Tia Norman, pastor of Awakenings Movement, has been on many journeys in her life. Born in Boise, Idaho, she spent her most formative years in northern and southern California (San Francisco and LA, respectively), before moving to Colorado and then West Texas (Midland) where she graduated high school.
Her college years at Texas Tech had her on a path to become a TV journalist before she detoured into a highly successful sales career. However, her professional journey did not end there, as a divine conversation directed her to a destination Norman never imagined for herself—that of a ministry leadership with many hats: pastor, spiritual guide, yoga instructor, financial advisor, and most importantly, mother of two.
Norman recently shared with the Defender snapshots of her ongoing journey of life, light and love.
DEFENDER: Pastor Tia Norman, please introduce yourself to the Defender family.
PASTOR TIA NORMAN: Hello, and thank you for having me. It’s an honor to be thought of for this. My name is Tia Norman. The hats that I currently wear, which I consider a service, is being the pastor of Awakenings Movement. I also work with people one-on-one to move into a time of deep inner listening. Some may call that a spiritual guide. And then I also am a yoga teacher and a meditation guide, as well. And then the biggest honor is I am a mother of two. That is a hat and a heart that I am happy to hold.
DEFENDER: Where are you originally from?
NORMAN: So, born in Boise, Idaho. When I was an infant we moved to San Francisco, which I really attribute to my openness to people. I was exposed to many different types of people in that environment. So, northern and southern California, and then we moved around a bit to Colorado before ending up in West Texas. I finished high school in Midland, went to college at Texas Tech. I thought I was going to be a reporter. Then I moved to Houston to actually take a job working for the Houston Rockets and Toyota Center. So that’s how I ended up here.
DEFENDER: How did San Francisco help shape the person you are?
NORMAN: When I was an infant we moved to San Francisco, which I really attribute to my openness to people. We were in San Francisco until I was around 11 or 12. San Francisco is such an eclectic place and I had a lot of freedom and liberty as a child growing up there. I spent a lot of time at my grandparents’ house. And I’m not sure if you’re familiar with Haight Ashbury, but it was kind of like the central gathering space of what we would call hippies. And I could just walk down there and hang and meet all kinds of people and eat all kinds of delicious foods from all different kinds of cultures. It’s a place that still holds a special place in my heart. And I’m grateful for the lens and perspective which it provided me about humanity.
DEFENDER: How did you shift from sales to ministry?
NORMAN: My last sales job was selling corporate sponsorships. When I left Toyota Center I was managing the suite sales department. And in between those two things, there was a lot of turmoil going on within my home and my interior life. And there was this moment where I was on my way home one day. And mind you, I was not raised in a religious setting or anything like that. But I just pulled my car over in a Dollar General parking lot, and I just threw my hands up. I was like, “I can’t do this anymore. God, I don’t know what to do.” And, I just felt this nudge of a couple of action items to take.
DEFENDER: What were the two actions?
NORMAN: One of them included ending a relationship that I was in, which didn’t seem to make much sense because I had just had a daughter. And the second was to begin reading the Bible. So, I started to do that. I dedicated an entire year. When I would put my daughter to sleep, I would read the Bible. And when I got through that entire year, I found myself in this really curious place. I was like, “Why are these the stories that we have,” and “Of all the things that could have been recorded and kept for thousands of years, why is this still significant” and “What were these people’s lives like?” So, it just took me into this rabbit hole of exploring theology and spirituality and humanity, and what do all of those things mean. Then I felt another little nudge, “You’re going to go into ministry.” And I was like, “Yeah, I don’t know what that means.” Also, “I’m getting some pretty good paychecks from this arena, so, how is this exactly supposed to work?” I assumed it meant that I would return to school. And when I say this, I’m not saying anything against anyone who has attended seminary or any type of biblical studies, I just felt very strongly like, “No, you’re going to learn from people that you want to lead and love like.” Because for me, it’s very important that I am not holding anything that makes it seem like I have access to something that other people do not. And of course, I tried to keep my job and not follow this little tug in my heart. But ultimately, it developed in a way where I was like, “All right, I guess this is the route that I’m going.” And I’ve been very fortunate to find those teachers and have some great experiences that have helped in the formation of being a pastor.
DEFENDER: What drew you to Awakenings Movement, specifically?
