Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

January 7, 2013

Tazewell County Episcopal Parishes host Epiphany service

By BILL ARCHER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD, Va. — As a young teenager who attended a segregated school across the tracks on the North side of Bluefield, Va., the Reverend James Palmer III rode his bicycle on the sidewalk in front of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church.

He said that he gave little thought to the church as a 7th-grade student riding a bicycle in front of the church. “Forty years later, it takes on a new meaning,” Palmer said before delivering his Epiphany remarks from the very same pulpit that General Robert E. Lee spoke to the congregation of the former Grace Episcopal Church in Lexington, Va., in the years following the American Civil War.

Lee served as a lay reader and senior warden at Grace Church after the war. Reverend Palmer, who grew up on the North side of Bluefield, Va., received a call to the Missionary Baptist ministry, and now serves as pastor of Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Bluefield. Palmer is also a practicing lawyer, and chairman of the Bluefield State College board of trustees.

The Epiphany service — like many services in the Episcopal Church — includes different prayers, hymns and customs compared to the Baptist traditions, but Palmer centered his remarks on the essential components of the Epiphany, and titled his message, “The Magi and the Messiah.”

Palmer spoke with evangelical zeal when he talked about the birth of Christ, but he also spoke of God’s miraculous revelation of His manifestation to the Magi — the wise men who followed the star to the place where Jesus was born.

“To assume that such beauty can come about without an amazing God is foolish,” Palmer said. “God is continually revealing Himself. God reveals Himself to us.”

Palmer said that he believes that the Magi were moved when they saw Christ Jesus in the humble manger. He also said that God revealed the truth of that moment to the wise men, who did not return to King Herod to report the location of Jesus’ birth, but instead, traveled back to their homes by a different route.

“If you trust in God, He will guide your steps,” Palmer said. “When we follow Him, we will get to a final and wonderful epiphany.”

The Tazewell County Cluster of Episcopal Parishes hosted the Epiphany service as well as a dinner that followed. The Reverend Russell A. Hatfield served as celebrant.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com