Holy Trinity’s Palmer at ‘joy’ ministering to her congregation

Published 9:07 am Monday, February 20, 2017

Since becoming rector of The Church of the Holy Trinity, the Rev. Beth Palmer has been immersed in the Vicksburg community, serving on boards and helping promote the arts and culture in the area.
“I feel as though God calls me to serve several communities, many of which overlap,” she said. “ There is, of course, the congregation here, some of whom work downtown, some of whom live downtown.”
There is also a neighborhood of people, Palmer said, who work and live downtown but do not worship at Holy Trinity, “And I feel like they’re apart of the community that I serve.”
“Not a week goes by that we are not asked to assist people in the community with utilities, with rent, with a need for shelter a need for food, and this kind of draws me into a desire to work with others who serve those same aspects of our community.
“Jesus said, ‘As you’ve done it for the least of these, so you’ve done it for me.’”
One of her introductions to community service came soon after she arrived in Vicksburg.
“I arrived here at the end of June in 2012, and because I was pastor here, I was automatically included on the board of directors of Grace Christian Counseling Center, because Church of the Holy Trinity, along with Crawford Street United Methodist Church and First Presbyterian Church all played a role in (founding) Grace Christian Counseling Center, and so I have continued to serve on that board as secretary.”
Palmer said the board reviews the center’s budget and financial reports, supports its applications to United Way funding, helps with the Chill in the Hills run, the center’s major fundraising activity, “And provides a listening ear to Walter Frazier, the executive director.”
She has also served on the board of Mountain of Faith Ministries for two years, the last year as the board’s secretary.
The church, she said, continues to have a good relationship with the ministry “and we do some things together, between the church and Mountain of Faith Ministries and they are one of United Way’s member agencies.”
Her service with Mountain of Faith helped influence her to answer a request by United Way of West Central Mississippi executive director Michele Connelly to serve on the agency’s investment panel.
“She invited me to join the community investment panel about a year ago, because they were changing some of the ways they work with their agencies and evaluate them,” Palmer said. “Michele and the staff were making changes in the way they did things and she asked me to serve in that capacity. I’ve been honored to do that, and hope to continue to do so.”
On the panel, she focuses on education and the Boys and Girl Scouts, which receive funding form United Way.
“I went to Boy Scout camp for a day, spending time on the archery range and visiting and talking with the boys and counselors,” Palmer said. “I spent two days with the Girl Scouts; one day at their offices in Jackson and another at camp. The idea is to help the panel better understand what the agencies are about so they can better consider requests for funding.”
Her interest in helping promote the arts comes from several influences.
“One, of course, is the beauty of this worship space (the church), which is visually beautiful and has terrific acoustics, has good seating for musical or dramatic offerings, and we take seriously God’s call to open this space to share that beauty with the community.”
Another is that her husband is a musician, “And so music has always been a part of my married life, certainly more so my married life than before he and I got married, but we’ve been married 35 years and music, particularly instrumental concerts, have always been a big part of my life, and partly thanks to his encouragement, we both sing with the community choir here. We were both part of the community choir in the town that we used to live in in Virginia.”
And there is her interest in visual arts, particularly fiber arts, “And to be able to serve in a place, that is this beautiful, that has six Tiffany windows and other beautiful windows, it’s just been very rewarding to be able to be here and invite artists into this space.”
She credits Dorothy Brasfield, who has a career promoting the arts, with being the primary force in bringing the arts to the church.
“Her contacts, I would say, are invaluable in getting music in here,” Palmer said. “Thanks to her, we have the Mississippi Boy Choir rehearsing at the conservatory, and they’re going to be presenting a concert here March 5, along with the Jackson Metro Male Chorus.
“She has been instrumental in our Lenten Fine Arts Series, the performing arts part of it, and the spearhead of our conservatory.”
The church, she said, provides a space for the arts and encourages it,
“I guess on a good day, I see myself as a cheerleader, encouraging people to see possibilities where they may not had before. Encouraging our church board to recognize we have a lot of space that is open Monday through Saturday, that it’s part of our call to make that space available for community use.
“I’m a cheerleader in our relationship with United Way; what a wonderful partnership that has been in them using part of our space, to be able to support 20 agencies and innumerable folks in our community.”
She said the church has an incredible abundance of not only space, but beauty and parishioners who are interested and intelligent and eager to make things happen.
“The church needs to be open; not just opening up on Sunday morning for worship and then turn out the lights and lock the doors and leave.”
The Anglican Church in the United States, Palmer said, “Is called the Episcopal Church, and so we come from a tradition in England where the community had one church, and it was usually in the middle of the community and perhaps on the square.
“It was space where not only the community came for worship, but the community came to celebrate weddings in the community, the community came to mourn the passing of people’s lives, Sunday dinner on the lawn; the cemetery in the church yard.”
That picture of the church as an anchor for the community has a strong influence on her, Palmer said, and the influence for Trinity’s “prayers in the parking lot” outdoor service held the Sunday after Easter.
“When people drive by and see us outside for the service, it’s clear to the neighborhood that we’re a worshiping community,” said.
This year, Palmer observes her 14th year as an ordained minister. She said she plans to continue in that role serving the congregation at Holy Trinity “As long as God gives me the gift of health and the joy of ministering this congregation.”

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About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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