What We Believe
This community of faith believes in radically welcoming all people! Whether you are young or old; light, medium, or dark skinned; living with a disability or able-bodied; have it all together or have nothing together; are poor in resources or have plenty; are LGBTQ+ or identify as straight – whoever you are and however you come, we believe that you were created in the beautiful image of God. You are welcome, loved, and invited to participate in all aspects of the life of this church!
Mission and Vision
Atlanta First exists to worship God, serve people, grow together and engage the city of Atlanta and beyond. We’re on a mission to make disciples of Jesus for the transformation of the world!
What It Means to Be a United Methodist
People of the United Methodist Church are, first and foremost, Christians who share the same core beliefs of all other Christian denominations around the world: that God, the Father, is our creator; that He works among us and through us in the form of the Holy Spirit; and that His Son, Jesus Christ, came to the world, died upon the cross and was resurrected to save humanity from sin.
Methodism is concerned with inviting people to experience God’s grace and to grow in their knowledge and love of God through disciplined Christian living. We place a strong emphasis on Christian living, on putting faith and love into action, what John Wesley termed “practical divinity.”
Our United Methodist heritage is rooted in a deep and profound understanding of God’s grace. This incredible grace flows from God’s great love for us. Did you have to memorize John 3:16 in Sunday school when you were a child? There was a good reason. This one verse summarizes the gospel: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” The ability to call to mind God’s love and God’s gift of Jesus Christ is a rich resource for theology and faith.”
Methodism’s founder, John Wesley, described three aspects of faith: prevenient grace justifying grace, and sanctifying grace.
Prevenient Grace is God’s active presence in our lives. It is a gift to us, that is always present in our lives. God seeks us out, we don’t have to find Him and he freely gives us His love, we don’t have to beg or ask for it.
Justifying Grace is is God’s work through Jesus Christ: the redeeming of humanity and the forgiving of our sins so that our connection to God can be restored. We need only have faith to accept the gift of this grace, and it is only through this grace that we can be redeemed from sin.
Sanctifying Grace is the way God fosters and matures our lives to live the way Christ taught us we should. Through prayer, worship, communal and private study, we grow and strengthen our love for and understanding of God. Through service to others in need we grow our capacity to love our neighbors. Salvation is not a static, one-time event in our lives. It is the ongoing experience of God’s gracious presence transforming us into whom God intends us to be.
SACRAMENTS OF THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
The United Methodist Church recognizes two Sacraments, or sacred rites, that were performed by Jesus with his Disciples. They are the Sacrament of Holy Baptism and the Sacrament of Holy Communion.
The Sacrament of Holy Baptism
Baptism marks the beginning of a Christian’s lifelong journey of faith with Jesus Christ. It is a sacred pact, joining us not only with God the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, but also with the family of the church. Any person of any age may be baptized, and need only be baptized once. Baptism involves water, either through pouring or sprinkling upon the head, or full immersion of the body. The water and the work of the Holy Spirit in baptism convey God’s saving grace, the forgiveness of our sins, and new life in Jesus Christ.
The Sacrament of Holy Communion
Communion, also known as the Eucharist, is a reenactment of the Last Supper, when Jesus broke bread and shared wine with his Disciples on the night before He was betrayed and crucified. It is a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving the church offers to God for all God has done, is doing, and will do to save us and renew all things in Christ. Through offering ourselves in praise and thanksgiving, and through receiving the bread and cup—which the Spirit makes for us the body and blood of Christ—celebrating the Lord’s Supper together nourishes and sustains us in our journey as disciples of Jesus Christ. The table of Communion is open to all people, of all ages.
The History of Methodism
The Methodism religious movement began in England by brothers John and Charles Wesley, who were originally priests of the Church of England. From the UMC’s official website:
“The Wesley brothers had transforming religious experiences in May, 1738, under the influence of Moravian missionaries. John’s experience on May 24 of that year at a Moravian meeting on Aldersgate Street, London, has a prominent place in the Church’s memory. Shortly thereafter, both brothers began preaching a message of new birth and sanctification in Anglican religious societies and outdoors to whomever would listen. They also established missional and philanthropic enterprises to promote social change.”
“The goal of this movement was to ‘reform the nation, particularly the church; and to spread scriptural holiness over the land.’ Over time a pattern of organization and discipline emerged. It included a set of General Rules, societies made up of class meetings (small groups in which members of Methodist societies watched over one another), and band meetings (smaller confessional groups divided by gender), all connected by traveling lay preachers.”
Methodism came to America in 1860, through missionary pupils of the Wesley brothers. It underwent tremendous growth, declines and revivals in the following decades. The United Methodist Church, as it exists today, was formed in 1968 by the merger of The Evangelical United Brethren Church and The Methodist Church. An excellent, detailed history of the UMC is also available on the UMC’s official website.
The Symbol of the UMC
The Cross and Flame, symbols of our denomination.
The symbol of the UMC is the Cross and Flame. The elements of the emblem remind us of the transforming moment in the life of Methodism’s founder, John Wesley, when he sensed God’s presence and felt his heart “strangely warmed.” The two tongues of a single flame may also be understood to represent the union of two previous denominations.