Who We Are Location and Heritage Southside Presbyterian Church is located less than a mile from Tucson’s downtown in one of the city’s oldest barrios. The church was founded in 1906 as a mission church for the Tohono O’odham people (known at that time as Papagos), and was initially named Papago Presbyterian Church. The church also served Mexican and Chinese people who lived in the area. Since its founding, Southside’s congregation has included a diverse mix of Native Americans, Latinos, Caucasians, African Americans and others. The present-day neighborhood is mostly comprised of low-income Latino and Native American families living in modest single-family homes.
The Congregation The congregation of Southside is busy, lively, inclusive, supportive, open, accepting and flexible. Although a few Southsiders live in the surrounding neighborhoods, most members are geographically spread out and many drive for miles to attend church service and activities. The congregation is diverse in many respects. The membership is multi-racial, and includes a range of education and socio-economic backgrounds. Descendants from the first Tohono O’odham congregation continue to be active members. Southside welcomes and fully includes gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in the life of the church. The congregation is multi-generational, and includes children, youth, young adults and families, middle-aged, retired people, and elders. A church in the Presbyterian tradition, Southside also welcomes members from a broad spectrum of other faith traditions. The congregation of Southside is committed to serving others and putting its faith into action. Southside carries out a considerable amount of local and national social justice ministries for a church of its size.
Our History Southside Presbyterian Church was founded in 1906 for Native American families south of Tucson. Although fire destroyed the original building in 1937, the congregation continued to worship as a house church until 1947. Led by the late Rev. Peter Samano, Southside was rebuilt and renewed her vision of ministry to serve the needs of all races.
In the 1950s, Southside under Rev. Caspar Glenn led Tucson in the struggle to make racial integration a reality. When civil wars in Central America brought refugees to our borders in the 1980s, Southside under Rev. John Fife ignited the Sanctuary Movement.
In 1993, Southside moved into a new structure linked to our cultural past. Modeled after the Great Kiva of the Anasazi, the use of local building materials - pine logs, saguaro ribs, and flagstones - reflect building techniques used for centuries in the Southwest.
Southside has been a long time supporter of the Headstart program and has provided space for children and staff onsite since the 1960s. In March 2003, the Southside Headstart program moved into a new building east of the Kiva and continues to serve neighborhood children.
Answering God’s call to serve the poor and disenfranchised, Southside provides a Shower Program where guests can shower, shave, and enjoy coffee and food. Clothing is laundered for those who wish to clean their garments. Also, a new center is being built at Southside where day laborers can manage their own short-term employment opportunities. This center fills the void created by the closure of the local county day labor center.
As we celebrate over 100 years of serving God, our faith community at Southside continues to draw its strength from the Creator who claims and inspires us and from the love members have for one another. We look forward with hope and joy to the years that lie ahead.
Mission Statement Southside is a diverse family of faith that professes Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Called together by God, we welcome all (and all means all!) as we joyfully worship, equip young and old to be disciples of Christ, nurture the bonds of Christian friendship, and serve in the ministries of social justice as we seek to be the body of Christ in our barrio, in the borderlands, and in our world.
Statement of Inclusion Southside Church has been called by God to be a congregation that welcomes and fully values all persons. Our diversity is a gift of God and essential to our witness to the Gospel. In 2014, Southside became a More Light Church. The mission of More Light Presbyterians is to work for the full participation of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people in the life, ministry, and witness of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and in society.