“In the love of truth, and in the spirit of Jesus,
we unite for the worship of God, and the service of humanity.”
In April 2019, Rev. Elizabeth asked what this statement means to you, and why it is important to our worship together.
Watch her sermon from May 5, 2019, about what she learned, or read more below:
Rev. Elizabeth received 30 responses via connection card or online form, and would summarize them this way:
Four like the statement as it is and find it meaningful, or say "I love it."
Five find it meaningful, or say it reflects our church's theology well, but are somewhat conflicted about it.
Four find the statement fine but wouldn't mind revising or replacing it.
Ten disliked it: they said it made them somewhat uncomfortable, that it does not resonate/ does not reflect who the congregation is , or called it "an important part of our church history, but not a statement we need to recite like a mantra each week." This group generally suggested replacing or revising it.
Six strongly disliked it and/or said they do not say the statement. This group said they don't believe the statement, that it excludes them, or does not reflect who this church is. This group generally suggested replacing or revising it.
Two very strongly disliked the statement, calling it a barrier to their full participation in First Church.
Many of you generally liked having a centering statement, regardless of whether you liked THIS one.
Sample comments: (* = commenter prefered anonymity)
"I love it - we have the right attitude about truth, we seek it, we don't settle for illusions, falsehood. We join with the most radical revolutionary ever to promote love. We UNITE to walk in awe and reverence for source of all creation. And we understand that we are part of the whole human family, and it is our job to help. Plus it connects me to my Protestant roots." -
"This statement states our purpose and vision. Starting with the “love of truth” unites us all, “in the spirit of Jesus” acknowledges our roots and history, and at the same time is inclusive of all faiths and persons" - *
"Because it has a historic relationship to our congregation, this statement warrants respect but it is not the statement I'd make were we starting from scratch. I think, for example, that we unite for worship. But the spirit of Jesus and the concept of God are relevant only to some of us. I like having a few elements in the service that remain the same. I like the idea of a bond of fellowship. Nothing in this offends me but I don't think it belongs emotionally to all of us." - Andrea
"I find the first line of the statement meaningful - the love of truth, which I take to mean everyone's individual truth - and the spirit of Jesus, just the spirit of his teachings, there's nothing I have to believe, I guess I think that's also up to each individual' interpretation." - Alice
"I do not mind it or am offended by it in any way. However, I do not say it. The part I have trouble with is “worship of God. Many reasons." - *
"I have never had a problem with this statement, but I grew up Catholic. I love the idea of following the spirit of Jesus, but the more I think on it the more it seems to some degree exclusionary. I appreciate that we are asserting that we follow the spirit as opposed to the dogma, but there are other spiritual lights on our various paths which should be respected. Perhaps our following that spirit should be shown in how we live and act, rather than a phrase recited each week." - Dennis
"I view it as an important piece of our church history, but not as a statement we need to recite like a mantra each week." - *
"Honestly, I don’t think it’s ever meant a lot to me. I wouldn't mind adopting a new statement of purpose." - *
"It expresses the intent that by coming together as a spiritual community, we can work together to make the world better. I've always liked the term 'spirit of Jesus' - suggesting that we look to his teachings as an example, not a doctrine. I've always glided over 'worship of God' because I'm not sure how much of a deist I am. I love that it opens with "the love of truth," especially in these truth-free times, and that the punchline is 'service of humanity.'" - Tim
"I’m actually a little uncomfortable saying it, as someone for whom Jesus and God are not the central component of my UU identity. It feels strange for this to be our centering statement when otherwise we emphasize values and traits outside of Christianity and Christian references." - *
"From the first time at First Church to now, I still wonder if “Jesus,” “God,” and “worship are too narrow for what we and UUs represent. I’m concerned it’s off-putting for newcomers. I think, like the Lord’s Prayer, its time may have come to be gone." - *
"When I first started attending FCJP, this is one of the statements that made me almost not return. In fact, after my first visit, it took me about 6 weeks to come back a second time, and since then, only recite pieces: "In the love of truth....we unite for...the service of humanity". While I recognize that many people value the history of christianity, I prefer to distance myself from this connection. My purpose for coming to church is not to worship god or God, but for community, and introspection. More than the second part of this statement though, the "spirit of Jesus" to me is cringe-worthy. Not that the man Jesus himself is causing the cringe, but I gather in the spirit of our community, our common goals of spreading joy and love, our commitment to each other. It's clear that our church leans towards the Christian side of our judeo-christian background, but I wish we made more intentional space for following the light of other religious traditions as well. Why mention god and jesus, but no one else? I am glad we are having this conversation. For years I have been talking with other individuals from our church community about my dislike for this component of service, and how much it turns me away from the feeling of connection. As always, please follow up with questions if you like! You know I always have a lot to say." - Anna
"I wish that this statement didn't include the mention of Jesus or God.
