Pastor Tia: A Cheerful Giver – Faith in our Midst

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Whatever your faith, you have but to read Second Corinthians 9:7 which reads “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” to get a sense of this week’s Neighbor to Know.  Please meet Reverend Tia Wildermuth (Tia) of Seal Beach First Methodist Church.

Tia is a second generation Californian, born in Santa Monica, living in Pacific Palisades, another community of the day very reminiscent of Seal Beach. She was the number two child behind a brother with whom she is still very close.

The family moved to Camarillo when she was in middle school.  She was a young competition gymnast when at the onset of adolescence, Osgood Schlatter disease hit her knees and she had to quit the sport.  She did not let this stop her love of sports and through high school she played volleyball and softball, moving on to play in junior college where she began her studies in film and television.

You thought I was going to say something else, didn’t you?   Nope, her first career thoughts and love were in communications arts and she finished her undergraduate studies at Loyola Marymount with a degree in that discipline.  However, it was during her years at Loyola that she began to reconnect with her Methodist upbringing and roots. Her grandparents still lived in Pacific Palisades and she would drive up on Sundays to attend church and spend time with them.

Her first job out of college was in the television industry, where she worked as a Production Assistant on the set of Mama’s Family for almost three years, working in Burbank but living in Camarillo.   She began attending the local Camarillo Methodist church and was asked if she would be interested in serving as the youth lay minister, a role she loved and one that would change the course of her life.

Because of the seasonality of production filming and the generous benefits provided, it gave Tia an opportunity during the long months off to begin her studies in Theology.  She left the production world after three years to give full time to her studies at Claremont School of Theology where she earned her Masters of Divinity degree, all the while continuing to drive to the 180 mile round trip to Camarillo to support the church youth.

In the Methodist church, one does not simply become an ordained minister and step into the role.  The path requires years of study and self-examination, a provisional period, and, finally, one must be approval by the Board of Ministry.

First, service as a Deacon is like residency in Med School, and then one becomes an Elder which is similar to a tenure status and from there, if approved, move into full pastor capacity.

Tia has served her entire pastoral time in Southern California, beginning in Costa Mesa, then moving to the San Gabriel Valley where she served a number of years and several churches before getting the ultimate opportunity at First Methodist Church (First Church) in Seal Beach.  I asked her if in her calling she ever had a vision of the “ideal appointment,” and in fact she did.  Because of the small town communities she was raised in, she pictured the ideal place as “small town on the coast with a real community feel.” Who says God does not answer prayers?

Like many folks when she was given her directive to come to First Church, she really did not know where Seal Beach was. She had at one time visited a member who lived in Surfside but really did not connect it to Seal Beach.  So when she came on a scouting visit she was instantly in love with the town atmosphere, the people she met and her new church family.  Her love was our good fortune as she has stayed and just began her 13th year of service at First Church on July 1st.

She tells me that every moment has been a joy.  Most recently she saw First Church through its 100th Anniversary Celebration, a milestone for any church, but also notes it as the oldest church in Seal Beach.   She credits the longevity and success of the church to its “amazing parishioners”  who also participate in many day to day functionalities to keep the church going.  “The people here are simply the kindest and most generous of spirit and so devoted to the church,” she says of them.  She knew from the first moment she stepped into the church’s quaint sanctuary how special it was going to be.

Her service has extended beyond the church as a member of the Chamber of Commerce where at a pivotal transition point in the annual Thanksgiving Community Dinner she was able to use her unique set of skills to help shepherd the event to the successful venue it is today. It now serves almost 150 meals to those in need or simply those in need of companionship on the holiday. It has become a cherished part of the Seal Beach fall activity set.

Reverend Tia describes herself as an introvert, which is hard to imagine in a person who so willingly and graciously ministers to her parishioners, who are steadfast in their admiration for her as well.   She preaches from her heart in a somewhat extemporaneous way, starting with her notes of what she wants to convey and letting the rest flow. It appears to work well.

Her mother lives with her on the Hill in a home provided by the church. You can see them out and about together frequently.  She loves to swim at McGaugh and is not only a big Anaheim Angels fan, but a die-hard, “don’t even use the words UCLA” USC fan, who watches every USC football game, live whenever possible. And she loves Disneyland, but mostly, she is a homebody who loves to spend quiet reflective time with her fur-babies Maisie & Peanut.

She is one of the few people I have ever met who is steadfast in her knowledge that she is doing what she was meant to be with her life.  It shows in her eyes and the way she lights up when she talks. Her favorite scripture is Mark 12:20-21 which reads: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.”

I believe it says everything about who Reverend Tia is to Seal Beach.  She adds strength, serenity and love for our neighbors every day in everyday ways.  And I think now especially, we can all use just a little more neighborly love.

Do you have a neighbor we should know?  Please send them to me at:   EBETHL@hotmail.com.