The Vista UMC Story

History of Vista de la Montaña United Methodist Church

 September 9, 1990 – This was the day our congregation was “born” with 161 persons present.   We first met in the cafenasium of Coronado Middle School (at the intersection of Oracle and Wilds Roads) after months of careful planning.  The Bishop and Cabinet of the Desert Southwest Conference looked at the geographical location and setting from which our members would come and gave us the name Vista de la Montaña United Methodist Church.  Quoting our founding pastor Reverend Donald B. Cooke, “The beautiful range of the Catalina Mountains form the backdrop of the entire area to be served making the name (which in Spanish means ‘View of the Mountain’) most appropriate. History likewise reminds us of the Hispanic roots of this area, and had it not been for the Gadsden Purchase of 1853 which acquired the 29,640 square miles south of the Gila River, we might be living in Mexico today. With such a rich Hispanic culture of language, art and music, it seemed most appropriate to name this new church using the beauty of the Spanish language.” We had a Christmas Eve children’s pageant and candle lighting service.  Administrative space was rented in the State Farm building in Catalina beside King Kone Ice Cream Parlor (what is now Arby’s). A Space Team was formed to search for a permanent church site.  Rev. Cooke and the team walked and evaluated about a dozen available sites.


March 24, 1991 – Was Constituting Sunday, on Palm Sunday, to receive our charter, with 142 persons present. This was followed by a potluck in Catalina State Park.  We Methodists do love our potlucks!  By the end of our first full year of meeting in the school, we had Sunday School classes for children, youth, and adults as well as adult, youth, and children’s choirs. Two United Methodist Women Circles and our United Methodist Men’s group were formed and are still very active today. A Singles Ministry was started.  The school was under a flu quarantine in February, but we brought our own folding chairs and met outside for a couple of weeks even though it was very cold and windy!  Eleven youth were confirmed on Pentecost Sunday in May. TMM’s Rillito Children’s Center and the Catalina Community Food Bank were selected to be our mission projects. Childcare began for infants and toddlers through 4 years of age. We participated with Vacation Bible School at St. Marks UMC.


July 1, 1992 – Dr. Stewart L. Elson “Stu” became our pastor.  Don Cooke had to take early retirement due to his battle with prostate cancer.  “Miracle Sunday” was held on Vista’s 2nd anniversary, September 6, 1992, to raise funds to purchase the 10+ acre Titan Missile site where our church now stands, 


A few of the significant milestones from then to now:


1993  A Building Committee was appointed,  Albanese Brooks Associates was selected as architects and Dream Sunday for every person to record their dreams for our new buildings. We commissioned Jim and Nedra Starkey to be in mission at Camp Hope in Colorado. Our 1st Easter Sunrise Service was on site, on folding chairs.  Missile site preparation began.


1994  DSWC-owned modular was transported from Desert Skies UMC to our site, and a covered fellowship porch was attached.  The first worship service in our new modular was September 4, Vista’s 4th birthday. November 6 was Consecration Sunday.


1995  The church sign and flagpole for the UMC flame and cross flag were installed on our easement at Oracle Road and Miravista Lane.  The Cooke’s son Jeff designed and built our first permanent structure, in the shape of a fish, for the Cooke Meditation Garden.


1997  Water and sewer lines were engineered and completed (no more potable water and septic tank/leach field). We were growing and needed more space. Thus a second used modular building was purchased, with an extension built for the two restrooms, and transported from Phoenix to be our sanctuary. The cement fellowship covered patio was extended to connect the two buildings. Byron Haines, a retired United Methodist pastor in Vista’s congregation, made a beautiful four foot cross and communion table of native mesquite wood. Our first worship service in our new sanctuary was October 19, 1997.


1999  Vista enrolled as a Stephen Ministry congregation.


November 11, 2001  Groundbreaking occurred for our Worship Center/Fellowship Hall with ABA architects and T.L. Roof Construction Company.


September 8, 2002  Reverend Jon Leonard, our pastor throughout the construction, officiated at our first worship service in our Worship Center/Fellowship Hall.


