Unitarian Universalist Society
Our Glorious History
Quick Links to Our History
Our Various Names
May Memorial has had four names in its nearly 170 years. The first was the Unitarian Congregational Society. The second was the Church of the Messiah. Our third was May Memorial Unitarian Society in honor of our second minister, Rev. Samuel May. Finally, we became the May Memorial Unitarian Universalist Society after the Unitarian and Universalist organizations merged.
May Memorial Settled Parish Ministers
We have had eleven settled male ministers and one settled female minister [this does not include our religious education leaders/ministers, assistant ministers, or interim ministers]. Following is a brief bio on each of the settled ministers (the years in parentheses after each person’s name represents their years of ministry in Syracuse). Click here for a biography of material written by or about some of our ministers. [Photos of settled ministers are courtesy of Bob Burdick.] A beautiful display of these photos now resides in the Memorial Room of our church between the two large marble busts of Sam Calthrop and Sam May, along with descriptive information, past church religious and music leaders, past church presidents, and annual award winners. This “memories wall” was formally dedicated on August 12, 2007.
Rev. John Parker Boyd Storer (1838-1844)
Storer was our first minister. He was
Rev. Samuel Joseph May (1845-1868)
May was our second minister. He was born
Rev. Dr. Samuel Robert Calthrop (1868-1911)
Calthrop, our third minister, was born in
Rev. Dr. John Henry Applebee (1911-1929)
Rev. Applebee, our fourth minister, was born in England in 1867. He moved to the United States with his parents in 1878. He was educated at the Boston High School and the Meadville Theological School, graduating in 1894. He first served the Parkside Unitarian Church in Buffalo for four years. Next he was in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, until 1905. His next assignment was for six years at the Pilgrims Church in Attleboro, Massachusetts. He was the minister at May Memorial from 1911 to 1929. During World War I the Applebees went on a leave of absence, he to overseas service with the Red Cross and she to social service courses in New York City. He received an honorary doctorate from Meadville (1924). In the spring of 1929 he officially retired, staying on as an active member and settled down for a life of service in the community. He died in Syracuse in 1938. He was known as an eloquent speaker. Read one of his these wonderful sermons entitled UNITARIANISM: What It is Not, and What It Is. Another one that is very stimulating and well worth reading is entitled A Challenge to the Unitarian Church.
Rev. Dr. Wendelin Waldemar Weiland Argow (1930-1941)
Rev. Argow was our fifth
minister. He was born in
Rev. Robert Eldon Romig (1941-1946)
Romig, our sixth minister, was born in
Rev. Glenn Owen Canfield (1946-1952)
Canfield was our seventh minister. He was
born in Topeka, Kansas, in 1907. He was educated at Texas Christian University
and then at the McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. He became a
Presbyterian minister in Woodstock (IL), Tulsa (OK), and Hobbs (NM). He then
sought a more free religion and became interested in social reform. He became a
Unitarian minister in Clinton and Berlin (MA) in 1945. He became the minister
at May Memorial in 1946. In 1951 he became Minister-at-Large in Atlanta,
Georgia. He started a racially integrated
Rev. Dr. Robert Lee Zoerheide (1952-1961)
Zoerheide, our eighth minister, was born
in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1914. He received an A.B. from Western Michigan
College in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He graduated from
Rev. John Channing Fuller (1961-1973)
Rev. Fuller, our ninth minister, was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1921. He was a New Englander, related to our first minister, John Storer and also, as his middle name suggests, to William Ellery Channing, one of the founders of the Unitarian movement. He graduated from Williams College in 1943. He served in the Navy during World War II. He graduated from Meadville Theological School in 1949. He also did graduate studies at the University of Basel in Switzerland and Cambridge University in England. He became minister of the Unitarian church in New London, Connecticut, in 1951. He was minister of the Unitarian church in Orlando, Florida, in 1953. He became minister of May Memorial in 1961. Finally, he became minister of the Unitarian Church, Scituate, Massachusetts, in 1973. He died in Scituate in 1974. Another minister known for his eloquence, you can read one of his delightful sermons entitled Why I Am a Unitarian. Here is another one that delved into some of his interest in our church history entitled, The Good Doctors Calthrop, Applebee, and Argow. Here is one entitled That Troublesome Wall. Finally, here is a beautiful housewarming sermon he gave in our brand new church on October 4, 1964 entitled The Religion We Built It For.
Rev. Dr. Nicholas C. Cardell, Jr. (1974-1995)
Rev. Cardell was our tenth
minister. He was born in Smith's Falls,
Rev. Dr. Elizabeth May Strong (1988-2001)
See the section devoted to Rev. Strong shown just below the information on Rev. Wahlstrom.
Rev. Scott E. Tayler (1997-2004)
Rev. Taylor is a Midwesterner whose father was a minister. He often describes himself as a spiritual non-theist who believes in grace. Scott's ministry emphasizes the importance of spiritual development and is shaped significantly by his Christian upbringing which stressed the power of kindness, humility, and service. He became the minister of May Memorial (his first church) in 1997 and served in that role until 2004. While in Syracuse he helped organize our efforts with the Southside Interfaith Housing Corporation and facilitated numerous Soul Matters adult education groups. Scott also has a family therapy degree. He is the former Director of Congregational Life for the UUA. Read his sermon, The God In-Between, and another one entitled Thank God Gore and Bush are Saved.
