What do we believe? The first answer to that question is that there’s no single answer! There is blessing in our differences, and in our diversity we are richer than any of us could be alone.
Perhaps the only aspect of faith that everyone agrees on at Old First is that each person is on a personal spiritual journey, so only he or she can describe what he or she believes. And that none of us is finished yet: we understand that faith development takes a lifetime. We are a non-creedal church which means you do not have to believe or affirm a particular set of stated beliefs to belong or to feel comfortable. We encourage doubts and questions, and we value rethinking our theology together.
But despite our differences, we do have some guiding commitments as a community:
~ Each person is unique and valuable. We believe each individual reflects aspect of God–the female image, the Black image, the gay image, the youthful image, the immigrant image, the poor image, the otherly-abled image. Only together in our diversity and service, do we begin to resemble God.
~ God calls us to be servants in the service of others. Our faith gathers us as a congregation and calls us to work in solidarity with other people–particularly those who are suffering–in our church, our community and the wider world.
~ “There is yet more light and truth to break forth from God’s holy word.” We take the Bible seriously, but not literally. We turn to the Bible’s stories in worship as our weekly starting point for our understandings and reflections on God, our world and ourselves. And each week after the reading of scripture, we end with the same prayer: “For the word in scripture; for the word in and among us; for the word lived and shared; we give thanks to you, O God.” [More on our understanding of The Bible]
But we also recognize other, helpful sources–other faiths, non-sacred literature, our own and others’ human experience. We say “God is still speaking”; that means, in part, that while respecting the faith of generations that have gone before us, we’re not surprised if God suggests or calls us to something new.
~ “God before me, God behind me, God above me, God below me, God beside me, God always in my heart.” As a Christian community of faith, we use the language of God as a Trinity — God the Creator, Jesus the Redeemer and the Holy Spirit, our Comforter. Within that traditional framework, though, it becomes obvious that all do not understand God in the same way. For some of us, God is a presence who supports us through the day. For others, God is the community of people whom we meet in our everyday life. For others, God is found in the beauty of nature. And for others, God is all those (and more)! There’s also room among us for people who just aren’t very sure about God.
~ God has many names. We recognize and respect the faithfulness of other ways, people and religions that have other names for God, or other beliefs, worship and service to the God of their understanding. No one is unsettled or startled that some Old First families are interfaith.
We don’t have all the answers; we’re a church for questioning people willing to be surprised on the journey. Our pastor says, “we’re a surprising church… where people matter, faith makes sense and you and the world begin to change.”
The Philadelphia Daily News featured Old First in its “Where We Worship” column in January 2014.