The Syracuse church started in a home on the South Side of the city with a small group of about 12 people. They met weekly to worship the Lord.
We then carried out from these cottage meetings and held a tent meeting with one of the old school, Bro. Knapp. He brought messages of the sin-killing type. These were precious services with the presence of God in each one. This tent meeting lasted about two weeks.
We rented a store then at the corner of South Ave., a place called St. Agnes Hill and Valley Drive. Bro. Young and Bro. Olson came to our rescue and painted and papered the store and made it a very nice and presentable place of worship. Then these two brothers held a revival in this building. It was our church for the time being.
Then, later, the Lutheran Church on the corner of Midland and Brighten Ave. discarded a temporary building which they had used while building their new church. We purchased this building and a lot on Hatch St. to put it on. This became our house of worship. Our Superintendent, Bro. A. H. Wilson, came and dedicated the church.
There were enough people then to make up a charter for an organized church. Mrs. Bocher was the leader of the group and some of the members were Florence Fairbank, Florence Ferguson, Bro. and Sr. Clapp, Francis Moore, Pluma Kern, and Bro. Crabbtree. There are no records of these, so everyone can not be remembered.
The communion service for the church was given by Bro. Crabbtree. Miss Grace Robinson pastored the church for a short time and then others filled in. Bro. Oscar Lawrence was called to shepherd the church and he became the first regular pastor.
I followed this church from the start but was not a member until 1930. To me it was an oasis in the desert. Oh how the power of God would fall! The church was on fire for God. We experienced great miracles of God’s love. I remember when the preacher and his family had little to eat but the Lord provided. Most of the time they had $2.50 a week to live on. Their living was poor but the Spirit was rich. We found it a pleasure to go to the house of the Lord with our four children. We always came looking for something new and fresh from God’s hand. And it was so.
The rent for the house where the preacher lived was paid by the Conference.
H. N. Parsons was the next preacher. He was there only a short time and then was transferred to New Hampshire.
We have seen some great things in the Pilgrim Holiness Church on Hatch Street. Some very remarkable healings - so outstanding. To God be the glory! I remember Bro. Lawrence’s first experience of no message for the evening service. He had a time with the Lord in the basement asking God, “Why?” and still no message, He could not understand it for he had not had this experience before. Finally when he stepped into the pulpit, he found the Lord had taken aver and what a “sermon” the Lord preached. The place was filled with the glory of God.
I remember Bro. Maurer, an evangelist, coming to us filled with the Spirit. He preached in his quaint way and stirred the church so it sent carnal folks off the scene. Such glory was in our midst that they were afraid of Bro. Maurer. He had overflowing crowds in the little church during this revival.
Sr. Ann Wilson was our next pastor. There are memories behind each of these but we must continue.
Bro. Baker was the next in line. Things seemed to break when he came to pastor. His faith was outstanding. We had no money in the treasury but we needed a parsonage badly. We, as a board, gathered together to count the cost and proceeded to build one. We had nothing to work with but we did have faith. Bro. Baker found a way in faith believing God to support this cause which was so greatly needed. To be sure, the work got underway and God answered prayer. The parsonage was truly built by faith. A lady who visited the church supported this move with the first good sized loan needed for a start. The building went up and each member paid each week as he was able, anywhere from $1 to $15 or so. We never failed a payment when it was due. God surely answered prayer.
Rev. Philip Doyle was the next pastor. Then Bro. Lawrence came back again for a time. Bro. Boel followed him and we surely had great meetings. The Holy Spirit was leader.
Bro. Payne then came to us. He authorized the building of the new church. Next was Bro. Frederick W. McCulley. Each pastor had a great part in the building of the spiritual Church of Jesus Christ. There were great battles fought but great victories were gained in Jesus. I count it a privilege to be a part of the church of Jesus Christ, the called out ones. The church of my choice is the Pilgrim Holiness Church. After 28 years of praying, my husband was saved in this church. My son who is a missionary and my daughter were also saved here.
The past 25 years have been characterized by the sustaining and omnipotent hand of God.
As 1972 opens, Rev. Garry Spriggs is the pastor. He was a great administrator. He organized a canvassing of the local community. It was also during Rev. Spriggs’ tenure that a beautiful new parsonage was purchased in the Onondaga Hill area.
Rev. Glenn D. Elsey joined us in 1973. He shepherded the flock very carefully. We had an outstanding baptismal service on the northern shore of Oneida Lake. It was also during this time that we were encouraged to increase our giving to missions as a church.
There was a pastoral change in 1975 when Rev. Denzil R. Smith came to us. He stayed with us until 1984. God provided the funds through sacrificial giving on the part of the people, to pay off the balance of the church debt. A mortgage burning service followed. Through the leadership of the youth society, a new and larger organ was purchased for the sanctuary. In the spring of 1978, a revival was held with Rev. M. R. McCrary, Sr. God moved mightily night after night until we felt led to extend the meeting almost six weeks in length. Is it any wonder that out of this move of the spirit that the conviction settled down that it was time to provide a daily Christian education for our children? Sister Lillian Moore shared with us at this time, that God had given a vision to Sister Isbell years before that someday there would be many children daily on that corner. There would be a school. Plans were immediately underway for a school opening in September 1978. Another beginning was that of our bus ministry. We had a record attendance of 305 one Christmas program Sunday. The youth held weekly street meetings downtown for a period of time. We also were able to purchase several adjoining empty lots as well as a piece across the street from the parking lot.
A pastoral change came in 1984. Rev. Keith Studebaker stayed through 1987. It was during this time the church underwent some dark days. As most have learned, all mountain-top experiences are accompanied by valleys. God has knit those together that remained. The next eight months we had only pulpit supply ministry. Rev. A. J. Whitney, The Gospel Team and others of our Conference ministers filled our pulpit during this time.
Rev. Bobbie L. Bidwell came to us in the summer of 1988. His time with us until the summer of 1994 was characterized by helping to heal the wounded and bind up the fallen. This was a time of a more gentle ministry. We began to concentrate on extensively updating much of the church and parsonage property. One of the church members paid for the purchase of a church steeple. It was dedicated in the spring of 1994 in memory of Rev. Glenn D. Elsey, a former pastor. Colored lights were added later to beautify the steeple in memory of “Gram Moore.” The Bidwells’ ministry at the Syracuse church was a time of rebuilding.
Rev. Dennis D. McCoy arrived the summer of 1994 and is still presently with us. Thus far, his time with us has been one of great momentum. We have continued with many property improvements. In the fall of 1996, a second bus was added to our Sunday School as our van route had increased beyond van capacity. For our second annual Sunday School Friendly day in October 1996, a record was set with 390 present. God is doing marvelous things in the lives of men, women and children here at the church. Great spiritual growth is taking place. We are on the upward move. To God be the glory, great things He is doing!