I understand that it says "the spirit of Jesus," and I take that to be Jesus, the spiritual (or anti-imperialist, as Rev. Elizabeth says) leader, but still I think that choosing to mention Jesus in this statement prioritizes Jesus above all other spiritual teachers in a way that doesn't feel comfortable or relevant to me. I know it makes my Jewish mother and my atheist husband feel less included in our services. I was talking to another new parent in the neighborhood who grew up UU and was potentially interested reconnecting with a church. I said a lot of positive things about this church, but I did feel the need to give the disclaimer that this church is more Christian than other UU churches, and I think this statement that we say every Sunday is a big reason that I felt the need to give that disclaimer. She said that she had heard that and maybe it wasn't the best fit for her. I think we could say something like "the spirit of compassion" and that would name the sentiment we are getting out without connecting it to one spiritual teaching and Christianity.
The phrase "worship of God" probably bothers me less on an emotional level, but I don't feel like it is an accurate statement of what we are doing in service and it feels exclusive to those members of the church (myself included) who don't believe in God or aren't sure if they believe in God. I have worked on seeing the positive intention behind the sentiment behind this statement and it's not a deal breaker for me (obviously!), but since we're talking about it, I would rather change this statement. It would make me feel more welcome, and I think it could make others who aren't currently attending the church but might be interested in doing so feel more welcome." - Meg
"Let’s change the word Jesus to the word Justice. We don’t need to sound Christian to be good people. Just my thought :) Thanks for asking." - *
" 'spirit of ... 'not Jesus, rather All That Is, or something much much more inclusive than Jesus. If we want to link to a book-religion, we could say in the spirit of Mohammed or Buddha or Confucius. I'd rather not link to any organized religion! How about 'in the spirit of The Land, The Waters, The Winds, the Stars ... God does not need to be worshiped, rather co-created with. 'service of ...' why just humanity? How about in service of Life, or The Universe, or ..." - Pam
"I actually feel fairly strongly about this. I think the Bond of Fellowship is a relic and should be replaced. I no longer say it with the group because I don't buy it. It is not mine, yet I am and have been a committed member of the church for several decades. It bothers me that it is portrayed as our church Bond of Fellowship when I have reason to believe others in the church also don't buy it, even if they go along with saying it.
More specifically, I'm fine with the love of truth. I think I know what they meant when they said "the spirit of Jesus," (major theological teachings in common?), but I'd rather not mention any one human/man. I disagree with uniting for the worship of God because I don't know what is meant by "worship" or "God." I'm fine with the service of humanity, but would prefer some recognition that humanity's existence requires respect for the earth -- all living and non-living things, not just humanity, which has kind of screwed things up.
The issue about the wording of this covenant should be separate from the issue of a joint covenant and the positive aspects of a liturgy, both of which concepts are attractive to me." - Penny
Separately, 23 congregants attended one or more of four listening circles. 11 congregants did both, so that's a total participation of 42.
In 2016, on the congregational survey, 29 of you thought reciting this church historic statement was very important or extremely important. 24 of you thought it was "somewhat" important. 27 of you thought it was not important or should be gotten rid of.