“God is Holy Mystery, beyond complete knowledge, above perfect description…. Nothing exists that does not find its source in God.” (A Song of Faith)
United Church faith communities welcome people from all backgrounds and orientations—wherever you are in your faith journey. This section offers an overview of the United Church’s beliefs.
Scripture is our song for the journey, the living word
passed on from generation to generation
to guide and inspire,
that we might wrestle a holy revelation for our time and place (A Song of Faith)
The Bible is central to The United Church of Canada. As a source of wisdom, personal prayer, and devotion, we believe that reading and studying the Bible can bring us closer to God. It remains one of our best ways of experiencing God's continuing work of creation and liberation in the world, while offering us forgiveness, healing, and new life in Jesus.
We often refer to scripture as “the Word of God.” By this we mean that the writer was inspired by God, and that, through the reading of scripture, God speaks to us in our time and place.
These old, old stories—the various books that make up the Bible—are a living word that speaks in new and fresh ways to each generation. Yet we also know that they are the stories of two ancient communities—ancient Israel and the early Christian movement—trying to be faithful to God under difficult circumstances.
The stories and teachings in the Bible have a mysterious power to inform our lives. But some of what was experienced and written then doesn’t fit with today’s world. For example, there are passages in the Bible that may be read to condone slavery or condemn homosexuality. We do not accept those interpretations.
In these sacraments the ordinary things of life
—water, bread, wine—
point beyond themselves to God and God’s love,
teaching us to be alert
to the sacred in the midst of life. (A Song of Faith)
The United Church celebrates two sacraments: baptism and communion. A sacrament is a symbolic action, or ritual, by which people of faith encounter the presence and goodness of God. In a sacrament, ordinary things like water, bread, and wine are used to point us to God and God’s love, reminding us of the sacred in life. In the United Church, we celebrate two sacraments: baptism, the ritual that formally recognizes we belong to the Christian community, and communion, a symbolic meal initiated by Jesus. These sacraments are of central importance to our faith.
Baptism is a symbolic action that signifies the new life God gives us as we join the church community. Baptism uses water as a symbolic cleansing that signifies the acceptance of new life within the church family. The sacrament of baptism is the single rite of initiation into the Christian community, the church.
The United Church offers baptism to all ages. We believe the gift of God's love doesn't depend on our ability to understand it, so we baptize people as infants right up through adulthood. With children, instruction is given to parents or sponsors to equip them for the child's Christian nurture. During the ceremony, which usually takes place as part of a regular worship service, everyone in the congregation pledges support for the child and their parents.
If you are seeking baptism for yourself or your child, please contact one of our ministers.
The Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, Eucharist—these different terms refer to the same sacrament shared by most Christian denominations, a symbolic meal.
Communion is celebrated at a table that suggests the dining table in our homes. At the communion table, we acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the host and all are guests. The meal uses the symbols of small pieces of bread and a taste of wine or juice to remind us of Jesus’ last supper with his followers and of God’s enduring love.
The United Church practises an open table, inviting all who seek to love Jesus to share in this family meal.
Relationship and Inclusion
Jesus…crossed barriers of race, class, culture, and gender.
He preached and practised unconditional love…
and he commanded his followers to love one another
as he had loved them. (A Song of Faith)
The United Church prides itself on being open and welcoming as Jesus was, regardless of age, race, class, gender, orientation, or physical ability. Children, for example, aren't viewed as adults-in-waiting; they're full and welcome participants at the heart of each congregation, bringing ideas and unique talents that can inspire the entire church.
Indigenous peoples have always been a part of The United Church of Canada. “The Indigenous peoples of the lands that became Canada welcomed those who brought the Christian Gospel,” The United Church Manual tells us, “finding in it a confirmation of their understanding of relationship with the Creator, and in Jesus Christ an inclusiveness that embraced the wider human community.” Yet as Christians, we abused this welcome and imposed our own vision of civilization as a condition of existence and of accepting the gospel. We have since apologized for our part in colonization and “for the pain and suffering that our church’s involvement in Indian Residential Schools has caused.”
“The fullness of life includes…
friendship and family, intellect and sexuality...” (A Song of Faith)
In the United Church, we see each person as a unique, loved creation of God and welcome all people to the full life of Christian community, including marriage. We believe God intends loving relationships to be faithful, responsible, just, healing, and sustaining of the couple and those around them, and that such relationships require preparation and nurture. The United Church celebrates the marriage of
- same-sex couples
- previously divorced people
- couples of different religions
- all people who believe in Jesus Christ and want to live faithful to his way
If you are considering Met for your wedding, more information can be found here.
In and with God,
we can direct our lives toward right relationship
with each other and with God.
We can discover our place as one strand in the web of life.
We can grow in wisdom and compassion.
We can recognize all people as kin. (A Song of Faith)
The United Church views the religious practice of all people of goodwill with respect and gratitude. We believe the Spirit of God is at work in many different faith communities.
For Christians, Jesus is the way we know God. Our understanding is nonetheless limited by human imagination. God is greater still and works in our world by a mysterious Spirit that knows no distinction at the doorway of a Christian chapel; Buddhist, Hindu, or Sikh temple; Indigenous sweat lodge, Muslim mosque, or Jewish synagogue.
We work in partnership with other Christian churches whenever possible, and among people of other religions in Canada and throughout the world on matters of justice, peace, and human dignity. Today, difference is everywhere around us and, we believe, a great cause for celebration.
Jesus announced the coming of God’s reign—
a commonwealth not of domination
but of peace, justice, and reconciliation. (A Song of Faith)
Caring for one another was central to Jesus’ teachings: Feed the hungry, satisfy the thirsty, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked, care for the sick, visit those in prison. Moreover, he announced that God’s kin-dom of peace and justice is at hand, and challenged structures of discrimination and oppression.
We believe that we strengthen one another to work, through God's grace, for a better world. To this end, we cooperate with other churches, faith traditions, and people of goodwill to eliminate poverty and injustice, identify its root causes, and protect those who are most vulnerable.
The United Church has been active in the public arena since its earliest days. The founders of this church believed that ours is a living faith and a witness to the ministry of Jesus Christ that is expressed in active, thoughtful involvement in society. The combined voices of people of faith bring forward the message that every individual, and Earth itself, must be cherished and respected.
Giving, Generosity, and Gratitude
God is creative and self-giving,
in all the near and distant corners of the universe.
Nothing exists that does not find its source in God.
Our first response to God’s providence is gratitude. (A Song of Faith)
Christian stewardship is everything we think, say, and do after we say “I believe.”
Stewardship and discipleship is
- how we spend our time, and employ our talents and gifts
- how we care for our bodies and make healthy choices
- how we set our priorities around money and possessions
- how we manage our relationships, care for the environment, and practise our faith
We participate in God’s mission by giving the gifts that God has entrusted to us. These gifts are everything that we have: our time, our talents and skills, and our treasure or material resources.
Source: What We Believe from the United Church of Canada website. Used with permission by The United Church of Canada. All rights reserved.