadfast way has been inspiring. Fuchs has lobbied hard for universal health care. His food donation projects set records. Miller connected his church, which once counted among its members Mark Twain, with its struggling neighborhood. Both men worked for human rights. Both showed remarkable patience and forbearance in explaining their respective faith traditions and in listening to others explain theirs. Both put their unique stamp on their ministry. Fuchs brought an approachable intellect. Miller, a musician of no small talent, brought music.

A few years ago, they served together on Foodshare's building campaign, but it is a quiet, private moment that Fuchs remembers best about Miller.

"On one occasion I had the honor of giving the eulogy of one of his members at a funeral at Asylum Hill," said Fuchs. "Seeing the scrupulous care Gary took in preparing the service deepened my appreciation for his extraordinary pastoral skills."

"Gary cared not only about his church, but about his city and the world. It has been an honor to know him and look up to him as a role model and example."

When he leaves Beth Israel, Fuchs will step almost immediately into the presidency of the international World Union for Progressive Judaism. Miller intends something more retirement-like. In a letter to his congregation, he wrote that he wanted to be "closer to, and involved, in the lives and families of" his five grandchildren, all of whom live in the Chicago area.

Michael Pincus, Beth Israel's current associate rabbi, has already been named the next senior rabbi. Asylum is considering its next appointment of senior pastor. People unfamiliar with these two pillar faith communities might worry about the size of shoes that await their replacements, but both Fuchs and Miller followed popular, charismatic leaders, and there's every reason to believe their successors will be equally dynamic.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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