Memphis and the Church of the River

by Rachell Anderson, Member

First Unitarian Church of Memphis Founded in 1893, the First Unitarian Church of Memphis is known as the Church of the River (COR). Nestled on the banks of the Mississippi River in downtown Memphis, Tennessee, where members can watch goods moving down the river by barge while nurturing their spirits in the sanctuary. COR is actually a regional church drawing members from the Mid South area: including Shelby, Fayette and Tipton counties in Tennessee; Crittenden County in Arkansas; and Benton, DeSoto, Marshall, Tate and Tunica counties in Mississippi.

The Church is part of a community of families and individuals connected to the greater Unitarian fellowship: the Neshoba Unitarian Church in east Memphis (which was planted by COR members); the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Mid Town Memphis; and the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Oxford which is a short drive away. Our sister church is in Romania, and is part of a cooperative community of religious and secular organizations through which we carry out our service missions. These ministries and groups are organized around doing good for others, enriching our own lives, and making the world a better place.

COR is housed in a beautiful building overlooking the Mississippi river. A newly constructed bicycle trail borders the campus and traverses the river into Arkansas. In the city of Memphis, people enjoy fresh air, sunny days, quick commutes, friendly people, great food, original music, professional sports, arts, and affordable living. Memphis is the largest city in Tennessee, and the 20th largest city in America. In 2013, the population of the mid-south area including Memphis was 1,373,850 people. According to the city’s Chamber of Commerce, Memphis has one of the lowest urban costs-of-living in the nation. This is a great place in which to live. It has a unique history and music that exist nowhere else. From the bluffs on the river to the old growth forests of Overton Park, to the open spaces of Shelby Farms, Memphis offers a variety places to live and play. There is a cosmopolitan downtown for those who like living in a metropolitan area. A short drive takes one out into the country; to Shelby Forest, the agriculture of the Delta of Mississippi, or the rolling hills of west Tennessee. Also, each of Memphis’ neighborhoods has its own personality. There’s so much from which to choose.

There are many excellent private, public, parochial, charter, optional and adult schools available to residents. The Memphis metro area has 18 public school districts, 100 private schools, and more than 250,000 students. Memphis schools annually attract national recognition and honors for the innovative programs and academic excellence provided to students of all ages. Out of Tennessee’s 170 colleges, community colleges, and trade schools, Memphis has 11 public and private colleges and universities and 35 trade schools and community colleges.

The culture of Memphis is equally diverse. There are so many things to do in Memphis in the arts: many art galleries and studios; Ballet Memphis; the Memphis Symphony; a lively theatre scene and of course, the Blues and Memphis music. One may become a member or a volunteer of one of the many of arts organizations, spend a day at Graceland (the home of Elvis Presley), walk in Martin Luther King’s footsteps at the National Civil Rights Museum, hear some blues music on Beale Street, visit the Brooks Museum of Art or the Memphis Zoo. One can plant one of a million trees at Shelby Farms or canoe down the Wolf River, the choices are endless. From the famous Bar-Be-Que contest during Memphis in May to the annual Italian and Greek Festivals, food is a very important part of the flavor of Memphis. The city is home to growing number of ethnic restaurants and is a “foodie” destination.

Transportation in the Mid-south is superior to most cities its size. Memphis International Airport located about 3 miles south of Memphis offers direct flights to many cities in North America (from New York to Cancun). It’s a travel hub for passengers, and is one of the main domestic airports for air freight as MEM is the "Super Hub" for FedEx. Amtrak’s “City of New Orleans” passenger service from Chicago to New Orleans stops at the historic Central Station in Memphis. Amtrak also provides service to New York, Seattle, Denver, and Los Angeles via Union Station in Chicago. Memphis is the third largest rail center in the nation offering services from BNSF, Canadian National, CSX, Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific railroads. Memphis has express bus service to thirteen cities provided by Megabus and Greyhound. Megabus offers daily, direct service to seven cities, departing from downtown Memphis. Greyhound offers standard routes throughout the U.S. and express routes to eleven cities, departing from the new bus terminal near the Memphis International Airport.

Memphis sits on the two of the most-traveled interstates in the U.S. - I-40 and I-55. I-69, a 2,600-mile superhighway connecting Toronto, Canada with Monterey, Mexico is currently under construction.

In Memphis, the spring and fall seem to last forever. With 64% sunshine days, an average annual temperature of 62°F, an average summer temperature of 82.5°F and an average winter temperature of 39.9°F, the climate is moderate. The average snowfall in the Memphis area is 5.2” inches. Rainfall is distributed evenly throughout the year and averages 54.65” inches.

With so much to do and such fine environs, The Mid-South attracts many to call the area home.