Rev. Heather Mueller 'retired' to Taft after 37 years in Hawaii. She wants to bring the faithful to her Episcopal church

 No one would question someone living in Taft retiring to the Hawaiian Islands – Maui to be specific.

But would someone living in Maui retire and come to Taft?

You would if you were Rev. Heather Mueller, who recently became the new priest of St. Andrews Episcopal Church here.

Not only did she walk away from the island where she’s lived for the past 37 years, Rev. Mueller is working here for free, although she does get to live in the house on church property at the corner of Woodrow and Fifth streets.

Despite the move from the islands to the desert for a non-paying job, Rev. Mueller says she’s delighted to be here.

“I actually like it here. I’ve met some wonderful people. Taft is a nice place.”

She’s making peace with the heat, too.

“It’s hot but I go to the Rec Center and walk. I do the ‘senior thing.’ The best thing is it’s nice and cool there.”

She got a little taste of local climate when she spent a year in Jerusalem on a pilgrimage after retiring as priest of her church in Maui in 2010.

“That was a wonderful experience,” she said. “It was such a joy to see the Holy Land.”

Rev. Mueller wasted little time getting active in the community, joining the Rotary Club of Taft.

It was a natural move for her. She’s been a member of the Rotary Club of Maui since 1993, serving as president in 2009-10.

The local Rotarians quickly made her – what else – chaplain.

Rev. Mueller’s first task is to build up participation in her new church.

“We’re down to 12 members,” she said, but promises to lure more faithful by promoting St. Andrews in the community.

“What I hope we can do is make St. Andrews known in terms of what we have to offer,” she said. “We are a very traditional church. We don’t have electronic music, but at the same time we are not biblical fundamentalists. We believe Jesus is the Son of God and is eternal. We are a lot like Roman Catholics but we have women priests. We are very inclusive.”

Rev. Mueller has two daughters – one in Phoenix and another in San Diego -- and five grandchildren she’ll be able to spend more time with now that she’s on the mainland.

She hopes to make a lot of new friends in Taft.

“I like to read, I love to travel and I love to have dinner parties and tell stories,” she said. “I like to learn about people, and having dinner parties with a theme is a good way to do that.”

And, she plans to take lots of cool walks at the recreation center.