Who are we?
Unity of Surprise was founded in June 2002 by Reverend Billie Martini and 15 dedicated supporters. In 2019, Reverend Billie retired and Reverend Denise Landes is the new Senior Minister.
Today we meet in Sun City West and have over 100 members and many more attendees.
In our 17th year as a community of love, we honor diversity and value worshiping, learning and growing spiritually in a safe, fun environment.
We offer inspiring Sunday Worship Celebrations, spectacular music, a foundation of prayer, spiritual education classes and workshops, a Men’s and Women’s group, a bookstore and many social events.
Is to love, serve and inspire all people as we celebrate our connection to God and to one another.
Unity of Surprise teaches and demonstrates the Truth of our Divinity and the joys of living the Christ life.
Living our purpose and our mission, we affirm our oneness, demonstrate unconditional love and acceptance, teach Truth, embrace diversity and change, and dwell in a consciousness of prayer. We are committed to letting our light shine and to bringing the light and the Unity teachings to all seekers in our community and beyond.
Meet Our Minister
Reverend Denise Landes
Reverend Denise is originally from Anderson, Indiana. She moved to Arizona in 1991. She graduated from Ball State University with a degree in Accounting and later obtained her CPA license. During those accounting years, Denise found great interest in taking classes at Unity of Phoenix. Each class was just so inspirational and soul filling that she kept taking classes till she finished the requirements to be a Licensed Unity Teacher. Shortly after that, she received the Divine inspiration to become a minister. Reverend Denise went to Lola Mayes New Thought Seminary in Mesa and became an ordained New Thought minister in 2004. While keeping her accounting career as Controller at Barrow Neurosurgical Associates, she taught the Bible classes at the New Thought Seminary for three years and volunteered at Hospice of the Valley for many years. Also during this time, Reverend Denise served as a prayer chaplain and a Board member of Unity of Surprise. She served as the Board President for three years and as the Board treasurer for three years. After being extremely busy for so many years, Reverend Denise decided to resign from her accounting career and to follow her passion for ministry. She initially pioneered her own church called The Light of Grace church. However, when Reverend Billie, the pioneering minister of Unity of Surprise, decided to retire, Reverend Denise merged her church into the Unity of Surprise and accepted the job of senior minister of Unity of Surprise.
Reverend Denise has a great love of the Bible. She has study Charles Fillmore’s metaphysical interpretation of the Bible for the past eighteen years. This is truly her area of expertise.
Reverend Denise also has another passion in life which is dancing. She has taken ballroom dance lessons for several years. So when given the opportunity you will see Reverend Denise out on the dance floor having fun.
Meet Our Staff
Reverend James Crowley – Minister of Music
Reverend James Crowley began working in Unity churches in the spring of 1993, as a soloist. And this year, 2018, he is celebrating twenty-five years of being a part of the Unity movement. He has always enjoyed playing piano and singing and making music in general. In the past, he composed scores for several musicals, one of which enjoyed a small production in New York City.
In addition to working as a music minister, James has written three children’s novels, two of which were released in 2013. Finally, after so many years in Unity, he felt it was time, and completed the path to ordination in 2014. James has been music director at Unity Church of Surprise for twelve years.
Reverend Linda Vincent – Minister of Sacred Service
Reverend Linda Vincent came to Unity of Surprise from Irvine, CA where she was employed as a Hospice Chaplain after graduating from Unity Institute in 2010. Reverend Linda’s main passion is Pastoral care, having been a chaplain trainer at Unity of Laguna Woods, CA where she had been a member for 16 years.
In the spring of 2016, Reverend Linda became a member of Unity of Surprise Church. In addition to accepting the position as Volunteer Coordinator, Reverend Linda is also a Reiki Practitioner offering Reiki Sessions at Unity of Surprise on Wednesdays by appointment.
Richard Masters – Monitor
Born and raised in Madison Wisconsin. Richard attended high school and the University of Wisconsin in Madison. He worked in the County Level Social Work and Financial Aid from 1965 – 1990 in three different county agencies. In 1990, Richard went to Technical school, earning a degree in Computer Programming. He worked for American Family Insurance as a computer programmer until 2000 when he retired. In 1974, Richard met his wife Patti and her daughters, later marrying in June of 1979. The family moved to Surprise Arizona in November of 2007 and have been settled here since. They now live in Sun City West.
