Belonging > Belief

At First Church we value belonging over belief. Together we ask big questions, explore doubts, draw inspiration from many spiritual paths, and try to follow the teachings of Jesus with boldness.

While we have a core theology that is distinctly Christian, we are also decidedly open in our approach to the Bible, a sacred text that reveals new truths every time we come to it. We will never ask you to believe something that is obviously untrue, counter to the scientific evidence, or overtly/covertly hateful and spiritually abusive.

We embrace a spectrum of belief. The members and friends in our church range from avowed Christians, to humanist atheists here for community, to interfaith families and people of multiple religious belonging. We can disagree and still love each other!

We dare to be uncertain, leaving room for a God who is still speaking into our complex and evolving moral world. Justice, nonviolence and extravagant love are key themes you will hear again and again in our teaching and preaching.

Large Group of People Gathered Outdoors in a Wilderness Setting
People Holding Up Palm Branches and Singing in a Sanctuary

We are a non-creedal church

there is nothing that you have to believe to belong

That said, we are a part of the United Church of Christ, the most progressive Christian denomination and the church of many firsts, such as the first to ordain a woman (1853) and an out gay man (1972), active in the movement for abolition (1700) and civil rights (1950s-present).

Rainbow Graphic and Text "A Just World for All"

First Church Berkeley grounds itself in these core values and has taken strong public stands and/or congregational votes on them:

Building the Kin-dom

We call ourselves “The Motley Pew,” proud of the diversity in our community across difference and dis/ability, sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, race, class, education, citizenship status. We know that our diversity mirrors God.

Mental Health Inclusion

Affirming our faith in a God who lives and is embodied among all peoples, we welcome, include, support, and engage all persons with mental health challenges and their loved ones as full participants in the life, work, and leadership of our Church. Read our full WISE statement here.

Climate Action

We are called by God to be stewards of Creation and defenders of our natural world against the earth-wrecking depredations of hypercapitalism and climate change.

Sex Positivity

God made all bodies beautiful, and gave us sexuality as a gift to be enjoyed with respect, responsibility, healthy boundaries and consent.


The Bible calls us to receive with hospitality, protect and defend the rights of immigrants and refugees seeking safety and economic opportunity.

Rainbow Flag with Additional Striped for Trans and Black and Brown

We believe that God made us in the fullness of our gender and sexual expression. The congregation voted to be Open and Affirming in 1994, and has played an active role standing for marriage equality. Open and Affirming welcomes the full participation of persons of every sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, gender expression, race, nationality, ability, and age in our Church’s life and ministry. Read our full ONA statement here.


We stand for full racial equality and the dismantling of structural racism and white supremacy in all of our society’s institutions, including the Church.

Ending Homelessness

We follow Jesus’s urging to minister to the “least of these” [Matthew 25] by addressing our region’s most visible and urgent human needs: ending homelessness in the East Bay, and its intersecting justice issues.


Justice permeates everything we do. Here at First Church you can march in the streets with likeminded people of faith, do hands-on service projects that translate love into action, educate yourself and effect social change with collective advocacy through our legislative system. We are stronger together.


Joy is a guiding principle in our community! We are a playful bunch, and our worship and life together strive for participatory transcendence, whether your jam is belting old timey hymns, dancing down the aisles, or serving others.

Meet the team

let's get to know each other



Elizabeth Forsyth



Amar Khalsa

Pianist, Instrumentalist

Congregational Life


Congregational Care Program Manager
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New Members Coordinator
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Emeritus Parish Associate
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Administration & Facilities


August Laperche

Director of Operations
[email protected]


Amare Gebreyesus

Facilities Staff