NORMAN: After this whole life crisis and all of these major changes and doing all of this reading, I was like, I need a place where I can ask questions. And I knew I needed a community, but I wasn’t sure what that looked like exactly. Except, I did know that I needed to feel comfortable there, that I needed to feel like I could bring these questions and wouldn’t be presenting them in an environment where I would feel judged. A girlfriend of mine was like, “You should join me. I’m going to this place.” At the time they were meeting at The Flat. I thought she was crazy because I was like, “That’s where I go for mojitos on Monday night. So, I’m not sure what’s happening on Sundays, but okay.” So, I went in and of course The Flat isn’t functioning or serving in that capacity of a bar on Sunday mornings. When went in, I was like, “This is it. This is exactly what I have been hoping for.” And I have been consistently present on Sunday after Sunday since that time, which was probably 2014, 2015.
DEFENDER: As a pastor and spiritual guide, you provide counseling and guidance for others. Where do you go to receive those things?
NORMAN: I have my own spiritual director and so I keep a consistent meeting with her. Marlon Hall, who is one of the founders or creators of Awakenings Movement, still very much serves as a mentor and support for me when needed. It’s nice to know that door is open. My own spiritual practice is a big part of it, as well. Much of the meditation that I lead is centered in silence. So, I have a daily practice of silence for myself. Also, physical activity helps me a lot. I mentioned yoga. Right now, I am, dare I say addicted to Peloton riding. So, I am cycling, going nowhere, but moving quite a bit. Those things really ground me. Having the guidance, having the mentor, having my own practice, and then of course, friends that you can speak to about somethings.
DEFENDER: As a Black woman in ministry, has your journey been one of all-out acceptance or has there been challenges and bumps along the way?
NORMAN: It’s been so interesting. There have been challenges and bumps along the way, not only because I am a woman, but because I am a woman of color. So, you have the two things going on, which play out differently in different environments, depending on what the setting is. So, there’s, there’s been some bumps.
DEFENDER: Would you care to elaborate?
NORMAN: This isn’t one that I come up against a lot, so I’m fortunate, but it has been a question of women’s place in ministry. So, the question sounds like “You’re a pastor?” And then it’s “You’re THE pastor, like THE pastor?” “Yes.” And then people will do things kind of, I would say, subconsciously. For example, we had a community member who passed during these last two years, and because we meet in kind of unconventional spaces like The Flat (1701 Commonwealth St., 77006) or right now we’re gathering at XO Studios (3407 Montrose Blvd, Suite B2, 77006), there’s an agreement that has to be made when someone passes because we need a way to honor them. So, I met with a head pastor of a local church in order to come together for the funeral arrangements. And as I’m leaving, he’s like, “Before you leave, you need to meet these women. They’re over the women’s and children’s ministry. And these are the people that you need to keep in contact with,” which is fine. But also, it was saying a lot about my place. So, it’s those little, subtle things. When my grandmother passed a few years ago, she’s not here locally. So, I had to travel back to Las Vegas and I had received the blessing from her church to eulogize her and be a part of the service. When I arrived to the church the day of her funeral, they told me where the ministers were sitting. So, I went to take my seat. But then when the other ministers came in, who were all men, it was like, “This space is for leadership.” And I was like, “Yes. I’m aware of that and I’m sitting where I’m supposed to be sitting.” So, it’s things like that.
DEFENDER: On a much lighter note, hobbies, escape, me-time activities; what do you do?
NORMAN: Oh my goodness. I love this question because I need some hobbies. Now, I mentioned Peloton. I love that and I would consider it a hobby. I love spending time in nature. But I’m so fortunate in that the things that were hobbies for me in between my transition between corporate America and ministry, this is what happened. I said, “Okay, I have enough savings in my bank account that I know I would be okay for like a month.” So, I said, “For 40 days, I’m only going to do work that I love. What is going to get me out of bed in the morning? What’s going to set my heart on fire? What am I going to be excited about?” So, for 40 days I sewed, which was a hobby, and it turned into a business, which is kind of dormant now because I’m focused completely on spirituality and things of that nature. So, the ways that the ends kept getting met were through my hobbies. I’m a big advocate for financial freedom and financial literacy. So, I would visit with people one-on-one about moving towards financial freedom. Then Awakenings hired me part-time to hold a weekly discussion and meditation. So those three things together kept me going. And now I don’t have any more hobbies because they all turned into something that was sustaining me. So, hey, I’m open to suggestions.
DEFENDER: Do you have a mantra or, words to live by?
NORMAN: Yes. So, part of my yoga training is inclusive of yoga nidra. And in yoga nidra, you choose a sankalpa, which is another word of saying an intention. So, I guess you could think of that as a mantra. So, the one that I use is “I am here.” It has a lot to do with presence.
ABOUT PASTOR TIA NORMAN
Education: Texas Tech University
What She’s Reading Now: “A stack of books with Mystical Theology by William Johnston on top”
Favorite Author: Rob Bell
Favorite Music Genres: Hip-Hop and R&B
Favorite Movies: Heart and Souls and Lucky Number Slevin