Meet the Board of Trustees
Our Board of Trustees shall consist of the Senior Minister and six (6) Trustees elected from the membership of the Church. No elected Trustee shall serve more than two (2) consecutive three (3) year terms without an interval of one (1) year between terms. Officers of the Board shall consist of a President, Vice-President, Secretary and Treasurer. All officers shall be selected at the March board retreat in a manner decided by the Board. Officers shall hold their respective offices for one (1) year or until their successors are elected. Prayer is important in addition to adhering to the normal procedures for the legal functioning set forth in the Bylaws, that the spiritual principles taught by Unity be utilized in the handling of decisions before the Board of Trustees. during the discussion of an item of business, any Trustee may request time for prayer about the issue.
2018 Board of Trustees
Back Row, Left to Right: Lynda Thomas, Reverend Billie Martini, Sandy Walker, Mary Jane Mendias, Carol Houtkooper, Steve Brock
Front Row, Left to Right: Gene Biever, Sandra Helm
Sandra Helm, Wisdom Council
Sandra Helm is a retired collection officer from the California District Attorney’s office. She admits to shopping for a church in Arizona for a while… that is until she attended Unity Church of Surprise which has since become her home ever since. Sandra’s love of meditation led her to the Tuesday morning hour Faith Lift class led by Reverend Billie Martini. During a meditation, Sandra states, “I felt the need to be open to different ways I could serve the spiritual community of Unity of Surprise”. She had already committed to membership and to becoming a Prayer Chaplain.
God heard her openness and a week later presented Sandra with the possibility of joining the board. Her willingness to be open to the experience has led her to just this place and opportunity to serve. Thank you, Sandra, for having a servant’s heart and to be open to new challenges. We’re delighted to have you on the Board of Trustees.
Mary Jane Mendias, Treasurer
I began my Unity life by using the Daily Word. The comfort that I gained from its pages led me to join Unity of Phoenix where I attended services with my husband Louie and two sons, Chris and Nick. As life took me through my journey, I became a widow, retired from a 30-year career with the City of Phoenix and traveled throughout Arizona and California.
I purchased my home in Surprise, AZ in 2009 to be near my two new grandson’s Joseph and Xavier. I began looking for a place where my spirit could soar with like minds and I found Reverend Billie and Unity of Surprise and became a member in 2012. I volunteered for the Woman’s Tea, began working as a receptionist every Monday and then took on Team Leader of the bookstore. I am now a member of the Prosperity Team.
My life has been transformed and I look forward to all of the wonderful options that are open to me at Unity of Surprise.
Sandy Walker, Discernmentarian
Native to Arizona, I have spent most of my years in or near Prescott, AZ. After my school years when I married I felt privileged to be a homemaker, a stay at home Mom, able to devote my attention to raising my two children. This allowed me to be involved and active in their schooling and our community. I was on the PTA board, the Homeroom Mom was a Cub Scout Leader and 4-H Leader, involved in FFA and the Cheerleader from the sideline in all the sports my children became involved in. Although I did not seek a full-time career outside the home I have held several positions in the retail business, have had clerical experiences and spent several years working in the Animal Health field as a Veterinarian Assistant. In later years my husband Bob and I owned a bakery and restaurant.
It was about twenty years ago that I found Unity, a movement that has enriched and changed my life. I soon became a Truth Student taking all the required Spiritual Education and Enrichment classes that Unity required for Spiritual Development and graduated in August 2010. I then qualified for and applied to and accepted into Leadership classes at Unity Institute and Seminary. I graduated Leadership in August 2011 and after Skills and Demonstrations, I received my license in April 2012 as a Licensed Unity Teacher.
I served a three-year term on the Board of Trustees at Unity of Prescott. As a Licensed Unity Teacher (L.UT.) I have facilitated Prayer and Meditation services, Study Groups; I enjoy teaching classes and co-facilitating Women’s Retreats. I am a certified Prayer Chaplain Trainer through Love and Light Ministries and have been a Prayer Chaplain.
Along with my husband Bob and our “Fur Kid” Sophia we have lived in Sun city about four years now. We have enjoyed travel, music, and golf together. We also enjoy our four grown children, nine grandchildren, and three great-grandkids.
Growing my Spiritual Awareness is my passion and life’s journey. Serving on the Board of Trustees at Unity of Surprise would be my honor.
Lynda Thomas, Member at Large
I’m Linda Thomas. I’ve been attending Unity of Surprise for seven (9) years and been a member for five (6) years. I’ve attended many churches in my life but had never become a member, so it was a big decision/commitment to join our wonderful, caring family.
I’ve met many of you in various volunteer capacities at the church. I’ve helped with hospitality set up, was on the Cleaning Crew Team on Friday mornings, was Team Leader for the Beautification Team and enjoyed decorating the church for holidays for a few years, planned Playful Sisters events, made birthday brunches and staffed the coffee cart on Sundays as one of the Baristas. I am happy serving my spiritual family. I look forward to joining the board!
