The Resilience Legacy Of MVUU  The First Years 1969-2015
Abbreviated Version of November 1, 2015 Presentation to the Congregation
Mountain Vista Unitarian Universalist Church, Tucson, Arizona USA
By Member Kathy Kouzmanoff-Wallace, November 1, 2015

The Unitarian poem All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten images holding hands and sticking together as you cross the road. And a little seed that sends down roots and sends up growth, beyond our understanding, and we are like that too.

Here is MVUU’s take on that poem.

It’s 1969. The Golder family of Golder Ranch gives land to the Unitarians as a legacy to religious freedom of thought and expression. No Northwest Tucson UU community exists. The land’s sold for $64,000 to pay back taxes.

It’s 1987. Tucson’s only UU congregation on 22nd St. sees Tucson could support another congregation on the northwest side. A small group runs with the dream, creating their first board in 1989, running church services out of Cross Middle School. This gets old and they seek their own place.

Flash Back on the History of our Religious Freedom Origins

UU’s are passionate about individual religious freedom of thought and its expression, now drawing upon all wisdom traditions of the world. (Our own personal, direct experience of mystery, growth tradition sources including humanist, earth-centered, indigenous, pagan, theist, deist, atheist, agnostic, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, mystic, depth psychology and holistic science.)

Its beginnings, however, are in Christianity, and the struggle for religious tolerance in the Christian tradition in central Europe in the 16th century. John Calvin burned Michael Servetus at the stake for his heretical Christian beliefs in 1553.

Religious freedom of ideas, their expression and exploration is the essence of who we are. We are a community rooted in the deeper stream of wisdom that underlies all religious traditions, beyond cultural differences.

It’s 1992. 4.6 acres with a triple wide sanctuary is purchased for $179,000 and paid off in full in 2014.

By 2004 the Northwest UU community outgrows its space, growing from 170 to close to 200 and who knows, maybe to over 300.

Architects Luis Ibarra and Teresa Rosano are hired to do a feasibility study presentation on building a new sanctuary on the lower south four acres.  It’s a go, just barely, and would require heavy bulldozing of the land.  The same day of their presentation, March 5, 2004, the north piece of land, 3.3 acres, comes on the market.  The church purchases it and by December 2004, has launched an ambitious capital campaign.  Architects Luis Ibarra and Teresa Rosano are hired again to design a phased master plan for: 1. Sanctuary and Entry; 2. Religious Education and Office Space; 3. Social Hall; and 4. Chapel.

By December of 2006 debts are paid, but membership falls off and the board doesn’t see resources to build.  A second capital campaign is dropped. Rev Susan Manker-Seale, settled in 1999, resigns, effective August 2010.

It is 2010-2011. Stronger organizational polity starts to form as we move from a family to pastoral church culture, with greater emphasis on central leadership and long-range planning.

2010-2012. Interim minister Joy Atkinson helps us improve our finances, and find our big dream vision for 2020: a new building of beauty, a reliable, warm service with hugs and a universal multicultural flavor, “five services a week…younger families…a happy place to go…activities all week long, a big church, gay activist alliance, other community groups meeting in the church…farmer’s market…a campus resource for community organizations… Ten years from now, we will look back on the leadership and thank them for getting us to this place.” Leadership in finances gets gutsy and gets real with the community. We respond. In a few years we have $300,000 in reserves, and wings under our dreams for “something large.”

In 2012 we hire a full time minister, Rev Ron Phares, our current minister, warm, charismatic, creative and smart. He attempts to re-image traditional wisdom into current modes of expression. The church culture revives its lost vitality in things inward, among members all too wary of multiple past misuse of religious authority.

It’s Easter Sunday, 2014. We need to grow, especially to attract young families with children. Either we upgrade what we have, move, to buy an existing campus or build our own. We vote to move.

It’s 2015. We are less naïve about pledging, about files, bookkeeping, vetting, zoning, and how we treat each other. We seem more confident to flex our community strength, built on resilience, guts, and maybe just plain love for our church community and the greater world.

The story is not just that we balanced the budget, have set a course to move, see more young ones circle the pulpit, and have stable and rising numbers and are excited for the future. We have our original dream in focus and intention to carry it forward, to be a visible, growing and thriving beloved community, fostering a religion of free inquiry and expression, for ourselves, and the greater Tucson community.

Our resources to build? Land, owned free and clear, and valued at $795,000. We have no debt. The budget is balanced. We have $300,000 in reserves and $50,000 in endowment. There is a seriously interested buyer in our property. We have a serious interest in acreage on Cortaro Farms Rd, a main east-west road off of Magee, near the I-10 expressway and the newly opened Tucson Premium Outlets Stores.

We are the face of our dream, beloved, groaning and renewing. Something inside dreams us, keeps us inspired, fresh, new and open to renewal. Remember that little seed in the cup that sends down roots and sends up growth all on its own and we are like that too?

It’s time for the next chapter. It’s not so far from here. As we cross the road, let’s look in both directions, with appreciation for the past and excitement for the future, hold hands and stick with it, together.