The History of the Church of the River

Our Church

The First Unitarian Church of Memphis traces its roots to 1893, although it wasn’t formally chartered until 1912. Edward Everett Hale, Unitarian minister and author of The Man Without a Country, was instrumental in influencing the church's first minister, Frederick Preston, to come to Memphis. In 1965, the church moved to its current location on the Fourth Chickasaw Bluff facing the Mississippi River and has become known as the Church of the River. The building, constructed from an award-winning design by architect and church member, Roy Harrover (1928-2016), features five floor-to-ceiling windows in the sanctuary that look out over the river. For additional information about the history of our location, read this story based on former COR member, Kathryn Rice.

Learn more about the history of the First Unitarian Church of Memphis through this published booklet that includes the years, 1893-1983, and this booklet that includes the years, 1983-1993.

The Church of the River is a member of the Unitarian Universalist Association formed in 1961 by a merger of the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church of America. Our congregations are gathered around a promise or covenant members make to each other rather than a formal creed or beliefs one must agree to.

The covenant of the Church of the River affirms:

The purpose of this church shall be to promote the high ideals of a rational, progressive, and exalting religion, in the love of God and service to humanity, and to hold regular church services in this community. To this end, all activities of the church shall be conducted without distinction related to race, color, sexual orientation, gender identity, or previous religious affiliations; and the right of private judgment and the sacredness of individual conviction shall be recognized in all things. To join our church is to walk with other members of the congregation in the spirit of our covenant.