First United Presbyterian Church

Our Church’s “DNA”

We are a congregation of the Presbyterian Church (USA). We treasure and cultivate our connections with Presbyterians across the United States and around the world.

There are a variety of ways to talk about qualities in a church that seem to characterize a
particular congregation over decades and even—because of our long history—centuries. Some
like the language of “core values.” Others speak of the congregation’s “personality,” in analogy
to a human individual based on the metaphor of the church as a body. Revelation 2-4
addresses specific prophetic messages to the “angel” of each of seven congregations in the
early church. Church consultants sometimes refer to the “DNA” of a church. FUPC has stated
core values.

A sermon preached in celebration of our 190th anniversary, entitled “Called to Be a Light on the
Hill,” suggested seven characteristics of our congregation that have endured over the decades
(and possibly since our founding).

  1. Sharing God’s love in word and deed. Along with Presbyterians everywhere, FUPC has valued both words and actions. They go hand-in-hand. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, we gather joyfully each week to hear and receive God’s Word. We believe it’s our responsibility to put God’s Word into practice by acting upon it in obedience, sharing . God’s love by what we say and by what we do.
  2. Being lifelong learners. We were founded by the same Cumberland Presbyterian pastors and elders who started Cane Hill College in Northwest Arkansas in the 1830’s. In the 1870’s, the University of Arkansas was established in Fayetteville. Both developments guaranteed that Presbyterians here would value education, learning, and spiritual growth. FUPC has consistently demonstrated this value over the years as we encourage all members to learn and grow throughout our lives.
  3. Flexible resilience. A church that endures for almost 200 years certainly needs to be flexible and resilient. FUPC began as two distinct congregations from different denominations (Cumberland and Southern Presbyterian), endured through the Civil War, merged into one while our parent denominations were still separated, thrived through a global pandemic, and has consistently adapted amid many cultural changes. We continue to be committed to embracing change and to adapting in response to God’s call and our community’s needs, with our sights fixed on Christ, the hope of our changing world
  4. A spirit of welcoming hospitality. In our early history, the ministry of hospitality was lovingly embraced by the women of our congregation. As gender norms have changed, we’re all learning to be warm and welcoming. This welcome extends not just to people who look, dress, and act like us, but also to people from a wide array of economic circumstances, racial and cultural backgrounds, sexual orientations, and educational privilege. Gathering and sharing around delicious meals has bound members and friends of FUPC together for decades and will continue to be a part of our ongoing effort to embrace all with Christ’s love. More and more, we intend to reach out to feed, house, and care for others in our community who struggle with food insecurity, are experiencing homelessness, or are in need of other support to live and thrive.
  5. Grateful generosity: time, talent, treasure. Our mother congregations were pioneers in generosity, showing profound commitment to sharing their time, talents, and treasure for God’s glory in support of one another and the community. Today, the overflowing generosity of members of the congregation continues to grow. Whenever financial support is needed to fulfill God’s work and the congregation’s vision, God always provides through the generosity of our members. Many willingly say “yes” when asked to use their gifts on ministry teams, through service as elders and deacons, and by helping those in our community and world. Many also intentionally and devotionally remember the church in their wills so ministry will continue to flourish.
  6. Love of beauty in worship and in God’s creation. Throughout our history, we’ve gathered in person to sing praises to God in a variety of musical styles, to confess our sins and receive God’s forgiveness, to hear and respond to God’s Word proclaimed, to bring our offerings and shared prayers to God, and to celebrate baptism and the Lord’s Supper together. Visual and dramatic arts have been important in our church life as well. We strive for excellence, welcoming and honoring the gifts of each person who creates after the image of our Creator. Although we’ve cherished worship in each of our church sanctuaries, we’ve also enjoyed worshiping outdoors on our campuses and in retreat settings. Talented members have lovingly extended the gardens and tended the grounds of our property with sustainability in mind.
  7. A commitment to seek unity. Ours is a deep heritage of working toward Christian unity. The word “united” in our church’s name reflects both our coming together from two denominations into one and our desire to stay together. Over the years, our congregation has deepened and expanded by joining hands with other congregations and traditions, rather than by splitting. Today, as our culture divides into “red” and “blue,” FUPC strives to be a “purple” church that reaches out as far as possible both to the right and to the left, in the conviction that Christ’s body is stronger when we reflect the unity in diversity of our triune God.

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