Loving Our Theological Diversity
Finding Our Spiritual Center
“Grateful for the religious pluralism which enriches and ennobles our faith, we are inspired to deepen our understanding and expand our vision.”
In September of 2016, as part of the search process, 80 First Church congregants answered questions about theology, ministry, and your hopes / expectations for First Church. Since then, Rev. Elizabeth has used “Connection Cards” to ask about related topics. Here is a report on what she's learned so far:
The purpose of Sunday worship
In February of 2019, Rev. Elizabeth asked the congregation what our Sunday worship services are for, with a wide variety of answers.
In February of 2019, Rev. Elizabeth asked the congregation what church is for - with lots of variety of opinion.
In your congregational survey in 2016, 80 of you answered the question about theology and spiritual orientations and beliefs.
One statement was: “A personal relationship with God is a vital part of my life and necessary part of my church experience.” Twenty five of you agreed or strongly agreed. Thirty of you disagreed or strongly disagreed. (22 neutral)
To the statement “there is a God but a personal relationship with God is unnecessary to my church experience,” 16 agreed or strongly agreed; 34 disagreed or strongly disagreed.
“God may or may not exist, but we have more important things to worry about in this life.”
Strongly agree: 10 Agree: 26. Neutral: 18.
Disagree: 12. Strongly disagree: 13
“The powers ascribed to God are inherent in the natural world, and it is the natural world to which I focus my respect and devotion.”
Strongly agree: 21. Agree: 20. Neutral: 25.
Disagree: 7. Strongly disagree: 6
“I do not know if God exists but it is important to explore that possibility.”
Strongly agree: 9. Agree: 31. Neutral 15.
Disagree: 15. Strongly disagree: 9
“‘God’ exists in the relationships we build with one another.”
Strongly agree: 29. Agree: 30. Neutral: 12.
Disagree: 2 Strongly Disagree: 5
“There is a higher power that connects us all.”
Strongly agree: 32. Agree: 22. Neutral: 14.
Disagree: 5. Strongly disagree: 4
To the statement “The life, death, and teachings of Jesus Christ are central to my understanding of the world and the human condition,” sixteen of you agreed or strongly agreed; forty of you disagreed or strongly disagreed.
Rituals and Tradition
From the congregational survey: “Rituals and tradition are an essential part of my church experience.”
Strongly agree: 12 Agree: 31 Neutral: 16.
Disagree: 11. Strongly disagree: 2
The Prayer Jesus Taught
In February of 2018, Rev. Elizabeth preached about the Lord’s Prayer and invited congregants to share their own associations with the prayer by writing in a “connection card.”
She received 26 cards and would categorize the responses as:
6 strongly find it meaningful
5 generally positive
4 generally mixed/neutral
6 generally negative
5 strong negative associations
Life after death
On the 2016 survey, you were asked "which of the following corresponds most closely with your beliefs about immortality?"
A person lives on in the memory of others: 37
A person's body dies but their soul lives on: 18
At some point in the future a person's body and soul are resurrected: 0
A person's soul is reborn into another living being: 3
Concern for immortality distracts from the important issues of this life: 7
No opinion: 2
Other (people were invited to comment): 14
In October of 2018, congregants were asked to fill in the blank:
“Symbols that are meaningful and positive for me are__________.”
Rev. Elizabeth received 36 responses: they are represented below.
Each time a symbol appears represents one time it was circled.
For example, ten times, a congregant circled the cross as “meaningful and positive.”
Many congregants circled multiple symbols.
Also suggested were "images from nature.”
Three congregants said they prefer a display of many symbols together.
Five congregants named the cross as “complicated or negative.”
Eleven congregants named the crucifix as strongly negative.
Religious/Spiritual Practices and traditions:
From the 2016 Survey:
How frequently do you engage in...
Often: 21 Occasionally: 27 Seldom: 17 Never. This is not important to me: 15
Often: 23 Occasionally: 34 Seldom: 19 Never. This is not important to me: 4
Often: 12 Occasionally: 15 Seldom: 25 Never. This is not important to me: 27
Often: 18 Occasionally: 17 Seldom: 19 Never. This is not important to me: 24
Connecting with nature
Often: 53 Occasionally: 22 Seldom: 3 Never. This is not important to me: 1
Reading religious/spiritual texts
Often: 16 Occasionally: 32 Seldom: 22 Never. This is not important to me: 10
What faith traditions are important to you?
Unitarian Universalism: 70
Earth-centered beliefs: 29
Religious Humanism: 26