Center, East Side: Storer

This memorial to our first minister occupied a double window section in the center of the wall. The dark, rounded top of the mahogany frame accentuated the myriad red, green, and blue stained glass colorings of the Traceries that surrounded its central motif of an angel seated against a billowy cloud. In her hand she held an unrolled scroll on which was inscribed the sad reminder: “I lay down my life for the sheep.” Below the Tracery section was the centered motif of the white­-robed Jesus as the Good Shepherd who was leading His flock through a lush, green pasture colorful with wild flowers and beside still waters. In one hand He carried the shepherd’s crook, and in the other He held a baby lamb close to His heart. In a panel on each side of this scene there were curling filigree-like traceries again emphasizing the perfection of the stained glass settings in the reds, greens, and blues that cast soft shades of evening skies over the figures of smaller angels – one in each panel – also holding open scrolls with the inscription: “I am the Good Shepherd.” Below Jesus and in the center of the lower glass section is the caption: “In memory of J. P. B. Storer Gift of J. A. D.” The window was the gift of James A. Dupree of Boston.

In 1836-37, a few New England families who had become inter­ested in the new Unitarian “beliefs” before they moved to Syracuse, appealed to the Boston Society to send ministers to Syracuse; they offered the parlors of their respective homes as the meeting place for the Sunday services. Thus for some time, only these few were privileged to hear such renowned ministers as the Reverends Channing, Allen, and Barrett. After two years of the uncertainty of supply ministers as well as a definite place for meetings, arrangements were made for the services to be held in Dr. Mayo's school house, and in October, 1838, a meeting was held for the purpose of organizing. Organization under way, subscriptions were sought to build a little church on East Genesee Street, and the final cost was $607.00. It was ready for occupancy in January, 1839. Well known min­isters were sent to serve for longer periods of four to six weeks each, including the Reverend John P. B. Storer of Walpole, Massachusetts. He was so well liked that Captain Putnam, acting for the committee, invited him to become the first Unitarian minister of the Syracuse Society. He was installed on June 20, 1839, in the First Methodist Church, kindly loaned for the purpose. He became a member of the church in 1839, too.

The choice of Reverend Storer – born of well-to-do parents in Portland, Maine in 1794 – was a happy one. His early education was probably obtained in his home town schools before he entered Bowdoin College from which he was graduated in 1812. He immediately began to study for the ministry, and had varied experiences in organizing and building up new churches. When, at 45 years of age, he received the call from Syracuse, he resigned from his twelve year pastorate of the Church at Walpole, Massachusetts, to accept it.

With a tremendous interest and energy, the Rev. Storer took hold of his work, forged ahead with his subscription committee, raised money for a bigger church, and so added to the enthusiasm of the workers that a new church was finished two months ahead of the contract. It was dedicated as the Church of the Messiah on November 23, 1840. Unfortunately, Mr. Storer had more energy than he had physi­cal strength. Overtaxing himself during the fund raising effort and the completion of the new Church, he succumbed to a severe heart attack. He handed in his resignation but the congregation persuaded him to take a leave of absence to recuperate. He left Syracuse in January, 1844, and the congregation learned with great sadness that he had died on March 16, 1844. When he died he left the impress of his noble character and example, his talents, and his teachings upon a community whose prejudices he had lived down and finally overcome purely by a life faithfully and earnestly devoted to his Master's service.