senior pastor

REv.Dr. Tom Martinez

Meet Rev. Dr. Tom Martinez, our Senior Minister at Desert Palm. Before transitioning into ministry, he worked in mental health settings in the Pacific Northwest. Pastor Tom's academic passion is exploring the connection between depth psychology, religion, eco-theology, and spirituality with social action. He recently achieved his Ph.D. in depth psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute, focusing on Community Psychology, Liberation Psychology, Indigenous Psychology, and Ecopsychology as part of Pacifica's CLIE track. In addition to serving communities in New Jersey and Brooklyn, Pastor Tom is now with us in Arizona.

director of music

marc gaston

church administrator

maria deleon


claudia bloom


Sonja Haller

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our story

Did you know that the Desert Palm United Church of Christ has a really interesting history? It all started with the amazing efforts of Reverend Donald Arey and Lois Arey. Originally called the United Church of South Tempe, the church held its very first service on October 15, 1978, at the choir room of Marcos De Niza High School. Eventually, the name changed to Desert Palm United Church of Christ, and the charter service was conducted by the Reverend Arey on June 3, 1979. Thanks to the guidance of the Areys and other church leaders, the congregation grew from 74 members to hundreds more.

In 1982, the church completed its first building, and it was truly exciting to see the Sunday School classes, musical program, and fellowship groups flourish. Even though they faced financial challenges, the church, under the leadership of Reverend John Herman, remained committed to social justice activism. And during his time as leader, the church was even able to pay off its mortgage.

Since the beginning, Desert Palm has been dedicated to serving the community through various initiatives. Some of these include feeding the homeless and hungry, celebrating foster children, and supporting veterans and the LGBTQIA community. It's really wonderful to see how much they care about the people around them. And it's no surprise that in 2010, the City of Tempe recognized Desert Palm with the MLK Diversity Award for a Community Group because of their longstanding commitments to these communities. The following is a snapshot of our ministries in a recent year: 

  • Preparing and serving 1,000 guest meals and providing 1,000 nights of slumber through the I-HELP ministry to the homeless
  • Donating 310 pounds of food to the United Food Bank for 238 meals and providing 1,500 bottles of water
  • Sharing 100 Halloween cakes and purchasing 100 Christmas gifts for foster children
  • Providing worship space for start-up congregations
  • Furnishing classroom space to a Girl Scout Troop and three Al-Anon groups
  • Knitting nearly 100 lap afghans for children and veterans and donating goods to Victory Place
  • Sharing food, toys, and money with five animal welfare agencies
  • Funding 100 pairs of shoes for LGBTQIA homeless youth in the Phoenix area
  • Making six 340-mile round trips to deliver water to desert stations
  • Marching by more than 25 Desert Palm members in the Phoenix Pride parade, walking for the hungry, and demonstrating for immigrant rights

Today, Desert Palm is embarking on a new chapter with the Rev. Thomas Martinez, music director Marc Gaston.  We hope you will join us on our faith journey.

To love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength and our neighbor as ourselves (Mt. 22)

United in Christ’s love, a just world for all.

United in Spirit and inspired by God’s grace, we welcome all, love all, and seek justice for all.