In my wife’s and my small group, we talk of “God sightings” as we daily abide in Him and discover His interventions in our lives. May I use that same theme in my life and tell you about my “Earl Palmer sightings?”
As a medical student at UCSF, the only real break I took from my studies was to trek to Berkeley for the early service at First Pres. I loved the worship and grew tremendously under the preaching of “Earl the Pearl.” I learned so much through his true Bible exposition and from the works of the writers he loved: C. S. Lewis, Karl Barth, G. K. Chesterton, J. R. R. Tolkien, Dorothy Sayers, Dietrich Bonhoeffer… .
When my wife Siggie and I got married, Siggie wanted to delay our honeymoon because Earl was preaching on Revelation. Need I say more?
Along with my favorite professor David Gill, Earl was one of the founders of New College Berkeley for Advanced Christian Studies. After med school, I took a year to study there and earned a Masters in Christian Studies. My studies at New College prepared me beautifully for the tremendous challenges I faced throughout my career. Plus I got to hear Earl’s preaching instead of being a medical intern that year!
My profession took our family to Salinas, Ann Arbor, Redding, and finally to Silicon Valley, while Earl was called to Washington, both DC and Seattle. Inspired by him, I climbed Mt. Shasta. Inspired by him, I read C. S. Lewis when my head wasn’t in a medical book. And best of all, I never looked at the Word of God the same way, always wanting to see precisely what the text was saying to me.
When I was asked to join the Board of New College Berkeley, I was pleased to see that Earl was a fellow Board member and had a special place in his heart for this ministry. His annual lectures are the best-attended event that NCB offers, and this last one had the largest attendance ever. He is truly loved by the NCB community.
I had the honor of serving as the Master of Ceremonies at the NCB’s 40th anniversary celebration last year. Earl couldn’t attend but offered a video greeting to us all. The applause afterwards was deafening, and he wasn’t even there!
I had a very special treat this summer. Through the C. S. Lewis Foundation, I was able to attend a weeklong seminar taught by Earl Palmer and a colleague at The Kilns (the Lewis home) in Oxford. It was an exceptional time of learning and seeing the places that were so pivotal in the life of C. S. Lewis. It was such an inspiration to my faith.
This last year NCB and First Pres Berkeley sponsored the inaugural lecture of the annual “Earl Palmer Lectureship.” This is a fitting tribute to a man we all love.
As a student in the pew back in the day, as a man who was married in his church and had my first child baptized there, as a graduate of a school he helped start, as a lifelong informed reader of Scripture and of the giants of the Faith, and as a fellow Board member and huge fan of New College Berkeley, I thank you, Earl, for your leadership, inspiration, integrity, enthusiasm. and love for God that have been gifts to so many of us. God bless you, my friend!
Phil Stillman (MD, MCS) is a member of the New College Berkeley Board of Trustees and an anesthesiologist.