1987 – 2020
From one member’s kitchen . . .
From one member’s kitchen in May 1989 to purchasing our beautiful building in Northwest Tucson in 2019, Mountain Vista UU (MVUU) celebrates its vibrant community life through its mission to Welcome, Care for, and Inspire. We are active in outreach and social justice as well as create community among ourselves through many activities.
In 1987 our mother church, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson (UUCT), sent a member to the UU Association (UUA) headquarters in Boston to learn how to form a new congregation. The northwest section of Tucson was rapidly growing, which generated the opportunity to spread UU to the other side of town. Two years later, on April 30, 1989, our new congregation named itself the Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Tucson and we approved our Articles of Incorporation. Fifty-five people (all formerly members of UUCT) signed the membership book and became charter members. By June our congregation had elected its first Board of Trustees.
With the support of the UUCT board and the UUA, we soon moved from the kitchen to the gymnasium of Cross Junior High School. There on October 3, 1989, we held our first religious services and education classes.
Our first minister, the Reverend Maurice Simons, served part-time beginning in 1992. In December of the same year, we moved from the school to our newly purchased property at 3601 N. Cromwell Drive. There we had some acreage and several structures, including a triple-wide stucco building for services and a separate building for classes, potlucks, and various types of meetings. We changed our name again in 1993 to Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Northwest Tucson. Two years later, the Reverend Susan Manker-Seale was assigned as our Extension Minister. We called Rev. Susan as our settled minister in 1999.
In the early 2000s we voted for the simpler name Mountain Vista UU. Following Susan’s resignation in 2010, we were served by the interim ministry of the Rev. Joy Atkinson. Rev. Joy helped us form a vision for 2020: a new building of beauty, a reliable, warm service with hugs and a universal multicultural flavor…. We called Ron Phares, a ministerial candidate, to our pulpit in 2012 and ordained him in 2013. In 2014, the congregation voted to seek a new home, and the Board appointed a “Dream Team” to pursue the details and challenges of achieving this goal.
In following our vision, we purchased a desert property in 2016. Here we hoped to build our new sanctuary. Also in 2016, we sold our Cromwell property and moved to a temporary space by the beginning of 2017, first to Green Fields School for a few months, and then to Blessed Savior Lutheran Church for three years. We felt like we were wandering in the desert, but our strong community held us together during this time.
By 2017 we had a look at our first architectural plans. Because of converging circumstances—a building boom in Tucson, infrastructure challenges on the property, and accelerating materials and labor costs—we realized this property could not fulfill our congregation’s vision. Fortunately, we were able to sell that property at a healthy profit and continued looking for suitable land or a structure to remodel and occupy.
Our search for our new home continued for months, until we finally came upon just the right property for us. In 2019, we purchased a lovely traditional Mexican-style building (9,000 square feet) with ample parking and acreage on W. Orange Grove Road near N. Thornydale Road and began renovations which are to be complete by the end of 2020.
Despite our transitory times, the congregation continued to be active in several justice and community issues and events, adult education, youth and children religious exploration, innovative music programs, and fellowship.
While all this was going on, our minister, the Reverend Ron Phares, accepted a call to a new congregation in Canada in 2018. After a successful search process, we invited the Reverend Samantha Wilson to serve as our Interim Minister. She agreed to support us for three years.
Then the Covid-19 pandemic came to Tucson as it did to every corner of the world. And our blessed community continued strong. We held our last in-person service on March 16, 2020, and went online. Our services became a collaboration of the Baja 4 UU congregations and appear on YouTube each Sunday. We organized our “coffee hour” to be held virtually every Sunday via Zoom, meeting together and in small discussion groups—just like around the tables after services. Our Board continues to meet each month by Zoom as do our members for their committee meetings: Welcomers, Membership, Communications, Pastoral Care, Justice Coordinating, and others. Social groups also continue, such as two book groups and Caring Hearts groups, formed to help get us through the time of separation. New members have joined our congregation since we began meeting remotely. Although we have never met them in person, we welcome them to all our virtual activities.
At this time—August 2020—we look forward to the coming year when we hope to meet again in person. Meanwhile, we remain an active community whose members support one another through this time of uncertainty.