Santa Paula Times

Rev. Melitta Haslund: Universalist
Unitarian Church leader says farewell

December 10, 1999
Santa Paula News
The Rev. Melitta Haslund, awaiting the birth of her second child due Christmas Eve, was given an emotional farewell by the congregation of the Universalist Unitarian Church, where she has served for over six years. “I remember feeling very new and very awe struck that I had arrived at becoming a minister. When I’d been a teen member of the church I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d be back. . .it was a perfect match,” she noted.Haslund attended UCSB and then Harvard Divinity School where she attained her MA. After chaplain training and an internship, “My first church was Santa Paula. . .my husband, Bill Gourley, has been teaching at Isbell Middle School for 10 years [their son, Benjamin, is 3 1/2]. I was a substitute teacher for a while, but I found I prefer a willing audience rather than a captive one.”The church grew “slowly but steadily” during her tenure to 90 members and its historic Main Street home (the cornerstone was laid in 1891) underwent an ambitious renovation.The Rev. Haslund has had leadership roles or been active in the Santa Paula Ministerial Association, Santa Paula Health Action Coalition (which designed a low- and non-fat milk campaign now going nationwide), We Can Work It Out Lunch Bunch, and is a “supportive friend” of the affordable housing creation effort. Through the Santa Paula Family Resource Center (SPFRC), she works closely with umbrella agency Interface Children, Family Services.“I helped facilitate meetings with professionals and regular folks about the needs of Santa Paula and our youth,” upon the announcement of available grant money that financed the creation of the SPFRC. “That’s how we came up with the ideas on how to reach out and reach youth.”
Another strong interest was the creation of the Santa Paula Youth Resource Team (SPRITE): “We’ve had incredible numbers of people working hard to create a nonprofit organization that serves youth and their needs. . .it’s been a very successful community effort.”A Youth Peace Summit and outreach programs at Isbell Middle School have dealt with poverty, racism, violence, health and nutrition as well as heightened self-esteem and fostering leadership skills.“Santa Paula has a tremendous potential; I’ve met so many kindred spirits who believe in unity and love. People normally not involved are starting to take a hard look at things,” the Rev. Haslund said. “It’s a wonderful community.”Although she’ll remain active in the community, “I’ll miss the ministry, being in the pulpit and being a part of their lives, working with them in joyous and difficult times. What we accomplished we did together and I’m grateful for that.”