SUNDAY MORNING PRAYER
We worship every Sunday morning from 10:30 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. from September through June.
When the first members of this congregation came to Chestnut Hill in the 1860s, they brought their King’s Chapel
prayer books with them. In 1785, that particular Boston congregation had begun a series of revisions of the Anglican
Book of Common Prayer. We at First Church have in turn revised our version of the prayer book three times: in 1897,
1908, and 1923.
The language of the morning service is rich and historic, quite familiar to those who have experienced an Anglican
service. The service can be distinguished by its consistently Unitarian theology within the Christian tradition.
Unitarians as a historic group did not dispute the existence of God, the Son, or the Holy Spirit. The original question
was one of Biblical consistency, for there are few references to the Trinity in the Bible and little if any explanation of
And so, Unitarians did not necessarily deny the Trinity. It was simply not a matter to be dictated to the people within
the congregations. In the same way, Unitarians do not dictate creeds or dogmas. At First Church, we have remained
within the Christian tradition and so our Sunday morning service has a certain flow and rhythm familiar to that
tradition. The key distinction is that Unitarian Universalists require no specific beliefs as a gateway to membership.
Unitarians at First Church have as a congregation come together from many different traditions around a unique
historic liturgy and a long-standing set of traditions, but those are the choices we have made and we in turn respect
the choices our brothers and sisters in other congregations make.
A Unitarian theology can be heard in several turns of phrase of the First Church service: the non-trinitarian doxology
to the psalms “Now unto the King eternal” taken from Paul’s first letter to Timothy; the prayer “O God before whose
face the generations rise and pass away” written by the English Unitarian James Martineau, which offers thanks for
“the redemption of the world by the teachings of Jesus Christ” rather than “the redemption of the world by our Lord
Jesus Christ” as in The Prayer of General Thanksgiving.
We hope that as you become familiar with Morning Prayer at the First Church in Chestnut Hill you will enjoy its beauty
and share our enthusiasm for it.
Order of Service
Our order of service for Sunday Morning Prayer is contained in small black Prayer Books that are found in our pew
racks. Here is a brief summary and guide.
The service begins with singing an expression of praise to God. The words “Be Thou, O God, exalted high…” are a
translation from Psalm 57.