When the Rev. Tim Tate first came to Centreville United Methodist Church, he was fresh out of the seminary. Now in his eighth year there, he's grown considerably as a minister and left a definite mark on the church.
"Tim's a great young man with a big heart, and he's just developed incredibly," said the Rev. Bert Sikkelee, CUMC's senior pastor. "He's been a pure joy to work with for eight wonderful years."
Now though, Tate, wife Teresa and sons Caleb, 5, and Joshua, 3, are off to Wellspring United Methodist Church in Williamsburg, where he will become the associate pastor. Last Sunday, June 15, was his last time in the pulpit at CUMC.
And just like Sikkelee, who's retiring, Tate will be greatly missed. "He helped me through some tough times and has always been a good friend," said church member Suzie Sterrett. "I met my husband Jeff here, and Tim officiated at our wedding."
Tate, 35, said, "The most amazing thing to me has been how gracious and wonderful Bert has been to me as a mentor. We're a good mix. In many ways we're polar opposites and, in many ways, we're similar. His gifts lie with organization, administration and details. Add in his experience, and he's got some really great skills. I'm the person of vision, looking at the big picture."
HE SAID NOT all senior pastors are willing to share the workload of what goes on at a church, but Sikkelee was. For example, Tate preached every other Sunday and on alternate Christmases and Easters.
"The best gift the congregation could have given me is their high expectations for me, and I did my best to try to live up to them," said Tate. "So it challenged and stretched me and helped me grow."
Describing CUMC's congregation as "extremely gifted," he said its members are wonderful resources for help, advice and support, and are always warm and open. "People who come here are welcomed," he said. "The members are willing to get involved in the church, with folks in need and in mission activities."
Tate's also proud of the way the church's mission program has taken off. "When I first came here, we had $12,000 in discretionary funds for local mission work, about 12 people on our mission council and 25-30 people involved in the [hands-on] work," he said. "Last year, we gave over $400,000 away in mission gifts and time, and probably 420 people are involved in the hands-on mission work."
He was in charge of missions when the church passed its plan to donate 1/3 of its budget each year toward that activity. And he set up the 1996 mission task force that examined how this task could be accomplished. Then Barbara Shaiko was hired in 1999 to handle the mission budget and get people involved in the work.
"THE PEOPLE OF the church really did it," said Tate. "This congregation has people that'll step forward." He said he and Sikkelee, as clergy, shared the responsibility of leadership with each other, serving as models of teamwork for the rest of the church administrative staff and the congregation.
"So it's the full church that's working, not just the two pastors," said Tate. "We're the spiritual leaders, and the congregation carries out the ministry aspect of it." He said United Methodist ministers are assigned, year to year, to their congregations, by their bishop, and he learned, the week after Easter, that he'd be going elsewhere.
"It's a bittersweet move because we've been blessed greatly by this congregation, but we're very excited," he said. He'll be the only pastor at a 387-member church and, said Tate, "I believe that, if I apply the same things I've applied here, it'll be a great advantage to me and to the [new] church."
He said the new church matches well with his gifts as a pastor. "I love worship leadership, and that's what's important for them," he explained. "And they're in a place where this congregation was, probably 20 years ago — with lots of new growth and ready to be led." He said their former pastor is moving to another congregation.
TATE'S ALSO PLEASED about the two, new pastors coming to CUMC. "Don [Carlton] is a really great preacher and a wonderful person, and I just met Samantha [Jessee] and was very impressed with her," he said. "I think this congregation will support them and they'll do well."
Meanwhile, they'll have big shoes to fill at CUMC. What longtime member Lisa Ray will always remember about Tate, she said, is "his infectious enthusiasm for life, for ministry." And member Claudette Ward will never forget how both Tate and Sikkelee ministered to her husband John during his illness and "the way Tim gently joked with him" before he died, last October.
Member Marci Huntsman will recall their love of music and how "they always made time for people." And though members Dave and Judy Trump will miss Tate here, he'll be the pastor at the church their daughter attends so, said Judy, "We'll still get to see him when we visit her."