Beliefs and Values

Brought up to appreciate the simple faith of his mother, religion was a staple of Dr. Palmer’s early life.  Because of his compassion as well as his speaking ability, many urged him towards ministry, a path which he also appreciated.  However, attending seminary revealed to him some of his issues with Christianity and with the church.

Christianity and Seminary:

“They [seminary students] seemed to relish the position.  The students seemed to relish the position role of the pastor as a power thing or something of a prestige thing.  And that just didn’t appeal to me.”

“I was on a field work assignment to Towson in Maryland.  There was one afternoon after a service when there were two… poorly dressed boys that were sitting on the front grounds of the church.  They were not hurting anything… and he [the pastor] asked me to put them in my car and take them out of the neighborhood.  That just kind of roiled me a bit, because, what was Christianity about if it was not about caring for people and loving people and that kind of thing?  So, that struck me.”

“There are many devout people in Christianity. My mother was one of them.  She had a very simple faith, and I think I gained a lot from that.  She was a bright spirited person.  She sang a lot.  That simple faith of hers was something that I really admired.”

“I got a little bit – shall I say – unable to hang on to that simplicity as I went on… studying it in theology and all of that.”

“I don’t think we have any kind of historical proof, anywhere… of the existence of Jesus.”

“I need to just talk with somebody in Religion… I’m a little curious about that.”

“What he stood for in the New Testament, I’m very much with.  Basically, to do unto others as you would have others do unto you.  That’s my position on that.”

“I would make a terrible missionary because, if they are Muslim, or some other faith, and they are doing the kinds of things that help other people, and relieve people in poverty, and care about other people, and love other people, I don’t care what the name is… I’m not going to be out there trying to change them.”

One of the difficulties with Dr. Palmer’s marriage, and with his involvement at the church at that time, came from the nature of the church that his family attended.

“The charismatic evangelical is what I experienced in marriage, and that struck me as being a cult… and if you weren’t a part of it, you weren’t saved, certainly.”



Dr. Palmer, dressed as Charles Wesley below, remained involved in the church throughout his life, however, and often contributed to it by living out his ministerial calling, despite never becoming a clergyman.  He gave a number of sermons over the years at various services, and some of these have been recorded.

Ed Dressed as Charles Wesley in church with friend Judi Tucker; courtesy of Ed Palmer

“They [the sermons] were all written for a service.  That was the impetus or the stimulus for doing it.”

“Whenever I started to develop a sermon, I was always looking for a vehicle.”

“I did some supply preaching around here in Presbyterian churches, earlier on, little churches.”

“It was fascinating to see the response people would have to it.  A little boy would come up and say, ‘I like the way you talk,’ that kind of thing.  So, I was inspired by this to put them into a  a book.”

Pete Barnes, a person who was my “forever friend,” a dear, wise woman… she was the one that encouraged me and said ‘You need to get these into a book.  You need to write.’  So I did.”

The book of sermons that Dr. Palmer put together is called “Train Whistle in the Night,” drawing its name from one of the later sermons in the book.

Used by permission from CSS Publishing Co., Inc., 5450 N. Dixie Highway, Lima, Ohio, 45807.

One sermon stands out to Dr. Palmer as remaining particularly meaningful to him.

“I guess, as I’ve gotten older, the one basically about death is one that has stood out for me… ‘Oaks in the Shadows.’  I think that one has a good bit of depth to it that I still resonate to… because it has a strength and it has roots, and it has my memory of something that I can pass on to somebody about somebody I knew.”

From “Oaks in the Shadows”: “But the tree is gone now, and yet, it is not really gone.  You see, it’s sort of in me.  The picture, the memory, the inspiration – they are vividly in me.  So, as you come to know me, you come to know the tree which you never saw.  You come to know an oak in the shadows.”

Here is Dr. Palmer reading an excerpt of the sermon:

You can find the sermon in full here: Download “Oaks in the Shadows [used with permission, see cover caption above for details]

Dr. Palmer adds that he might try to extend this work in the future. Referring to his sermons, he says:

“I’ll probably do another one.  It’s something I enjoy doing.”


At the age of 73, and as a man with a religious background, death is a topic that Dr. Palmer has learned to deal with.

“I guess when we get up in years we know that there’s – well two of my forever friends said, “Your best years are behind you,”… and I know that’s true, in terms of age and ability and that kind of thing.  And something like the tragedy that we’ve just had [referring to the death of another Davidson professor, Dr. Robert Whitton] certainly brings it very vividly to me that we don’t know.”

“It just brings to mind for me the preciousness of life, and of using that precious time that we have, however long it might be.”

“It’s not a somber thing for me.  It’s not that I go around with my head down and think about death all the time.  I see it more as a stimulus to do what I can and to be what I can for other people before anything like that would occur.”

“There is a spiritual… it starts out, ‘Staying so busy working for the kingdom, staying so busy working for the kingdom, ain’t got time to die.’  [He chuckles] It’s kinda like that.”

Even as a religious man, Dr. Palmer admits that we can’t know what happens after death, and so what is important is what a person does with his or her life.

“In some sense, I feel that we make our heaven and hell here, basically, in the way that we interact with other people, and the way that we go about our lives.  It’s not that I have to have something that’s going to be a reward for me going out…. I don’t need that assurance.”

Referring to the idea of the Rapture:

“I am perfectly fine being left behind.”

Ultimately, what Dr. Palmer relates is a sense of gratification about life that remains despite a number of difficult times.  It is clear that this contentment comes from the numerous interactions with people who have shown him a great deal of love, and the love that he has shared with them.  Talk to anyone who knows Dr. Palmer, and you will likely witness their face light up in recognition of a beloved man, teacher, and friend.

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