Sky Island Unitarian Universalist Church – Sierra Vista, Arizona
a caring community forging a compassionate, just and sustainable world
As our church begins a search for a new minister, we are assessing our present situation, planning where we would like to be in both the immediate and long-term future, and reflecting on our past history.
Our Present Situation
Membership – Sky Island is a small, financially stable congregation of 75 members. Although mostly actively retired, the membership also comprises younger families (Sierra Vista is home to a large military installation and there is a natural ebb and flow of members and their families due to posting changes). The congregation has a wide variety of life experiences and religious backgrounds. We are a Welcoming Congregation and first-time visitors often return and become more involved. It has been noted by many that the first time they attended a service they felt “at home”. All of our members belong to one of a number of ‘Care Teams’, which helps to ensure a feeling of community or providing help when it is needed. While there are a number of very enthusiastic and active volunteers for varied church functions and activities, they are generally drawn from a limited pool of members. As a mainly retired congregation, there is naturally some resistance to change.
Facility – We own our own modern, purpose-built building and are in the process of expanding to provide enhanced ministerial office and meeting space. We cooperate with, and offer our facilities to, other liberal/independent groups in the community (Buddhist, LGBTQ, Freethinkers etc).
Organizational Structure – There is a strong and effective church committee system in place. We have a dedicated paid part-time Music Director, a part-time paid RE director, a volunteer AudioVisual team, office administrator, and office volunteers. Our current minister is supported by, and
actively involved with, the Baja4 ministers in neighboring area churches in southeastern Arizona, which involves strategic planning and pulpit exchanges. There is also the opportunity for meetings with other local liberal denomination ministers.
Sunday Services – In addition to sermons from our resident and visiting clergy, we greatly benefit from congregational members who are willing to develop services on non-clergy Sundays. There is a core group of members who have been trained to act as Sunday service facilitators; they also coordinate with a variety of visiting guest speakers – in the past year, we have welcomed speakers from Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, and Pagan backgrounds. Although there is not a formal choir in place, a monthly ‘pop-up’ choir gathers to perform on the first Sunday of each month.
Other Activities – There is an enthusiastic RE program in place, for both children and adults. This takes place on Sunday mornings for children, and in a variety of settings for adults. Recently, a small group ministry program has been instituted and participation is growing. There are other opportunities for meeting together throughout the year – for instance, monthly women’s and men’s breakfasts, a hiking group, a quilting group, common-read book discussion groups, and environmental and social justice get-togethers.
Community – Sierra Vista is a conservative town, in a conservative state. However, there are a substantial number of more liberally-minded residents and both main political parties offer local engagement. Our membership comes from up to 40 miles away, from other towns and even another county. Our location means we are ‘up close and personal’ with border issues, immigration, and water rights issues. Cochise County is a popular retirement and tourist destination with many seasonal visitors. The population comprises retired persons, families, military, civilian support staff for military, border patrol, and those in service industries to support them. There is a highlyregarded community college in Sierra Vista, as well as a campus of the University of Arizona. Sierra Vista has its own symphony and art association, in addition to offering a remarkable range of outdoor pursuits in a beautiful high-desert location. We support various local initiatives in working to combat the poverty that exists side-by-side with the affluence in our community. We operate an Emergency Assistance Fund from our church office, and members volunteer for various community assistance programs.
Us – We want to continue to be seen as a ‘liberal light in the desert’, and continue (and increase) our involvement with social justice and environmental issues – both locally and further afield. Although starting from a relatively small membership base, we believe the potential for growth is available here. We are offering a ¾ contract ministry but wish to move into a called ¾ ministry as soon as appropriate – and with growth, to a full-time ministry.
You – Are you the person we are seeking? Do you have excellent interpersonal skills? Are you excited to prepare stimulating sermons that express theological breadth? Do you enjoy pastoral care? Are you committed to social justice and environmental issues? Can you lead us in increased outreach (to our civilian community and surrounding areas, as well as to the military community) and growth in membership and pledges so that we can move to a full-time ministry? Come and help us grow in order to better live out the points in our Vision Statement:
• Nourish spiritual and intellectual growth
• Create community through worship, music, learning and caring ministry
• Advance justice, peace and sustainability
• Build bridges with people from all backgrounds and beliefs, joining forces for the common good
• Pursue love and acceptance in an informed, healthy and safe environment
In 1995, four Unitarian Universalists from Sierra Vista, Bisbee, Tombstone and Double Adobe decided to carpool to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson. They asked the Tucson Church secretary for the names of other UU’s in Sierra Vista to contact, placed ads in the local paper and created a list. Three of these carpoolers knew John Pintek of Bisbee and knew that he had tried to create a UU group in Cochise County in the 1960’s. It was fitting that in 1996, John welcomed the small group of UU’s to the Pintek Ranch where the first meeting of what today is known as Sky Island Unitarian Universalist Church took place.
From the beginning, we met twice a month. Rev. Scotty Meek and a UU Pacific Southwest District representative, Connie LeFevere, met with this fledging community in those early days of February and March of 1996 to assist us with the many steps for applying for Unitarian Universalist Association affiliation. When John Pintek became ill, the UUs decided to move their meeting place to Tombstone’s Senior Center, and then to numerous facilities in Sierra Vista.
We hired our first minister, Rev. Rod Richards in 2004 and soon began to have services every Sunday. Rod served part-time and, when we called him to be our first full-time minister, we, as a congregation, had the privilege of ordaining him. Ron’s wonderful pastoral commitment and inspiring sermons enriched our congregation for nine years until he was called to the UU Church in San Luis Obispo. Rod gave us a solid grounding on what it means to be a Unitarian Universalist Church.
Following Rev. Rod’s departure, we hired Rev. Karla Brockie who enriched our services with the greater participation of our children and youth. Her continued hospice work at Tucson Memorial Hospital enabled her to be particularly helpful to the sick and dying in our congregation. In 2013, we hired Rev. Christiane Heyde, whose energy, compassion and dedication to our church brought in many new members. She conducted a great deal of outreach at Fort Huachuca and in the entire community, as well as Stress Reduction classes (open to the public), and a PTSD support group for members of our church, the military, and members of the larger community. We were able to purchase our own purpose-built church building during this period.
In 2015, we welcomed our current minister, Rev. Linda Lawrence, who has continued and enhanced the work of the ministers who came before her. Religious education – for both children and adults – has been one among many of Rev. Linda’s aims and accomplishments, and we have a vibrant program in place for a wide variety of meetings taking place at church and in smaller house settings. Rev. Linda is retiring from active ministry at the end of May, 2018.
The contribution made by Sky Island Unitarian Universalist Church to the lives of so many individuals, and to the larger community, is immeasurable. Building this Sky Island community over the past 21 years has taken much faith, hope and love. Together we hope to continue to be the grateful “Beloved Community” our founders envisioned.
Our Financial Situation
Below is the budget we adopted in April for our current fiscal year, which started July 1, 2017.
Adopted 2017-2018 Budget
|$34,030.00||Building & Grounds|
|$4,950.00||Ministerial Search Taskforce|
For further information or with any questions, please contact the Search Team Coordinator Tricia Gerrodette at 520.378.4937 or firstname.lastname@example.org.