By Ed Karvoski Jr., Culture Editor
Boston/Newton – Formerly broadcasting the news from WBZ-TV channel 4’s anchor desk, the Rev. Liz Walker is now sharing vital messages from another platform: the pulpit at Roxbury Presbyterian Church, where she serves as pastor.
“Having been a reporter and knowing what’s going on in the world is really important to me as a pastor,” she said. “Communication is the key, so television prepared me in that sense.”
She and a committee are currently planning the third annual Faith in Fashion fundraiser to be held Thursday, Oct. 10, from 6 to 9 p.m., at the American Legion Nonantum Post 440, 295 California St. in Newton. Proceeds go to the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Cory Johnson Program for Post-Traumatic Healing. The free program addresses rampant PTSD in urban neighborhoods.
A minister’s daughter, Walker began her television career in 1974 as the public affairs director at a station in her hometown of Little Rock, Ark. On-air news reporting stints followed in Denver and San Francisco. She moved to Boston’s WBZ-TV in 1980 and a year later became the city’s first African American weeknight news anchor.
“When I first got to Boston, there was still a spillover from busing,” she noted. “I distinctly remember as a reporter when the news desk wouldn’t send me to a particular story in Charlestown because they were concerned about safety.”
Walker’s reporting earned her two Emmy Awards and an Edward R. Murrow Award. During WBZ-TV’s 70th anniversary last year, she reunited with the veteran news team for a televised segment in which sportscaster Bob Lobel commented, “You can’t ever forget what a social contribution Liz made to the city of Boston.”
“Bob and I had such a great chemistry,” Walker recalled.
In the summer of 2001, she traveled as a reporter to Sudan with a group of Bostonians, including the Rev. Gloria White-Hammond, M.D., to investigate allegations of slavery. Encouraged by White-Hammond to pursue the ministry, Walker enrolled at Harvard Divinity School.
“My first day of class was Sept. 11, 2001,” Walker relayed. “There was a lot going on in the world and in my life around that time.”
In 2002, she and White-Hammond co-founded My Sister’s Keeper, an organization focusing on economic and educational initiatives for Sudanese women and girls. Walker graduated from Harvard Divinity School in 2005. My Sister’s Keeper opened a girls’ school in 2007.
“I went back to Sudan maybe 15 times over an 11-year period,” Walker recounted. “We went back to visit, build relationships and to take medical supplies. This is a part of the world where a lot of people are suffering.”
Walker joined Roxbury Presbyterian Church as a transitional leader in 2011 and was installed as pastor in 2014. Also in 2014, the Cory Johnson Program was founded. Johnson had attended the church regularly and was killed at age 27 in 2010.
“We tried to figure how to respond as a church to these violent episodes that plague the community,” Walker noted. “People are dealing with gun control, but has anybody dealt with the emotional and psychological damage from living in a place that is under siege? We decided to deal with the trauma. The response has been amazing. People want to come to our events and talk about their pain.”
Faith in Fashion helps cover the free program’s costs. The fundraiser was proposed to Walker by award-winning fashion designer David Josef of Waltham, who designed her wardrobe while she worked at WBZ-TV.
“David suggested we do a fashion show, which is certainly his expertise,” she explained. “The first two years were very successful and the church loved it. It brings a lot of different communities together and has turned into a tradition.”
The evening features the area’s top designers and models, food, wine and musical entertainment. This year’s special guest performer will be the pastor’s son, singer-actor Nik Walker, currently starring as Aaron Burr in the national touring company of “Hamilton.”
“It’s going to be a great night,” Walker vowed. “Most importantly, it’s our way of lifting up the idea that we can all heal together – that’s what the Cory Johnson Program is all about.”
For more information and to reserve tickets to Faith in Fashion for a $75 donation, visit roxburypresbyterianchurch.org/fashion.