3900 Cleveland Avenue, Hillcrest
Membership: 400 individuals
Pastor: Tim Tiffany
Born: Kansas City, Kansas
Formation: University of California Los Angeles; Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis, Indiana
Years Ordained: 30 years
San Diego Reader: Can you think of a time when you gave a sermon that completely flopped?
Tim Tiffany: This couple had begun to be sort of pains in my rear for a variety of reasons but primarily because they thought I had interpreted a scripture wrong. So I crafted this sermon carefully. Now, I don’t remember what the scripture was, but I know I was preaching it to this couple, and when I stood up to preach, I saw that they weren’t in the congregation that day. It was absolutely the worst gosh-awful sermon I ever preached. It was sour and I should have never done it and that’s part of what you learn in seminary, of course, the things you shouldn’t do. It was horrible. So nowadays I would have to say that my goal is to try to speak a word of hope and truth and address it first to myself so I’m not seeking to beat someone else up but to speak something of love and grace to myself and those who come to worship.
SDR: Why did you become a minister in the first place?
TT: I always said that I was inspired because my dad was a minister in the 1950s in the South. He was sort of progressive…. The issues in the South in the ’50s were around civil rights for blacks, and Dad took very quiet stands and did things like, when we were living in Lexington, Kentucky, when it was time to get my haircut, he would take me to the ghetto. We went into this barbershop that had only one barber’s chair — and we were the only white people I ever saw in that barber shop. Everybody else was black…. My dad never said anything about it, and my dad would shoot the bull with the barber and I’d look at the magazines and then I’d get my hair cut….But because of things like that my dad got into a lot of trouble. So by the time I was an adult, there were two things I was never going to do. I was never going to be a garbage collector and I was never going to be a minster. But, of course, as they say, if you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans!
SDR: What is the mission of your church?
TT: To be an instrument of wholeness in a broken world.
SDR: Where do you go when you die?
TT: I’ll leave that up to God; I don’t worry about it. I believe that there’s a wholeness within life itself, and a holiness, if we truly are faithful to God, and I’ll leave the rest to God. I don’t’ believe there is a hell. Hell to me would say that God has failed…because it means somehow or another in the end God didn’t get the last word. If you buy that, then God’s imperfect, and if you buy that, then God isn’t God…. So I think heaven is a banquet with surprising guests. And we may be sitting next to people we’re not real sure about, but it won’t be up to us — it’ll be up to God.