May 07, 2014 - Oxford is losing both a pastor and a government official.
OUMC Pastor Kevin Miles (left) and his wife Cathee sing Christmas carols during last year's Soup and Sweet Stroll in downtown Oxford. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
Rev. Kevin Miles, pastor of the Oxford United Methodist Church (OUMC), is leaving in mid-June.
He's been reassigned to Davison.
"I wasn't anticipating a move," Miles said. "I kind of got blind-sided by a need in another church. Some health issues with another pastor kind of created a domino effect."
Miles, who came here with his wife Cathee from Trinity UMC in Roseville in June 2012, is definitely sorry to leave Oxford.
"It's been a very positive experience," he said. "I've enjoyed being here. We've really enjoyed the community, particularly the walking trails like the Polly Ann Trail. I'm really going to miss the friendliness of the people."
Based on what he's seen, Oxford residents generally want "to do things together" as opposed to "isolating" themselves, and they enjoy "pitching in and helping out when (they) need each other."
Miles said his experience in Oxford has taught him "the importance of not being complacent as a church and even as a community."
"If we get too settled in, we can become complacent and overlook the needs around us," he said. "It's easy to get kind of cozy and feel comfortable in a setting like this and that's not really a healthy place to be if you want to respond to the needs of the community."
That's why during his time at OUMC, Miles tried to emphasize to his congregation the importance of increasing the church's involvement in the community.
"We need to make ourselves available to the needs around us," he said. "That's the big thing for me."
His own community involvement extended beyond the church walls. In October 2013, he was appointed to a seat on the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) board, a position he resigned April 21.
"I've enjoyed being part of the DDA board even though I felt like I was in over my head at the beginning," he said. "Now that I've kind of gotten my feet wet in local politics, I'm understanding things a little bit more."
Miles, who's spent 23 years in the ministry, is going to miss being part of Oxford's Lone Ranger celebration.
"I think that's a good way for the community to connect with one another," he said.
He's also going to miss the weekly Free Meals program of which OUMC is an integral part. Every Wednesday between 5:30 and 6:30 p.m., an average of 35 to 50 hungry folks come to the church to enjoy a free dinner and some good company.
"That was a real highlight for me," said Miles, who volunteered at the meals. "It allowed me to connect with people that wouldn't otherwise come to the church and become good friends with them. I'm going to miss that connection."
Miles is sorry he won't be here to expand his personal involvement in Love In the Name of Christ (Love INC) of North Oakland County, a nonprofit cooperative effort that links churches, volunteers and service agencies and helps them organize their efforts by reaching out to folks in need.
"One of the things I think is exciting about (Love INC) is that they are really focusing on the transitional aspect of their ministry, so that it's not just a Band-Aid, it's a long-term strategy to help people create a new path for hope and vitality in their lives," he said.
Miles has the distinction of having been OUMC's pastor when it celebrated its 175th anniversary in 2012.
"I felt that I was sort of standing on the shoulders, if you will, of a long line of not just pastors, but lay leaders in that congregation," he said. "It's mind-boggling when you think about 175 years. That's quite a track record."
"We're trying to build on that heritage and make it a much more vibrant, strong and healthy congregation," Miles continued. "We've hit some bumps in the road along the way and I was hoping to be here a lot longer to set some direction . . . but (a 175-year history) is a great place to start and build on."
Miles noted that Oxford is blessed to have so many small churches like OUMC.
"There's really a need for the smaller, local church communities," he said. "I'm not picking on anybody or throwing rocks at anybody . . . but I think the big-box churches, as they're sometimes referred to, just can't (achieve) the level of personal contact and comfort that people need."
Davison will be Miles' last assignment.
After that, he plans to retire.
"I was hoping to retire from Oxford," he said. "I told the conference leaders if they plan on moving me from Davison, it will be to my retirement place."
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.