about people, not a building
Church sitting in freeway path but pastor not sweating it
The Arizona Republic
Feb. 9, 2006 12:00 AM
The roof of Mountain Park Community Church slopes
slightly upward, like a nomad's tent.
It's not an accidental feature, said Allan Fuller, the church's new pastor. The
architect included it in the design to remind the congregation that buildings
are only temporary. A church is defined by the ties of its community, not by the
structure that houses it.
At 24th Street and Pecos Road, Mountain Park sits in the path of the proposed
South Mountain Freeway. The church would be demolished if the freeway is built.
The building's uncertain future is only one of
the issues facing Fuller, whose first service as the church's senior pastor was
in late January. It's hardly the one that concerns him the most.
"I haven't lost a second of sleep over it," Fuller said. "This
building is not the church . . . We are going to move forward as a church,
regardless of bricks and mortar."
With a weekly congregation numbering between 1,300 and 1,400, Mountain Park
Community Church is one of the largest spiritual organs in Ahwatukee Foothills.
Fuller took the reins as senior pastor last month, ending a long transitional
period for the church following the May 2004 resignation of founding pastor
At 34, Fuller is younger than most leaders of churches the size of Mountain
Park. Those who chose him don't seem to mind.
"Ultimately, we thought it was an asset," said Steve Hulsman,
moderator of the church board. "He's motivated, caring . . . and really
cutting-edge in how he thinks about doing church and reaching people for
Fuller, his wife, Tami, and their three young children moved to Lakewood in late
December from Cincinnati, where Fuller served eight years as an associate
The couple had only recently finished building the home they expected to grow
old in and Tami was pregnant with their third child when Fuller got a call from
a friend about the Mountain Park job. Though he had long admired the church's
work and Woods' leadership, leaving family and friends in Ohio seemed too great
a burden for his family.
But after a weekend visit to the church in July, where Tami soldiered through
117-degree heat while seven months pregnant, the couple felt a call to head
"Despite all that, I believe God said -with a smile - to go," he said.
He was immediately struck by the congregation's welcoming nature and generosity
to those in need. He also noticed, while driving to his first sermon, that
everyone in Ahwatukee was "disgustingly fit," he said with a laugh.
While the attention people pay to their health is important, Fuller said, it's
also important not to equate personal worth with physical appearance.
Appearances are something he has given some thought to since moving to
Ahwatukee. Soon after arriving, while playing with his children in a Lakewood
park, he was struck by the beauty of the mountain sunset, surrounded by palm
trees swaying over a sparkling lake.
The next morning, he reflected deeper on the experience and found a different
"I believe God was saying, it is beautiful, but it's all a fašade,"
he said. Inside some of those beautiful homes "are hurting, hurting
people," he said.
Mountain Park, Fuller insists, will be a place of healing. One way he wants to
help is by addressing the community's high divorce rate. Helping couples avoid
divorce, and comforting families who have experienced it, will be a goal for the
church, he said.
"We are not going to be a place that lets that ravage our community,"
he said of divorce. "It's evil, and we're going to fight it."
His own family is Fuller's top priority. He goes home for lunch often, and made
a 45-hour-or-less work week one of his requirements for taking the job. He has
two boys, ages 4 and 2, and a 5-month-old daughter.
"My wife and kids are my first ministry," he said.
An Edmonton, Canada, native (with a green card), he is a rabid hockey fan and
keeps a set of figurines of the 2002 gold medal-winning Canadian Olympic team on
a shelf in his office. He also plays the guitar, and said he is trying to keep
himself away from Ahwatukee's golf greens.
"I'm terrified of golf," he said with a laugh. "I know if I got
started, I'd get hooked. There goes my time, there goes my money."