Unitarian Universalist Church welcomes new minister

BY Patricia Burr for the herald/review

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In a recent celebratory Sunday service, Christiane Heyde was officially welcomed as the new minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Southeastern Arizona. She loves Unitarian Universalism for its acceptance of many viewpoints and its strong commitment to honoring the dignity and worth of every person. She is committed to lead the congregation in celebrating diversity and pursuing new avenues of service to our community and our world. 

“We will stay in community and we will love and care for one another through whatever changes we make together,” she said.

A resident of Southern Arizona since 1982, Christiane recently met with the Ministerial Fellowship in Boston and is now officially on the path to preliminary fellowship (or acceptance) as a Unitarian Universalist minister in the Unitarian Universalist Association. She will be ordained by her original membership congregation, Mountain Vista UU. The celebration of Ordination will be held at her Internship Congregation, UU Church of Tucson, at 4831 E. 22nd Street, in Tucson on Nov. 17, 2013, at 5 p.m. Her new congregation is excited and eager to attend. 

The UU Church in Sierra Vista has been looking for a dynamic minister to guide them into a time of inspiration, restructuring and growth. Christiane feels, “the Sierra Vista church is a delightful community of interesting people who have amazing talents and a great variety of backgrounds. I’m very excited to work with them and see us inviting many more people from different backgrounds into our group. Having experienced Christianity in a variety of denominations as well as non-denominational churches, I have been able to connect with those from other paths and have high hopes of connecting with interfaith groups and chaplains both in Sierra Vista and at Fort Huachuca.” 

Christiane has a long history in theological studies and the ministry. The daughter of a Lutheran minister, she was born in Duisberg, Germany, and studied at the Berlin School of Theology (Kirchliche Hochschule). After moving to the United States in 1978, she received a BA in Ministry and an MA in Marriage, Family and Child Counseling. 

For many years she has worked in the field of counseling where she has seen all of her clients on a sliding fee scale to allow people in all income brackets to receive counseling services.

In 1987 she became the adoptive mother of, a 9-year old girl with AIDS. Despite many medical and emotional challenges, Hanna grew up and became a remarkable young woman, able to live on her own. She and her partner later adopted a young Hispanic sibling group.

Christiane served for a time as minister of children, youth and family at St. Francis in the Foothills United Methodist Church in Tucson. She has also served in non-denominational churches. Her dual degrees in ministry and counseling proved to be an asset for her in her church work. However, she was prevented from being ordained in most denominations because she was an open lesbian with a wife of over 20 years.

She joined Mountain Vista Unitarian Universalist Church in Tucson 10 years ago and soon began her studies for the UU ministry. During this time she presented sermons and was on the pastoral care team. She completed her requirements for the UU ministry at Meadville Lombard Theological School and Starr King School for the Ministry. She did her full-time internship at the UU Church of Tucson where she also served as Sabbatical minister. She has written and directed several plays for children and presented many stories for all ages in Sunday worship services.

Both Unitarian and Universalist histories are rooted in Protestantism, and the two groups joined in 1961. Unitarian Universalism is a religious community based on values. UU’s do not all share the same belief about God or spirituality but agree wholeheartedly on several principles including: caring about the respect and dignity of each person, working for equity and justice, treating each other with acceptance, and working towards having a loving community in which all are welcome.

According to Christiane, “Like Jesus in the Gospels, we value caring for the poor, accepting and loving the outcast, treating those of other backgrounds with care and respect, and not judging others. We welcome people regardless of race, class, religious background, gender identity, sexual orientation or family construction.”

With regard to the religious education of children, Christiane believes “Children are wonderful, born good, and able to develop a spirituality. Rather than telling children what to believe, our religious education program allows children to develop their spirituality in a safe, loving environment while learning about values and various religious beliefs.” 

“Many people have stopped participating in a church because they felt they did not fit in or did not feel accepted. Others stay away because they do not see the church making a difference in the world. There is a need for a religious community which stands and fights for justice while inspiring its members to personal and spiritual growth without pressure or guilt. I see Cochise County as a delightful mix of cultures, from ranchers to soldiers to military intelligence experts to educators and those working in the business sector. We have a great age range, from students to retirees. I am thrilled to work in a faith community where all are welcome and can experience spirituality without the pressure of needing to adhere to a specific creed of spiritual practice. Only when we accept each other exactly as we are, can we connect and become what Martin Luther King Jr. called ‘Beloved Community.’ “

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Southeastern Arizona meets Sundays at 10:30 a.m. at 125 So. 2nd St. For more information on the church and its programs, visit the church’s website at uuchurchseaz.org or call 378-0197.

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