My husband Frank and I have lived in Arizona for 16 years. Before that, we lived in the Emerald City of Seattle. We have three grown children between us and one granddaughter. One of my pleasures is to spend time with them.
Frank and I are creative tinkerers and always seem to be up to something. Our newest project is the renovation of a 1980’s home in Sun City West so that it can reflect more of who we are.
Thank you for your vote.
Steve Brock, Vice President
Steve was born in Detroit, Michigan. He was adopted at 6 months old. Steve attended both Catholic and Public School.
He lived in Mexico City for a year and a half while attending high school when his dad’s employer moved the family to Mexico. The family moved back to the states where Steve finished high school and attended community college.
His work experience was in the retail sales field selling appliances. In 2015, after the passing of his wife of 28 years, he moved to Arizona and now lives in Sun City where he is the Chairman of his Condominium Board. Steve has also been Treasurer of the Optimist Club, Secretary of a Church Men’s club, and Trustee of a Fraternal Organization.
He loves living in Arizona and attending Unity of Surprise. He considers it an honor and a privilege to be a new member of the 2017 Board of Trustees. He feels blessed and thanks to the members for putting their trust in him. Steve’s motto: ‘Ask not what Unity of Surprise can do for him, but rather ask what he can do for Unity of Surprise. His purpose will then be fulfilled.’
Carol Houtkooper, President
Born and raised amid the cornfields of Nebraska, I’ve spent most of my adult life in South Dakota. I have a son Rusty, an artist there, and a grandson Jack, and family also in South Dakota.
My husband Arlin and I have been married 35 years. Much of that time we spent traveling the world while pursuing our medical careers. I am a registered nurse and for many years I have been involved in energy healing. I’ve practiced Healing Touch and Reiki and have taught the spiritual practice of Tai Chi Chih for 20 years.
When we moved to Sun City West, 3 years ago on a part-time basis, I happened to see the world UNITY in a strip mall. I was looking for a Centering Prayer group and being aware of Unity teachings, hoped one would be offered here. Well, I was welcomed with open arms and a hug by Kathryn and knew I had found my spiritual home.
Faith Lift has become my touchstone along with so many friends at Unity of Surprise. Thank you for your vision Reverend Billie, my fellow South Dakotan, and for drawing so many like-minded souls to this place of peace and healing.
And the wondrous journey continues.
The Wisdom Council
The Wisdom Council consists of Board of Trustee members who have completed their terms(s) in office and remain supportive and dedicated to the Board of Trustees as mentors. Wisdom Council members do not vote. All committee members serve one (1) year terms.
Membership in Unity
Rather than being a system of worship. Unity is a way of life. Members are asked to do their best to live the Truth teachings on a daily basis. The objective of Unity affiliation is to help people live more effective, Spirit-centered lives. Unity is a present-tense approach to the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Unity people unite in order that they might minister more effectively to one another and to others. By our commitment to the sharing of consciousness in membership, we become the channel by which others, too, are blessed in their lives.
Each Unity ministry is an individual corporation, affiliated with the parent corporation, Unity Worldwide Ministries. Each ministry is an individual corporate entity; it is entirely self-governed. A Board of Trustees is elected from the membership at an annual membership meeting. The Board of Trustees conducts the business affairs of the ministry in cooperation with the minister, who is the spiritual and administrative leader of the ministry.
A member of Unity is one who lives its Truth and its services and who supports that love and services as fully as possible. Emphasis is placed on the spiritual value of tithing.
For the most part, all other services are offered on a free-will love offering basis.
As we accept membership in Unity, we have a definite part in our ministry through attendance, prayers, and involvement. We commit to a moral responsibility of spiritual and material support according to our own consciousness.
In Unity, a premium is put on prayer – a special kind of prayer. We practice a style of prayer known as denial, affirmation and silent meditation. This kind of prayer frees us from limitation by acknowledging the indwelling presence of God (which is also called the Christ within) as the only power and allowing divine qualities to flow through our minds, hearts, bodies, and affairs.
Jesus Christ plays an important role in the Unity lifestyle. We recognize Jesus Christ as the ultimate Way-Shower to the truly spiritual life. Through His teachings and the example of His life, He has provided us with the insights necessary for an understanding of our own spiritual selves. Through this understanding, life is enhanced, enriched, and expanded.
Come, let us pray together
Let us serve together,
Let us join together
to experience the kingdom
of God, of life, peace, and unity.