Without the knowledge of the past history, you’re like a tree without roots.

On the afternoon of April 5, 1976, Rev. Donald C. Bommarito received a telephone call from District Superintendent, Rev. Fred Coats, of the Santa Ana District.  At the time, Rev. Donald C. Bommarito was an Associate Minister of East Whittier UMC. The conversation concerned the willingness of Rev. Bommarito to receive an appointment to start a new church in the Phoenix area. Later in the day, Rev. Bommarito received a call from District Superintendent, Dr. Rev. Colby, of the Phoenix District, who extended a formal request. On the next morning Donald and Carol Bommarito said they “prayerfully and anxiously” called Dr. Colby and gave their answer of “yes!”

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This was the Bommarito’s first exposure to Phoenix. Their first view of our building site was of a barren lot and desert weeds, except for a truck parked on the property selling Mexican pottery. The truck had a sign painted on it saying, “Pot World.”

A parsonage was chosen across the street, in the Bellair Estates development, at 4821 West Christine Circle. And on the Sunday of September 19 and 26, 1976, some eighty volunteers visited nearly 2000 homes. A rental agreement was made with Glendale Union High School District to rent three rooms at Greenway High for Sunday worship.

The first worship service was held at 10:30 a.m., on October 31, 1976, in the Chorus Room of Greenway High School. There were 174 people in attendance which included well wishers from neighboring United Methodist churches; Dr. Rev. William Colby, Rev. Herb Osman, Rev. Tom Farley and Rev. Richard Gardner. On January 9, 1977, Mission Bell moved their worship service to Sunburst Elementary School. And our name “Mission Bell United Methodist Church was formally constituted on February 6, 1977.

On June 8, 1979, Rev. Richard Smith was appointed as our second pastor. During his ministry the first buildings were constructed on the property. On the afternoon of March 9, 1980, ground was broken for their construction. All the members and riends lined up along two ropes and on the count of three they pulled an old field plow fifteen yards down a crooked furrow. Following the plowing of the ground, two families, the lay leader, and the building chairperson set the permanent sign to denote the new church on Bell Road. Mr. Raleigh Hall was selected as the architect. This would be Mr. Hall’s first United Methodist Church design. The building was financed by congregational gifts, a grant from the Board of Global Ministries, and a loan from Pacific Southwest Annual
Conference.

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In July 1982, Dr. Rev. John Blackwell moved from Downey, California, to become the third pastor of Mission Bell. Under Dr. Blackwell’s leadership the church flourished and built an addition on to the church sanctuary.

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Rev. David MacPherson became our fourth pastor in November of 1988. Mission Bell continued to be one of the  fastest growing churches in the Desert Southwest Conference. And we continued to maximize all of our space, dreaming of the day when we would build a new sanctuary.

Dr. Rev. Peter Vaught was assigned as the fifth pastor and arrived in July of 1992. Dr. Vaught brought strong preaching skills to the church during his ministry.  Dr. Rev. Jim Butler came to Mission Bell in July 1994 to be our sixth pastor. Dr. Butler saw the incredible potential of Mission Bell.

In July of 1997, the Lord blessed us by sending Rev. Dottie Escobedo-Frank to Mission Bell. In fact we were doubly blessed because her husband, Dr. Jim and their children all played an active part in the life of Mission Bell. In November 2002 we were assigned an interim pastor, Douglas Norris. He is a retired United Methodist pastor. He served as interim until  Rev. Todd Rogers was appointed by the bishop on July 1, 2003.

Todd and his wife Laura joined us from Prescott UMC.  They have two children, Mikayla and Cade.  Todd brought with him a new vitality and determination.  In April 2006, our sanctuary interior was destroyed by an arson fire.  Those to blame were never found.  The people of Mission Bell prevailed during the time of reconstruction and met at a nearby church location we were blessed to be offered.  On Christmas Eve, December 24, 2006, we moved back into our church home and to this day, value the improvements that were made to rebuild our church.

In April 2007, Rev. Cynthia Kristopeit was assigned to Mission Bell.  Pastor Cindy and her husband Bill Uminski supported us as we worked to get back on our feet after suffering from the impact of the fire.

On July 1, 2009 Rev. Paul-Self Price became our pastor.  With Paul’s retirement in June 2016, Rev. Dr. Rula Colvin is now serving our church.

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The History of our Bell

In February of 1988 our bell was mounted in the tower in front of Mission Bell United Methodist Church. Where did it come from? It turns out the bell and all of its’ parts had been in the garage of the parsonage for several years. But, where did it come from originally?

On June 16, 1929 a new church was dedicated, in the north end of the Imperial Valley, California. The church was called the Magnolia Community Methodist Church Episcopal. This church replaced Alamorio Methodist Church which was built in 1911 and burned down in October 1927.

The bell installed at Magnolia Community Church had belonged to an old pioneer, Mr. Thomas O’Brien, who had come to the Imperial Valley around 1903, from South Dakota. The bell had been given to the new church by his daughter, Mrs. J.L.Thaecker. During the dedication of Magnolia Community Methodist Church Episcopal, these words were spoken, “when this bell rings, it is the call for divine worship and whether you go to this church or elsewhere, heed the call.”

Apparently when Magnolia Community Church disbanded, the First Methodist Church of Brawley California took possession of the bell. They were looking for a church that needed one. At that time, Arizona and Southern California were in the same conference so it was offered to Mission Bell. When the bell was first installed here it did not ring. One of our current members has reinstalled the bell and all of the original parts have been refurbished so that it now rings every Sunday morning. – Leroy Stulce | Historian and Founding Member