photo courtesy of Amazon.com
Neshoba Unitarian Universalist Church is one of two Unitarian Universalist [UU] churches in the city of Memphis. Reverend Bill Neely serves as the minister and Reverend Elaine Blanchard presides over the religious education classes for youth. Numerous committee members and volunteers contribute to Neshoba’s leadership, and ensure that there are a variety of groups and activities available that are both fun and educational. Founded in 1992, the church sits on the edge of Shelby Farms which consists of thousands of acres of luscious park lands.
Here is the Mission Statement for Neshoba:
The purpose of the Neshoba Unitarian Universalist Church is to provide a caring community that fosters spiritual growth through free thought and respect for personal beliefs. This church seeks the wisdom of many religious traditions and encourages the expression of our ideals in service to all people.
The Affirmation of the church is as follows:
Love is the doctrine of this church, the quest for truth is its sacrament, and service is its prayer. To dwell together in peace, to seek knowledge in freedom, to serve human need, to the end that all souls shall grow into harmony with the Divine, thus do we covenant with each other and with God.
What makes Neshoba such a wonderful spiritual home is the caring community mentioned in the Mission Statement. A sense of welcome pervades the atmosphere. Congregants are friendly and approachable. It is not exclusive, condescending, or oppressive. Neshoba is the perfect embodiment of the concepts of love and respect.
Various organizations exist within the church to give people a chance to get to know one another better and also explore their passions. Circle Suppers are monthly potluck dinners held in a member’s home. Several suppers are hosted on the same night to maintain the relaxed feel of a small group. Other activities include the women’s groups, Unitarian Universalist Powerful Outstanding Women [UUPOW], and Unitarian Universalist Women of Wisdom [UUWOW] for the ladies that have been blessed to have a few more years of life experience under their belt. There is a book club and writer’s workshop. Opportunities exist to be elected into different committees and positions within the church.
A hallmark of Neshoba is the Religious Education curriculum for the youth. There is a nursery with books and toys for our youngest members and a structured curriculum begins at the preschool level. Classes are divided by age [preschool, kindergarten-second grades, third-fifth, sixth-eighth graders, and senior high] and the rooms where each of these groups meets are bright, age-appropriate, and filled with student creativity. The current curriculum for fall 2009 is “Stories About God.” Additionally, there is a program called Our Whole Lives [OWLS] which is Neshoba’s sexual education series.
Service to others is another distinguishing feature of Neshoba. Giving back to the community is a moral obligation. Not all of us can afford to give from our pocketbooks but we can donate our time. Some of the service options at Neshoba include the collection of goods for a soup kitchen, serving hot meals to those in need, providing gifts for lower income families during the holidays, and assisting with the Memphis Pride events. A collection is taken every Sunday to be given to an organization in the community.
And finally, the service itself is a wonderful part of this church. Sermons are usually given by Reverend Neely, yet guest speakers—from inside and outside of Neshoba—are given the chance to take the pulpit. A bell rings to commence the service. Announcements are read and there is usually a musical number, either a song from the choir or a performance with an instrument, at the beginning [although music is very much a part of the entire service]. We read the Affirmation of the church aloud together. The chalice is lit. A story for all ages is read and then the children leave their families to go to their classrooms. Members stand up to share moments of joy or sorrow as a corresponding candle is lit during the Candles of Concern and Celebration portion of the service. At this point there is usually both a guided prayer and silent meditation. Readings and hymns are taken from Singing the Living Tradition.
No two sermons are ever the same. A common denominator is that they are all thought-provoking and usually have some lighter moments filled with laughter. Sermons at Neshoba present information that incorporates the wisdom of a variety of sources and allows you to make conclusions in your own way. They are fulfilling and spiritually rewarding.
Please visit http://www.neshobauu.org for more information on Neshoba Unitarian Universalist Church.