Rev. Julia, our pastor for 17 years and four months, recently answered a call to the Worthington Presbyterian Church in Worthington, Ohio, north of Columbus. For the more recent members, the History Commission thought it would be interesting to print an up-dated version of the “Pieces of the Past” article on Rev. Julia that appeared in the August, 2004
Julia Kay Wharff was born on August 17, 1963 in Normal, Illinois. In 1970, she moved with her
parents, Keith and Hazel, and her three sisters and one brother to Marion, Iowa. Always active in Presbyterian churches, each of her parents served as elders, and all of the children took part in Christian education and choir. Julia also enjoyed choir and band activities in school, serving as accompanist for many choirs, earning a place for three years in All-State Band or Orchestra, and leading as Drum Major for the high school marching
band. Julia also served as an officer in the Student Council. Regarding important moments in the development of her faith, Julia cites participation in church choir (beginning at age 5), attending presbytery church camp, and participating in the 1980 National Presbyterian Youth Triennium. In 1981, Julia graduated as valedictorian from Linn-Mar Community High School in Marion.
She continued her education at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree, magna cum laude, with a major in music (with French horn and piano as her instruments) and a certificate in music management. Julia’s sense of a call to the ministry began to take shape her senior year at Luther, and she gave it time to develop by working for a year at Luther as a full-time Residence Hall Director and studying Hebrew.
In 1986, Julia moved to Chicago to study at McCormick Theological Seminary. She served as a
Theological Student Advisory Delegate to the General Assembly in 1987 and for two years as a student member of the Board of Trustees.
Seminarians are encouraged to work in churches while they study in order to gain practical experience. Julia served as a fulltime summer intern in 1987 at the 125-member Preble Park Presbyterian Church in Green Bay, Wisconsin. She worked part-time during her second year at Community Presbyterian Church in Mt. Prospect, Illinois. Also that summer, she spent a week at the Presbyterian Conference Center in New Mexico, Ghost Ranch, where she befriended our former pastor, Sherm Skinner and his wife Lorrie! During Julia’s senior year at McCormick, she was a Teaching Assistant in both Greek and Theology. She earned her Master of Divinity degree from McCormick and was valedictorian of the Class of 1990.
Not long after graduation, First Presbyterian Church in Junction City, Kansas, extended a call to Julia to serve as Associate Pastor. This position was open because the previous associate pastor, the Rev. Allen Mosiman, had been called to our church, Sugar Creek, to become our pastor in 1989! Julia was ordained as Minister of Word and Sacrament at her home church, First Presbyterian Church, Marion, Iowa, on Reformation Sunday, October 28, 1990.
Four months after Rev. Julia began serving in Junction City, the senior pastor left to accept a new call. A 21-month interim period ensued, and in all but eight months of this time, Rev. Julia was the only pastor on staff of the 500-member church. While in Junction City, Rev. Julia served on the board of The Crisis Center, Inc., a regional domestic violence prevention service provider, and she was president for three years.
In 1995, the Session of West Side Presbyterian Church in Lawrence, Kansas, invited Julia to serve as Interim Pastor, following the retirement of their 35-year pastor. She accepted and in March began serving this 150-member church. She enjoyed full-time preaching and teaching, and encouraged the congregation to host a folk music series which met a community need and raised funds for their mission endeavors. In the larger church, Rev. Julia chaired the Presbytery’s Committee on Ministry, was commissioner to the 207th General Assembly in 1995 in Cincinnati, and served as a consultant to the national Office of Theology.
On March 9, 1997, our congregation called Rev. Julia to serve as our pastor. We had been well-
served by two female interim pastors (the Rev. Wendy McCormick and the Rev. Janice Hilkerbaumer), and Julia was the first woman to serve as a full-time pastor at Sugar Creek. Four months after Rev. Julia arrived, on September 10, 1997, an accidental fire struck our church. So the first part of our life together was absorbed by the fire recovery, yet together we rose to the challenge. God remained faithful and new ministries continued to
blossom at Sugar Creek: for instance, our Christian education has grown in staff and participation, we began a new young children’s singing group called the Angels, and we began a partnership in a mission with Kennedy Elementary School where Rev. Julia volunteered her piano playing abilities, and most of the church members became involved in the House of Bread by donating at least one Saturday, if not more, in preparing a complete meal for Dayton’s hungry.
Besides having to deal with fire recovery, building renovation, and being an excellent pastor, Julia started studying for her Doctor of Ministry degree at Princeton Theological Seminary. She earned this degree in 2003 and her dissertation project, entitled Stronger than Flames: Providence, Recovery, and Christian Community after a Church Building Fire, explored our congregation’s experience of faith as we recovered from the 1997 fire.
During the year 2004, Rev. Julia helped us celebrate the church’s 200th anniversary with a special service on the weekend of September 5th. Since then, Rev. Julia has guided the congregation in starting our Stephen Ministries, installing an elevator and adding our new reception room which involved a campaign to raise money to pay for it, elevating the importance of the congregation’s support of the youth in our church which included the hiring of the Rev. Carmen Garrigan as Director of Youth Ministries, and helped to reorient the congregation’s outlook on our church’s mission by assisting in writing our present moto, “Connecting in Christ’s friendship, Growing in God’s grace, Serving where the Spirit sends.”
Rev. Julia also met her future husband at a Presbytery meeting in 2007 and in June, 2010, she married Presbyter Dennis Piermont in Sugar Creek’s sanctuary.
After 17 years and four months with the Sugar Creek congregation, Rev. Julia Wharff Piermont announced that she had received a call from the Worthington Presbyterian Church, a northern suburb of Columbus, Ohio to be their pastor. After much prayer, she accepted that call. Sunday, August 31, 2014 was her last day with us. After the church service, there was a huge
reception in the Fellowship Hall with a dinner, speeches, and a few laughs. There were also many a tear as members said good bye to Rev. Julia.
Article by Stanley Aultz