Spring Reading: Mask of Sanity by Mark Henry Miller

I want to give a plug to a new book by an old friend. Mark Henry Miller is a retired United Church of Christ minister I have known for over 30 years. We first met when he was serving a church in Lakewood, Colorado and I was a young staff member with the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries. We started out not liking one another very much and have quarreled regularly since that time. I once helped him land a job when a search committee called for suggestions of potential candidates. After he described what the committee was looking for. I paused for a minute and said, “I get what you are looking for. The only UCC minister I know with an ego the size of Texas is a fellow named Mark Miller.”

In retirement, Mark Miller has become a novelist. His second novel is Mask of Sanity, which features Tricia Gleason. Tricia is a former fishing guide and homicide detective who in her forties experiences a surprising call to ministry. So off she goes from Tillamook Bay, Oregon to Berkeley, California to enroll at Ocean Divinity School whose president, Joshua Culler, has taken a special interest in her candidacy.

This multi-denominational Ocean Divinity School is, of course, fictional but there are moments I felt I was back at home at a real Berkeley school that I once knew pretty well. Mark does a great job with character development and introduces the reader to some very special people I’d like to know better, including Tricia and her roommate, Beezy.

It is also a really good story, centered on a murder at Tricia’s Field Education site in Palo Alto. Tricia combines her seminary classroom work with her police background to help solve the murder. The novel has it all: exegesis, murder, sexual politics, a bit of liberation theology, even sex.

I confess to having played a minor role along the way advising Mark Miller about seminary life on the West Coast but he gets all the credit – and all the blame – for anything in the novel.

By the way, President Culler’s wife is well-named!