Greg and Jan Mulder

I’m Greg Bedinger and, along with my wife Jan Mulder, am a relatively new member of Mountain Vista.
Twenty years ago we responded to a three-line invitation in the classifieds of our local weekly to visit a UU fellowship on Bainbridge Island, Washington. Jan was raised UU and was interested in giving this small group a try; for me it was much more a hesitant leap of faith to take this step.

Perhaps not surprisingly, we were warmly greeted and made to feel welcome. Jan had warned me that once we made it through the door, we would almost certainly become engaged. And so it was. We had found our community.

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Debbie and Jim GessamanDebbie and Jim Gessaman

Debbie: My parents grew up in blue-collar families where the men worked, one as a house carpenter and the other as a laborer at Minneapolis Moline. The men probably trained on the job. Their wives raised children and kept house.

Maybe that’s why Mom and Dad decided to provide more opportunity for their three children than they had, so they both worked long hours at basic jobs.  Mother was a waitress at a Jewish Country Club, with a catering business on the side; Dad was a timekeeper at Ford Motor in St. Paul.  Two salaries helped, along with their fix-it gene; thriftiness; modest investments; and saving for their “dream rambler” and college for us was a priority.

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John ClarkJohn Clark

I’m involved in several activities at MVUU. Many of you know me as a Practice Associate; some of you know me as the leader of the Sunday Morning Book Group.  It’s the book group that captured me a couple of weeks after Meg Kidwell invited me to attend MVUU in the Fall of 2004.  About 80 books later I can say that the Book Group has been the single most important contributor to my intellectual growth in the past 12 years.  It takes us several weeks to read each book so we can discuss each chapter in depth.  We share views and ideas on big subjects like the history of Unitarian Universalism, the components of human personality, why there is something rather than nothing in the universe, how medicine can help us live better lives as we age, how mindfulness meditation changes us, why people have different values and currently how evangelical Christians learn to hear God talk to them.   I would never have confronted those and dozens of other topics on my own.

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David GreeneDavid Greene

My initial membership with a Unitarian Universalist congregation was in 1993, when I accepted a position at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. My son was entering the 10th grade and when I heard there was a fledgling UU group in the city, I hoped it might offer him, and me opportunities to meet people who might be more open to the attitudes and experiences of Southern California transplants. What we found there was a small, but active youth group and a congregation of about 60 friendly, interesting, fun loving and inquiring people who welcomed and embraced us immediately.

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Katie PharesKatie Phares

Good Morning. I am Katie Phares. For those of you who don’t know me, I am married to Reverend Ron. Ron and I met at First UU Austin when he was in seminary. We got to know each other better when I volunteered to help teach the high school Religious Education class with him.

Now, I grew up in a religiously liberal household, whether my parents realized it at the time or not. In Murray, Kentucky, where I lived until I was eight, my parents, two sisters, and I attended the United Methodist Church.

However, my parents opted NOT to have their daughters baptized there because they found it important that the decision of dedicating our lives to Christianity be left up to us.

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Jim DonnellyJim Donnelly

This is the third Unitarian Church I’ve been mainly known as “Pam Donnelly’s husband”. Pam and I have been UUs for nearly 20 years, first in a large church in Denver, First Universalist, next in a smallish church in Corpus Christi, Texas and now here.

We are both lapsed Catholics and neither of us feel particularly scarred by those experiences. In fact we both miss the grandeur of Catholicism; the stained glass windows, the Gregorian chants, the incense and the sacraments. Our problem was that over time our faith just kept eroding until there was nothing left of it. If you don’t accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior, you have no business masquerading as a Christian.

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Kouzmanoff and WallaceKathy Kouzmanoff and Bob Wallace

I’ve also taken a long time to 100% commit to an intentional religious community.  Community is demanding, but I need its kinship.  Real commitment, which happened about four years into my membership, is really transforming me.

I no longer have mental reservations about this being my tribe or about really living with an open, caring heart.  I am more transparent and less guarded, and nourished by sharing sacred space with you, personal intimacy and, yes, even joking around.

It seems to us that open pocketbook flows naturally from open heart.

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Barbara GatesBarbara Gates

I am Barbara Gates, and I first walked through those doors at the back of this room in December, 2004.  From that first entrance until now, MVUU, then of a different name, has provided me first and foremost with community.  That very first day, after I stood up and said I had just bought a home in Sun City, I was greeted warmly by Ann Ellsworth and Adrian Korpel, who have remained fast friends.  That was the beginning.  It would be hard now to document how many others have become part of my church family here and among my most cherished friends over the past 12 years.

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Susannah JacksonSusannah Jackson

My name is Susannah Jackson. I’ve been coming here since I moved to Tucson about 4 years ago, but my attendance has only been consistent for about the last year and a half. I grew up about an hour north of Boston in a very conservative, largely Catholic town. Mom took us to a fairly liberal church as young children, but when I was in 5th grade, I announced that I didn’t believe in God. I was an atheist and did not feel I should be attending church any longer. To her immense credit, my mother accepted this decision, and that was pretty much the last time I stepped into a church for the next 15 years.

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Tina ZayhowskiTina Zayhowski

I was born in Queens, New York around the beginning of World War 2. My Dad, who had migrated to Brooklyn with his parents during Germany’s severe depression in the 20’s, had been raised Catholic. He and my grandparents were very angry with the Catholic Church demanding money while they were struggling to put food on the table. Needless to say, My Dad never saw religion as something one needed in life. The only time I saw my Dad grace the inside of a church was when I was married in a Lutheran Church in 1963.

My Mom, born in the Bronx, lost her father in an auto accident when she was 10. She had to quit school when she was 16 to support my grandmother. There seemed to have been some sporadic connection with the Episcopal Church on my Mom’s side of the family.

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