Were you raised in Columbus? I was born in Chicago but I started elementary school here.
Where did you go to high school? Carver. I graduated in 1986. From there I went to Columbus State and graduated in 1992, in criminal justice.
Did you plan to be a police officer? I was thinking about the sheriff’s department, or juvenile justice. I did an internship at Rutledge State Prison. That introduced me to the plight of men in prison who were dealing with mental health problems. Then I became a part-time house parent with New Horizons, then an ombudsman. I was advocating for people who were abused or neglected in nursing homes and personal care homes. Then I moved to Atlanta. I met Tom Johnson (former director of Open Door Community House) and worked at Open Door for about a year. I came back to Open Door and was program director for four years. Open Door introduced me to the United Methodist Church and I was drawn to issues of social justice.
So you were not a Methodist? No. I was a former member at New Mt. Zion and as a teenager I went to Allen Temple AME. I decided to visit (South Columbus UMC). I met Rev. Joe Roberson. This was in 1996 or ’97. I got very involved in the ministry and worked in every area. Then I felt the call to go to seminary.
Who’s in your family?
My mom is deceased and my father lives in Duluth, Minn. I have two sons. The oldest is Terry Marquis Walton. He’s 23 and just graduated from Savannah State with a master’s in social work. My youngest is 21. He’s Christoper Dwayne Walton. He’s at Alabama State and he’s getting married in a week.
You’re the first woman senior pastor at South Columbus. How’s it going?We had shared ministry experience from when I was here before. There haven’t been real issues related to gender or race. They say, “We love Rev. Roberson and his foundation,” but they have rallied around me.
Was Rev. Roberson a mentor to you? Yes. We had a ceremony here the second Sunday in June, when he passed the mantle to me — like Elijah to Elisha. It was an opportunity for the congregation to see we are still connected together, even in his new role. (Rev. Roberson is the new district superintendent in Statesboro. … He prepared them. He preached messages supportive of women in ministry. He was supportive of the decision the Bishop and the Cabinet had made. He put his blessing on it.
How is this church preparing for BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure)?We are clarifying the vision, in terms of going forward to invite and embrace. We’re recognized nationally as a model of training, for strengthening church growth.