Tucked away between 22nd Street and Broadway Boulevard off Tucson Boulevard, Mission Church is one of several active faith communities within the Sunshine Mile. Mike Almeroth, the church’s Creative Director and one of the original planters of the church, is doing his part (and then some) to ensure that Mission Church is not just a resident of the Sunshine Mile, but an asset that actively betters their community. A Minnesotan by birth, Mike first moved to Tucson before he was even a year old and has adored the city ever since, eventually putting down roots and co-running Epicenter Church out of the old Scrappy’s venue. It was at this time that Mike found a kindred spirit in Andy Littleton of (then) Midtown Church; sharing a vision for a church that valued authenticity and engagement over strict adherence to the letter of religion. The two churches merged in 2016 and became Mission Church.
During Mission’s very first year, they found themselves relocating to the current address at 2435 E 17th St. Resolved to be actively engaged in their new community while giving back in return, the work began to turn what Mike calls “a 70’s nightmare” into a space that the neighborhood would enjoy and benefit from. After a garage-sale-turned giveaway was hosted to clear out the venue, and three months of renovation work(in which many neighbors showed up to assist), Mission Church was ready to open its doors to the public.
Since opening in late 2016, Mike has been the church’s Creative Director, but to describe his work with any singular title feels reductive. Aside from overseeing other leaders at Mission, Mike is also the church’s Graphic Designer and Audio Technician; he’s responsible for not only shaping the music used within the church but also leading the music performed each Sunday. This musical inclination is not isolated to Mission, as Mike is also an audio tech for basketball and football games at UA, and it’s clear within moments of speaking how integral Mike is to his community on multiple levels. When explaining his tardiness to our meeting—he was caught up hanging new lights in the church—he’s also quick to deflect any praise for his workload. “Everyone chips in—we’re almost like a co-op in that way,” Mike shares fondly.
By putting people first, Mission has been able to create a unique environment that is both safe and conducive to growth, allowing members to reach a level of introspection often unheard of in church settings. Mike describes the people that make up Mission Church as non-homogenous, but this has not stopped them from striving for purposeful engagement even in the face of division. As the recent presidential election approached, a visible difference of opinions emerged, and Mission addressed these schisms head-on. Rather than making a political recommendation, Mission led a series of discussions on politics and communication that challenged members to ask themselves difficult questions like “If the election does not go my way, will I be more judgmental of others?” “Do I see myself as superior for my different views?” and “How do I engage with the other side?”; clearly, Mission values authentic engagement to the highest degree, even in the face of adversity.
To be clear, Mission’s desire to give back and create community does not end at the edge of the neighborhood. Connected via the larger faith community in Tucson, Mission is currently leasing their property to two other local churches, Redemption Church and Cross & Crown, who host their own worship services Saturday evenings and Sunday mornings, respectively. Monthly, Mission hosts a lunch meeting for nearly 30 Tucson pastors via their affiliation to the Gospel Coalition, a nationwide network of churches and faith leaders.
One of the current projects Mike is most excited about revolves around Naco Christian Church in Naco, AZ/Sonora, currently located on both sides of the border. This church brings in revenue with a side business roasting coffee beans called Café Cultiva, and both Mike and Andy have taken it upon themselves to seek out businesses in Tucson interested in purchasing said coffee beans. Café Cultiva is even in the process of converting a trailer into a mobile coffee shop, and we’ll be keeping an eye out for them on the Mile.
Currently, Mission Church is working to be an inclusive home for those interested in furthering their Christianity. By creating an environment that’s both relaxed and communal, the church is holding space for those interested in personal growth but weary of other church environments. This is not to say those at Mission see their church as superior, and Mike makes it clear that they’re avoiding the “us versus them” mentality found in similar settings. Mission wants anyone to feel at home within their walls, and this is clear in both every reply Mike gives and in the church’s mission statement: “Broken people, given grace, serving others”.
Mission Church holds their services via Zoom and at their location each Sunday evening at 4:30pm, followed by a community meal.