senior pastor

REv. Tom Martinez

Rev. Tom Martinez is the Senior Minister here at Desert Palm.  Prior to transitioning into the ministry he worked in a variety of mental health settings in the Pacific Northwest.  His lifelong academic passion is the exploration of the interface of depth psychology and religion and the relationship between spirituality and social action.  

Along the way he earned masters in both Psychology and Theology and is currently enrolled in Pacifica Graduate Institute's Depth Psychology PHD program, with an emphasis in community Ecopsychology and Liberation Psychology (Pacifica's CLE Track).  He has served churches in New Jersey, Brooklyn (NY), and Arizona.

ucc campus minister at arizona state university, Children & Youth Minister

andrew ponder williams

Andrew has been formed through meaningful  ministry experiences  from Capitol Hill, to the United Nations, congregations along the Pacific Coast, and churches in the Southwest. He has served United Church of Christ and United Methodist congregations. Here at Desert Palm Andrew shepherds our youth, young adults, and our UCC at ASU campus ministry. Andrew is approved for ordination pending a call in the United Church of Christ. 

Andrew received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Philosophy from Rockhurst University, a Jesuit University in his hometown of Kansas City, Missouri and a Certificate in Religion, Activism, and Social Justice from Claremont School of Theology in Claremont, California. Andrew and his husband Ashton, who he met while traveling for ministry work, live in Scottsdale, Arizona and enjoy traveling together. Andrew is a vegetarian of 17 years and enjoys writing and hiking.  

director of music

marc gaston

church administrator

maria deleon


claudia bloom

our story

IN THE BEGINNING there were the Reverend Donald Arey and Lois Arey.

Our church, then known as the United Church of South Tempe, held its first service in the choir room of Marcos De Niza High School on October 15, 1978.  Later, we adopted our current name, Desert Palm United Church of Christ, and the Rev. Arey conducted the charter service on June 3, 1979.The initial congregation numbered 74, but under the guidance of the Areys and other church leaders, steadily grew to include hundreds more.  By 1982, the construction of the first building was complete. Sunday School classes, the musical program, and fellowship groups coalesced and flourished. Under our next minister, the Rev. John Herman, our church attained a new level of social justice activism, weathered financial challenges, and paid off the mortgage.

The core missions of Desert Palm have been present since its inception: feeding the homeless and hungry, celebrating foster children, and supporting veterans and the LGBTQIA community. In recognition of our longstanding commitments to these communities, the City of Tempe awarded Desert Palm its MLK Diversity Award for a Community Group in 2010.  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, UCC Campus Minister for ASU Andrew Ponder Williams, and 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.