November 19, 2002  The Consecration of our new buildings and the Columbarium & Memorial Garden.


March 20, 2011  We commemorated the 20th anniversary of receiving our charter and recognizing our charter members.   A time capsule was buried on Memorial Day Sunday, May 29, 2011, to be opened on Charter Sunday, March 2031


November 13, 2016   Dream Sunday.  The congregation was invited to share their dreams and ideas for Vista’s future.


2017    March              Miracle Sunday  Money was raised to put in the South Handicapped and                                                          Limited mobility parking lot and also for upgrading equipment for Live Streaming.


            April 6            Church Council established the Vista de la Montana Church Building Committee to                                             address the top 3 priorities of the church based on the results of Dream Sunday.  Those                                     three were Education, Administration and Storage buildings. Subsequently, the New                                           Vistas Capitol Campaign was formed with John Witt as Chair.  Clyde Kunz and                                                    Associates were hired as Capitol Campaign Consultant.  Swaim and Associates
                                   architects and Concord Contracting were contracted to carry out the project.


      July 9             IT IS PAID IN FULL!  After the service we burned the mortgage and celebrated                                           with a BBQ on the patio.


2018    Vista established a Satellite Fellowship in San Manuel, AZ.  


2019  May 1   The office staff moved from the Admin building to temporary offices at Wycliffe-SIL at 16131 N                           Vernon Drive to continue operating until the new building is complete.  The Admin building was                         sold and moved to El Paso.  Ed’s building was demolished. 

           June 2  Groundbreaking for our new 7500 sq. ft. Admin and Education building began. All who 
                        attended received jars of Vista’s dirt and cupcakes with tiny shovels for decoration.


           December 18  Construction completed.  Offices move back to Vista, and stored furniture and
                                   equipment  is moved out of storage.



Compiled by Mary Louise Roberson – September 13, 2015 thru 2011



1990    Don Cooke


1992    Stu Elson


2001    Andy Werft


2002    Jon Leonard

            Matt Colby, Associate Pastor


2005    Monte Baker

            Matt Colby, Associate Pastor


2011    Dave Patterson


2014    Ed Bonneau


2015    Fred Baum


2024    Deborah Christine, Interim Pastor


2024    Mary Dotson


CHARTER MEMBERS (became members between 9/9/90 and Constituting Sunday 3/24/91 (children not listed as charter members, but were very active from day one!!!)

Bert & Ethel Amator                                                  Charles & Margaret Holden

Don & Yvonne Axe                                                    Maxine Kilburn

Dana & Jean Belyea                                                   Jo Knepp

Diane Bynum                                                              Norman & Diana Knox

Fern Calhoun                                                              Alice Kuntrim

Russell & Dorothy Carter                                           Michael & Rennae Kruger

Dolores Cochran                                                         Vic & Virginia LaFave

John & Janette Coltharp                                             Trudy Larimore

Don & Lois Cooke                                                     Dale & Faye Mather

Francis & Fern Craner                                                Catherine McAvoy

Irene Demarais                                                           Jim & Bonnie McKnight

David & Jacquelin DiPalermo                                    John & Rosemary Minder

Earl & Lucille Dollahan                                             Neal & Linda Mullard

Alice Douglas                                                             Don & Eyleen Paugh

Sam & Gloria Engle                                                   Emory & Betty Payne

Spud & Alma Ensing                                                  Burton & Mariann Randle

Wyman & Maude Eske                                              Walt & Mary Louise Roberson

Neil & Joyce Everingham                                          Gilbert & Dorothy Scheeringa

Clif & Laurie Extract                                                 George & Marilou Skuta

Grover & Claire Foreman                                           Jim & Nedra Starkey

Mildred Fox                                                                Bud & Pat Stoddard

Ben & Betty Frisch                                                     Susan Tjossem

Jim & Alberta Gibson                                                 Nancy Yob

June Guptill                                                                Howard & Mary Lou Young



produced and narrated by Howard Kaste