How would a preacher from Roanoke, Virginia land at an Alexander City church?
Was the church desperate? Was the pastor moving 10 hours running from something? In both cases no. Ronnie Palmer and Alexander City Methodist Church crossed paths at the right time.
Palmer planted the church he was leading in Virginia at the same time Alex City Methodist Church was looking for its next spiritual leader after Bro. Wayne Cowhick.
“I had been at the point several times over the years praying, ‘Is it time to hand it over?’” Palmer said. “I knew I wouldn’t be there for the long haul — I was supposed to start it and transition it over to someone else.”
Palmer’s church in Virginia was emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic much like Alex City Methodist. Cowhick announced his retirement and Alex City Methodist Church began a methodical search placing a few key advertisements.
“Coming out of COVID, we were strong,” Palmer said. “I started the first of the year praying again. I didn’t bring my wife into it until March. By that point I had already run across that (Alex City Methodist) was looking for a pastor.”
Palmer said the posting resonated with him.
“What I was reading, I thought well maybe,” Palmer said. “Doctrinally everything was similar to our background. Other than this church, we weren’t really looking. We were praying about it.”
Palmer saw Cowhick’s sermons online.
“Things he said would resonate with me,” Palmer said.
Palmer contacted Alex City Methodist to make sure they were still looking for a pastor. A resume was sent to Alabama in March and the church reached back out.
“They wanted to schedule a visit,” Palmer said. “We came down in April. I brought all the kids and my wife. I wanted to get their opinions and how they felt about it.”
The Palmers, Ronnie, Carmen, children Gavin, Aiden and Eden came to a conclusion about Alabama — in particular Alex City Methodist Church.
“We spent that weekend here really praying,” Palmer said. “You don’t want to get ahead of God; you don’t want to get behind. You want to be right in step with Him, but you don’t want to miss Him.
“Everybody felt good about it. We went home and made a decision towards the end of April that if they offered in May we would take it.”
It was a hard decision to make. After all, Palmer planted the church he was in. He grew up in Virginia on the lake near Roanoke. Palmer was saved in a church there.
Alex City Methodist Church offered Palmer the pulpit but the move by both churches would be slow and methodical.
“The way of transitioning the church in Virginia we took seriously because we didn’t want to make a mistake there,” Palmer said. “You can rush and make mistakes. On both ends, both churches handled it well.
“From that point we spent a few months transitioning our churches there over to the new leadership and working through a process. Then we arrived here last week of July. My first Sunday was in August.”
Like Cowhick, Palmer didn’t start his career leading a church.
“I was a commercial brick mason for 15 years,” Palmer said. “My dad had a bricklaying company. I did that for a long time.”
Palmer was going to a Pentacostal church in 1992 when he got saved.
“Within a year or two, I felt God pulling me into the ministry,” Palmer said. “I went to a Pentacostal Church of God Bible College. From there, I jumped around a few places I was familiar with and had friends at.”
Palmer found his way spiritually.
“I’ve just tried to pick what I feel like is really Biblical and held onto those things,” Palmer said.
Palmer has spent time trying to learn the area. The family already knows about the lake but Palmer is also getting to know the people of the church and Alexander City. Palmer said Cowhick laid a great foundation for him to build on.
“People are like constantly ‘you have big shoes to fill,’” Palmer said. “I’m like, well Wayne is Wayne and I’m going to be me and trust the Lord to lead us.
“Wayne has been a blessing. It makes it easy when you can hit the ground running. There are a great group of people here. I have spent the time just meeting people, hanging out with them, getting to know them — business owners, leaders in the community and people in the church. This group here is a great group of people and I’m excited to see what is going to happen.”
Palmer’s messages to his new congregation revolve around Palmer’s vision for Alex City Methodist.
“The second message I preached here, was great churches magnify Jesus,” Palmer said. “Praise God for everything this church has been under Wayne but if we are going to be a great church going forward, we have to make sure we are magnifying Jesus in all that we are doing.”
Palmer already has more messages he wants to deliver to his new church. Palmer is planning sermons from 1 Corthinians on using every tool available. Another comes from Jeremiah “casting a vision for the future” of Alexander City Methodist Church.
“This church, from what I have gathered, has played a huge role in this city,” Palmer said. “I think the foundation has been laid and a lot of great work has been done, I just think we take that and continue running with that.
“A word I will drive home is saturate. How do we continue to saturate the city? There are still lost people, people who are lost and hurting that we need to try to reach. I think the church here is already doing it, but we just need to make sure we continue to hone in on that.”