united church of christ certifications

our ucc witness

Through our United Church of Christ denomination we have made special commitments as a congregation to live out God's unconditional love in bold ways.

Learn more about our commitments through the United Church of Christ by clicking on the blue titles of the boxes below.

Our commitment to including LGBTQ persons fully in the life of our church.  Desert Palm has been open and  affirming since 1999.


Welcoming and being there for those living with mental challenges in association with the UCC and National Alliance on Mental Illness.  

Our commitment to practicing what we preach on our commitment to climate justice.  We have a church committee acting to fight climate change.

justice and witness

As a UCC congregation located in a southern border state, the Desert Palm Justice and Witness Team focuses most of its efforts on immigration.  We participate with East Valley churches and community organizations assisting immigrant families resettling in Phoenix, and families who have been released by ICE to join sponsors in the U.S.  The justice and Witness Team supports our church missions: feeding and housing the homeless, respecting our environment, being attentive to the stress it is under, committing our support to the LGBTQI community, those living with mental health challenges, and lifting the lives of children in need.

Justice and Witness at Desert Palm is also revealed through the compassionate and quiet deeds performed by our church family members every day.

Our liberal understanding of Jesus' compassion guides us as we Help Out, Reach Out, and Speak Out.  We collect and distribute donations for the marginalized, host events supporting causes of justice, and raise our voices attending protests, parades, and prayer services.  We sign petitions, we share information, and we join with other congregations to impact policy decisions by our local and national governments.

Desert Palm works with a host of Justice organizations, including:

UCC Justice and Witness Ministries

East Valley Church Network

Faith communities providing immigrants released by ICE, who are in need of short-term housing and meals, before departing the Phoenix area to live with their sponsors.


Assisting our church family and friends with medical needs, meals, and visits.

Humane Borders

Providing water to stations on the southern border.

Meals on Wheels

Delivering meals to homebound seniors. 

Rebel and Divine

Congregation at First UCC Phoenix providing a safe space for at-risk youth and young adults.

Southwest Human Development

Local agency providing for foster care for children. 

Empty Bowls

Annual charity event in Tempe helping to feed the hungry. 

our commitment to the overlooked and to our city

We are a host site for I-Help in partnership with the Tempe Community Action Agency.  We feed and house the homeless two Saturday nights a month.  We are always in need of more volunteers to serve on our host teams.  

adult education

At Desert Palm we are serious about the intersection of science, justice and spirituality.  Over the past few years we’ve watched a documentary film series on the plight of Indigenous people around the world (On Sacred Ground); we’ve held a workshop exploring gender and sexual orientation (hosting a speaker from One Community); we’ve organized an Indigenous People’s Day celebration (in conjunction with the Arizona Faith Network); and we’ve participated in numerous actions (in Texas, and at the border near Nogales, and closer to home).  

Desert Palm was the first church in the SW Conference of the United Church of Christ to become WISE, an acronym for Welcoming, Inclusive, Supportive and Empowered in relation to persons suffering with mental illness.  Our Adult Ed process along the way included four presentations and a book group which read:

Blessed Are the Crazy, by Sarah Lund (a UCC Minister and one of the national leaders of the WISE movement, which is affiliated with the UCC's Mental Health Network).  


In this historic moment of widespread awakening to systemic racism, another educational theme is systemic racism.   Pastor Tom is currently participating in the UCC's national anti-racism training, Sacred Conversations (along with our SW Conference Associate Minister, the Rev. Dr. Barbara Doerrer Peacock).  Material from this training often flows into our Sunday worship.  Two powerful books we’ve read together as a congregation are:


The End of White Christian America, by Robert Jones.  Robert came to Desert Palm for a Q&A session as part of his national book tour.  Several of us are eager to read his newest book, White Too Long.  


Tears We Cannot Stop, by Michael Eric Dyson.  As an ordained minister, academic and public theologian, Dyson offers a series of powerful insights and delivers them as if he were preaching a sermon to an all-white congregation.  This approach lends itself to a powerful expression and serves as a powerful call to the type of anti-racism work that awaits us should we choose to take the plunge. 


Fall/Winter/Spring 2020-2021


Most recently we’ve been making an intentional effort to encourage participation with the lectures offered through ASU’s Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict.  We try to host a zoom discussion for Desert Palm community that day or soon thereafter.  Recent lecture topics have touched on racism, climate change, the fate of truth, and much, much more.  To join one of our post event discussions, sign up for our monthly newsletter and weekly updates by contacting our Office Manager, Maria Deleon (admin@desertpalmucc.org). 


A major 2021 educational theme is the power of story.  That’s the general topic of Pastor Tom’s dissertation through the Pacifica Graduate Institute, which offers doctoral degrees in Depth Psychology.  Pastor Tom is on Pacifica’s CLIE track, which brings together Community Psychology, Liberation Psychology, Indigenous Psychology and Ecopsychology.  Pacifica is known for its scholarship bridging psychology and religion, as well as its commitment to social justice.  Tom’s project will explore the role of storytelling in relation to community mental health.

arizona faith network

Arizona Faith Network (AFN) mission is inviting people into meaningful relationships, shared prayer and dialogue rooted in our faith traditions, and actions that influence public awareness, engagement and policy.  There are many opportunities for involvement through the Social Justice Commission.

There is a Mission Focus Team with the current focus on Criminal Legal Reform, other issue teams concerning Environmental Justice, Race and Economic Equity and Asylum Seeker Crisis.  There is also a Theological Dialogue Commission with working topics including: Faith 101, Next Steps, Know Your Neighbor Dialogue and Consensus Statement Team.  In addition, there is a Rapid Response Team and Youth Council.

Our motto is "Being Together, Talking Together, and Acting Together."  Jo Vedenburg is the Desert Palm representative and serves on the Social Justice Commission and many of the issue teams.  For more information, please contact Jo at jimjovred@gmail.com or AFN at www.arizonafaithnetwork.org, e-mail ContactUs@AzFaithNetwork.org.

The Rev. Katie Sexton is the Executive Director.

What leland & eunice have to say about desert palm

We were attracted to the "Golden Rule" type of mutual respect shown for all at Desert Palm UCC as sisters and brothers in life, seeking social justice for ALL.