Meet the Staff

Rev. Sunae Cho

Rev. Sunae Cho

Lead Pastor; pastor@lakemerrittumc.org

Sunae is Korean-American, born in Seoul, Korea, and immigrated to the United States with her family at the age of 15. Raised in San Jose, she always refers to it as her home.  Now she is making her home in the community of Oakland with her husband, Michael.

Sunae graduated from San Jose State University with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.  She worked as a Registered Nurse at Kaiser Santa Clara (1988-1997) and Valley Medical Center (1997 – 2004).  After her spiritual growth caused her to realize her calling was to care for the people in a different way, she earned a Master of Divinity degree from Pacific School of Religion (Graduate Theological Seminary) in Berkeley, California. Sunae was ordained as an Elder in the California – Nevada Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church in 2014. She has served five churches in California:  Bethel Korean UMC (1999-2001), New Community Mission Church (2003-2004), Korean United Methodist Church in Santa Clara Valley (2006-2013), Calvary UMC (2013-2016), and Evergreen Valley UMC (2013-2022).

Sunae has been married to Michael for thirty-three wonderful years and they have two grown children, Edward and Anthony.  Eddie is a surgeon in the Fellowship program in Trauma and Critical Care at the University of Southern California.  Anthony is going to school and working in San Jose.  They have a wonderful furry child, Butters, an 8-year-old mix of Maltese, Miniature Schnauzer, and Poodle.  This creature of God brings immense joy to our family.

Her mission is to live out God’s love for all. She inspires and strengthens other’s faith as she journeys alongside others to build God’s beloved community.  She welcomes all, and inspires others to live out their calling, faith in action and justice for all people.  She seeks to return to God and to herself daily as she practices contemplative prayer.

Her personal mission statement is “God loves you. God is present in our lives in knowing or without knowing.  So, enjoy God and others.  Enjoy life.”  She is passionate about touching others and restoring a healthy relationship in families through God’s grace.  Sunae believes that a healthy home and healthy church can have a powerful impact in our community and on the world.

Sunae and Michael love to travel.  Sunae loves a good cup of coffee, music, nature walks and reading books.  Moreover, Sunae is an excellent cook, particularly with Korean dishes, and she looks forward to introducing the Lake Merritt and Lake Park family to them and her own brand of hospitality.  

Joan Miller

Joan Miller

Music Director; music@lakemerrittumc.org

Joan has been entertaining audiences and instructing students in the Bay Area for over 30 years as a piano and voice teacher, choir director, actress, fund-raiser, theatre producer, composer and arranger.  A native of Russell, Kentucky, she graduated from Eastern Kentucky University with a B.M.E. degree in voice and piano.  Joan is a member of the Music Teachers’ Association of California and serves as President of the Mount Diablo Music Education Foundation.  Besides LMUMC, Joan is also the accompanist for College Park High School, Pleasant Hill, Queen of All Saints, Concord, Jordan Middle School, Palo Alto, Palo Alto Children’s Choir and entertains at various venues in the Bay Area.  In 2014, Joan received a Jefferson Award for ‘keeping music alive’ in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District.  “Music changes our lives.  Studies have shown that music stimulates the brain and reduces stress.  It connects us all together and I’m grateful I’m part of that connection”.

Neil Wade

Neil Wade

Office Administrator; office@lakemerrittumc.org

Neil Scott Wade is a fourth generation United Methodist, Oakland native and proud graduate of St. Elizabeth High School in Oakland. At a young age, Neil developed a love for music and performing arts that has been enriched by many Bay Area programs such as the Black Repertory Theatre, Alvin Alley Dance Camp, and The Young Musician’s Program at UC Berkeley. Currently, Neil is studying music and shares leadership in Taylor Memorial United Methodist Church in Oakland with Taylor Anointed Praise Choir & is the founder and creative director for their praise dance troop, Taylor’s Wings. 

Neil credits his mother, Rev. Marie Wilson-Johnson, pastor of Sonoma UMC. It was her support and encouragement that helped him to discover his gifts and talents in theater, dance and vocal performance.

Neil’s future plans include completing his BA in Music and forming a community choir for Bay Area youth.