My first song, a southside priest, and the possibility of Love

When I was just a child my mother taught me to play the guitar by strumming an influential song in her life. The song was “We are one in the Spirit” and only today I learned the origins of the song. First, here are the lyrics to the song:

"They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love," by Rev. Peter Scholtes, 1966.

Copyright, F.E.L. Publications.

We are one in the spirit We are one in the Lord

We are one in the spirit We are one in the Lord

And we pray that all unity may one day be restored.


And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love.

And they’ll know we are Christians by our love.

We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand

We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand

And together we’ll spread the news that God is in our land.


We will work with each other, we will work side by side

We will work with each other, we will work side by side

And we’ll guard each one’s dignity and save each one’s pride


All praise to the Father from whom all things come,

And all praise to Christ Jesus, his only son,

And all praise to the Spirit who makes us one.


I was thinking of the song today because as I look back over my life I see so many times where I haven’t really lived this out. I’ve let fear, anger and jealousy keep me from loving, walking, and working with my brothers and sisters. All of this only becomes much more apparent in intentional community. But I don’t think the words to the song are any less true. I remember how my mother would emphasize that we say the words right, “We pray that all unity may THIS day be restored, and not SOME day be restored.” It was an existential truth for her. We’re not praying for unity in the great hereafter, we want it today. This song can refocus our attention on the way Jesus said the world will know we are his followers. Not by our blogs, our videos, our services, our ministries, our words, but by Love. Jesus didn’t think that was an impossible ideal. He knew exactly who he was talking to and what would happen to them. But he trusted them, and he trusts us. If we remain in Him he will do in us what we can’t do on our own.

If you’d like to know more about Peter Scholtes, the author of this song, here are some links I found:

and here is his daughter in law interviewing him for Story Corp about his time as a priest on the southside of Chicago.



Filed under Personal

2 responses to “My first song, a southside priest, and the possibility of Love

  1. Gabby Cristobal

    I was saddened to know only recently that Fr. Scholtes had passed away.

    But I am ever so grateful to have known his music since back in the 60’s, particularly, his Missa Bossa Nova, They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love, and Choose Life.

    We taught these to the congregation and choirs of the Cotabato City Cathedral back in 1968. And in 1969 when I returned to Manila, I taught the music to the Philippine General Hospital choir of student nurses and the St. Pancratius Chapel all-male Sunday morning choir.

    Over the years I have lost track of the material and I would appreciate it very much if someone could furnish me with the lyrics to
    “Choose Life” so I can introduce it to my new church community here in Laguna, Philippines.

    Thank you all.

  2. Thank you for remembering a great Christian and a great song. In the early days of the renewal of the Spirit in the 60’s and 70’s, there was a serious grasp of the love commandment of Jesus along with His promise that we win the world by loving one another. It’s a great witness and advertising for the gospel of love over and above what goes for witness today.

    God bless your mother. She was a true saint, understanding the heart of Jesus for love among Christians from various traditions. I have seen miracles when believers put down their controversies and embrace one another in the spirit of this song.

    The first and some say the only command Jesus made.was a new order (mandate Cf. Maundy) for a new order (covenant). It was the heart and soul of the first church’s life, since the first thing Luke tells us is they obeyed the apostles teachings and the koinonia or community, then described just how seriously these believers took the command Jesus gave in John 13 and 15 and prayed for in 17. by making sacrifices for one another and assisting one another in every way.

    Our mission at The Horizontal Church blog is to pray and labor for the church to be the church, put down our doctrinal swords, and come together as those first century believers and those first Jesus People did.
    Please visit us. You really blessed me because i was a leader of Jesus People in New Jersey in the early 70’s. and I saw the power of the Spirit flowing through our agape love for one another. But it somehow got lost, didn’t it?

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