The first Unitarian minister in St. Louis was William Greenleaf Eliot. Having just graduated from Harvard Divinity School at the age of 23, Eliot was persuaded to come to the frontier town of St. Louis to organize a Unitarian Church.
Eliot's sense of duty and commitment was strong. He said ". . . if I come, I come to remain, and to lay my ashes in the Valley of the Mississippi." By unflagging religious leadership and community service, he helped shape the history of St. Louis in ways that endure to this day. He died here in 1887.
Eliot founded the Church of the Messiah, the first Unitarian church west of the Mississippiâ€”and the predecessor of our churchâ€”in 1835. In 1868 a second Unitarian congregation, the Church of the Unity, was founded with the assistance of Eliot and the Church of the Messiah. These two churches merged in 1938 to form the First Unitarian Church of St. Louis.
With members of his congregation, Eliot founded Washington University in 1853; he was its first President and third Chancellor. In its early years, the University was maintained almost entirely through the beneficence of Unitarians.
Besides the University, ministers and members of this church have been instrumental in the founding of many other institutions, including the St. Louis Public Schools, the Art Museum, Mission Free School, South Side Day Nursery, Social Health Association, Mary Institute, and the St. Louis Urban League.
As one of the first and most important churches in the Western Unitarian Conference, this church was instrumental in the expansion of liberal religion in the Midwest and in the creation of new churches in the St. Louis area.
Today, by expressing our beliefs in action we aspire to continue the faith of Eliot who said to his congregation more than a century ago, â€œThe past has much for which we may be reasonably grateful, but the future must and will have better things in store.â€
To see a list of Ministers of the St. Louis Unitarian Line click here.
or call the church office (314-361-0595) to make arrangements.