Rev. Jean L. Wahlstrom (2007-2015)
Rev. “Jean” is a native of Massachusetts and the daughter of a UU minister. She is a graduate of Colby College and received the Masters of Divinity degree from Harvard Divinity School. She served as a minister with congregations in Burlington (Iowa), Clarklake (Michigan), Flint (Michigan), Portland (Maine), and Phoenix (Arizona) before coming to Syracuse. Jean’s ministry emphasizes worship, pastoral care, and membership. She notes, “I treat the Sunday morning worship hour as absolutely the most important of the week – sacred time and space; a rich experience for the heart, mind, and senses.” She loves nature and the out-of-doors and is particularly fond of hiking. Rev. Jean maintains a close relationship with her extended family in Massachusetts. In addition, she enjoys photography, reading, music, and local cultural opportunities. Hear her sermon at this link: What We Fight For.
Rev. Dr. Elizabeth May Strong, Minister of Religious Education, Our First Settled Female Minister; 1988-2001
Rev. Strong is a third generation active UU. She began teaching religious education at the Old Stone Universalist church in Schuyler Lake, NY when she was in the eighth grade. She is now a mother and grandmother. She became involved professional and was named Director of Religious Education for First Unitarian of Rochester, NY, in 1978. She was ordained a Minister of Religious Education there in 1983. She became Minister of Religious Education at MMUUS in 1988 and served us until 2001. While minister here she was heavily involved with Planned Parenthood. In addition, she coordinated a strong adult education program for May Memorial. Along the way she earned a doctoral degree. Now retired, for years she was a UUA Religious Education Program Coordinator for the Massachusetts Bay District. Her son, Douglas Taylor is a minister at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Binghamton, NY. Read one of her wonderful MMUUS sermons entitled MMUUS History and Legends.
Rev. Jennifer Hamlin-Navias, Associate Minister for Religious Education, 2005-2014
Jennifer Hamlin-Navias, M.Div., M.S.W., was called as our Associate Minister for Religious Education in April, 2011. She was our director of religious education from August, 2005, through June, 2014. She came to this position with a bi-vocational 20-plus-year professional life. Jennifer is an ordained United Church of Christ minister who has specialized in education. She also is a clinical social worker and a Fellow in the American Association of Pastoral Counselors. She also is ordained as a UU minister. Currently she is the minister of First Unitarian Universalist Society, Syracuse, NY. Jennifer has lived in the Syracuse area since 1985. She and her husband Geoff have a lively five-children blended family that includes three adult children, Betsy, Isaac, and Toby, and two children still at home, Jesse and Naomi.
Rev. Elizabeth Padgham – An MMUUS Favorite Daughter
One of our own became a well
loved and respected Unitarian minister. Elizabeth Padgham was born on June 10,
1874. Her father, Amos Padgham, was very active in May Memorial, serving for
many years as clerk and treasurer. Professionally he was a County Supervisor in
Onondaga County. Elizabeth grew up in the May Memorial church and noted that
Rev. Calthrop was her role model. She graduated from Meadville in 1901 and was ordained at May Memorial on
September 17, 1901. Delivering the ordination sermon was Rev. Marie Jenney,
who also grew up in the May Memorial church and who was a childhood friend of
Elizabeth. Rev. Padgham’s first church was in
May Memorial Unitarian Universalist Society - Our Church Buildings - 1838-2006
“From East Genesee St. to East Genesee St.”
May Memorial’s first
church building was on
Currently MMUUS has considerable information at the Syracuse University Library’s Arents archive and at the church, itself. There is much research potential for scholars interested in church history. In addition, here an historical sketch of the May Memorial church from 1838-1938, entitled A Backward Glance O’er Traveled Roads. There is a booklet on the dedication, October 20, 1885, of the May Memorial Church on James Street. Here is a portrayal of our church history through 1988 in a web enhanced version of the book, May No One Be A Stranger. A collection of all the past Marvelous History Corner newsletter articles are now available in book form: May Memorial’s Historical Tree of Life: Marvelous History Corner Newsletter Articles 2006-2014, by Roger Hiemstra, 2015, May Memorial Unitarian Universalist Society, 3800 East Genesee Street, Syracuse, NY 13214 (phone number: 315-446-8920). Contact the church office for sales information. Check here to find a list of the MMUUS annual award winners. Check here for a list of past Associate Ministers, Interim Ministers, Religious Education Leaders, and Music Directors. Here is a list of the tremendous men and women who have served as church president as representatives of all the wonderful people who provide leadership in some way to May Memorial. This book was developed to help celebrate a 50 year anniversary of the dedication of our current building. Here is a peak at the repaired Sam May Marble tablet. Before Doris Sage went to jail as a prisoner of conscience because of her protest pertaining to the School of the Americas, she created a related book for her grandchildren. It is a touching portrayal of From Truth to Justice. Poignant and heart wrenching are the testimonies of Doris and 24 others who went to jail. It is well worth reading and to feel pride in their bravery and sacrifice. Many members of May Memorial were involved in the Inter-racial Group of Syracuse some 60 years ago. Here is a 1947 document that includes some of their contributions: Highlights of Negro History in Syracuse, NY. Finally, here is a marvelous book published many years ago by Dorothy Keens Ashley, mother of David and Joann Ashley. It describes her career as a portrait artist and contains many of the portraits she painted over the years.
Created by Roger Hiemstra, Past Chair MMUUS’ History Committee.
Updated April 14, 2017.