Special/Signature Issues » 30th Anniversary Issue

God Talks to Us, And He Has Big Plans at the Mall

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At times, God has spoken to various religious leaders and local politicians. Here are a couple of the more memorable directives.

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He speaks to Councilwoman Shirley Harvey.

Jan. 23, 1996

Among the quirks specific to former City Councilwoman L. Shirley Harvey — she's re-emerged recently at City Council meetings and petitioned unsuccessfully to get on the ballot for Richmond mayor — she told Style in "The Gospel According to Shirley" that God frequently speaks to her:

God told me, "Go to Richmond, Virginia," Harvey says. "He spoke not audibly but in a voice inside of me. But I knew it was God. ... I said, "Richmond? I've never been to Richmond! I've never even heard of Richmond."

Harvey didn't quibble. She quit her job at IBM in New York and moved to Richmond in 1978. She eventually ran for City Council in 1994 and won, and served until 1996. She's run several times since but God hasn't been as willing. Or, perhaps, she's misinterpreted his orders. From the 1996 story:

The deity has at times given her orders that seem baffling, Harvey says. Still, she carries them out. For example, before she joined City Council, God spoke to her several times and told her to walk seven times around City Hall, she says. She did so, she adds, although she didn't know why.

Now, however, Harvey says that she does. "I was claiming City Hall for God," she says. "City Hall is the center of sin for the city."

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His plans for Cloverleaf Mall.

Feb. 27, 2008

The Rev. Steve Parson, senior pastor of the Richmond Christian Center, had a grand vision for the dying, but not yet dead Cloverleaf Mall in 2004. Parson's church offered $4 million to buy the property, and convert the mall into a 5,000-seat sanctuary with a training center, bowling alley and Broadway-style theater.

Chesterfield County, however, had other plans. (A new 123,000-square-foot Kroger grocery store, which is nearly complete, is anchoring the redevelopment.) It didn't come without a fight. Chesterfield and Parson's church duked it out for a few years, but Parson had a secret weapon:

As Cloverleaf Mall enters its final week of operation, God's still in the mix. The Rev. Steve Parson, senior pastor of the Richmond Christian Center, still hopes his church will be able to purchase a portion of the mall's property to build a new sanctuary. 

It's God's will, he says.

"It ain't over till it's over," Parson says. "I don't quite understand everything myself, but I know, without a doubt, that the Lord said to me, 'The mall is yours.'"

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