Church of the River
Reverend Eric Posa, interim minister of First Unitarian Church of Memphis, admits that there are times when he’s been on the pulpit that he’s seen congregants’ eyes drift … mostly from left to right.
It’s the view. The church, better known as the Church of the River, has a great window of glass that looks onto the Mississippi River. Posa posits the congregants are watching barges go down the river
On Saturday, January 30th at 2:00 p.m., the Church of the River marks its 50th anniversary with a special service featuring Rev. Burton Carley, minister emeritus of the church, and Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt of the Starr King School for the Ministry. A reception follows at 3:30 p.m. The event is open to the public.
The First Unitarian Church was established in Memphis in 1893. Congregants began eying a move to downtown in the 1960s. Roy Harrover, who designed the Memphis International Airport and the Memphis College of Art buildings, among other Memphis landmarks, was hired to be the architect. The building was dedicated on January 30th, 1966.
From a 2010 profile of Harrover in Memphis magazine:
Harrover proposed a building that would allow members to “worship in a structure specially designed to express the tenets of their faith. The church architecture emphasizes a cardinal principle of Unitarian belief: the reason, logic, simplicity, and order of the universe as revealed in nature.”
The result was a low-slung brick and cedar sanctuary facing a plate-glass window 17 feet high and 36 feet wide, offering a sweeping view of the river. The editors of A Survey of Modern Public Buildings judge it “a simple and compelling concept” and “a beautifully conceived and executed example of modern faith-based architecture.”
“By featuring the river so prominently, it encourages us to embrace that life is in motion, that we need not see us as separate from God’s creation,” says Posa.