From Southern Baptist minister to Catholic deacon

LEXINGTON — Dale Palmer has traveled a circuitous route in his faith life, however, that has only served to strengthen his belief in God.

Palmer was born in 1954 in Columbia. When he was 3 years old, his mother, Patricia, married Joe Palmer of Saluda. His parents divorced 13 years later, when he was 16 years old. It was at that time Palmer learned about his adoption. He would not learn the identity of his birth father until he was 40 years old.

When he was 12, his maternal grandmother gave him a children’s Bible. This gift was to play a significant part in his life.

Palmer spent two years in the U.S. Army, and after receiving his honorable discharge in 1974, he married his wife, Mary Jane. They had two children, Mary Ellen, now 23, and Jo Ann, a 17 year old.

After their marriage, the Palmers attended a Lutheran church that Mary Jane attended. However, the couple was never completely happy going to services at this church.

In early 1983, the Palmer family joined the Baptist Church. Dale Palmer quickly became involved and began to teach Sunday School for third-grade students. The following year, there was an opening in the adult Sunday School Program, and Palmer got the nod from his pastor based on his performance the previous year. At about this same time, encouraged by his pastor and others, Palmer preached his first sermon. He began taking a home correspondence course through Liberty University, and by late 1984 Palmer was ordained by the Southern Baptist Church as a minister.

His first assignment was as an associate pastor at Providence Baptist Church in Leesville. The following year, 1985, brought even more responsibility. Palmer was named pastor of Sunnyside Baptist Church of Leesville. Unfortunately, because of the small number of families attending the church, it soon became evident to the congregation’s leadership that it was not practical to continue its operation. Palmer was ordered to close down the church and discontinue its services. He was then sent back to Providence Baptist as associate pastor and chairman of the board of deacons.

In early 1987, Palmer began to have some doubts about the church’s practices as they pertained to the Body and Blood of Christ (Communion). He began to ask questions relating to what he thought was a conflict between the church practice of storing bread and wine and what Scripture was telling. His doubts persisted and, after considerable thought and reflection, Palmer left the ministry. He and his wife didn’t attend church services anywhere for over a year.

Because of the belief the Palmers had about Communion, they enrolled in the RCIA program at Corpus Christi Church in Lexington. On the Easter Vigil in 1989, together as a family, they received their first Communion.

Dale Palmer next became a lector at Corpus Christi and was asked to join the Knights of Columbus. He credits Joe Sarolea, past state deputy, and Roosevelt Cummings, present state treasurer, with convincing him to join the order in 1993.

“These men have become the family I lost when I resigned as a Baptist preacher,” Palmer said. “I wish they would have understood, but my brother Knights did. I’m proud to be a Roman Catholic and a Knight of Columbus, and this will never change.”

In 1996, Palmer applied for the Permanent Diaconate Program and was accepted, and he began his formation classes at Corpus Christi last month. “I will finish in five years and will be doing what I was called to be — a servant of the servants of God,” he said.

In addition to his diaconate formation, Palmer is in the Institute for Parish Leadership Development program at Corpus Christi, is a eucharistic minister at the church, and is a member of the parish council.

Currently, he is grand knight of Council 11325 in Lexington. He has also held the leadership posts of recorder, chairman of Operation Hope, and deputy grand knight. In 1995, the Palmers were named “Family of the Year” by the council.