Rev. Liz Walker urges local officials to rebuild trust in institutions

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Rev. Liz Walker speaks at MMA 2017 Annual MeetingSharing stories from when she decided to leave newscasting to attend the seminary and her humanitarian work in South Sudan, the Rev. Liz Walker highlighted the challenging work community leaders face in the current social and political climate.
 
Her message to the Women Elected Municipal Officials luncheon held during the MMA Annual Meeting on Jan. 20: “Don’t give up.”
 
“We’re going to have to give people hope, and it’s going to be very difficult and very challenging,” Walker said. “But I think you are up to the task. Because if we don’t do it, who’s going to do it?”
 
Walker said she was taking a summer class in Hebrew at Harvard University when she realized she was in over her head and faced the possibility of failure. Choosing to leave the class and take an F, she felt defeated. But, Walker realized, “It’s not about the fall, it’s about the get back up.”
 
Walker traveled to conflict-riddled Sudan in 2001 on a fact-finding mission about allegations of slavery and spent three years on the ground among war and death. She said she realized on her initial trips that people’s resilience was not linked to money, or political will, but “their sense of belonging and connection to each other. … We’re all a part of something bigger.”
 
Walker, who serves as pastor at the Roxbury Presbyterian Church, spoke about her uncertainty and prejudgement when she first came to serve the community, one of the most vulnerable in Boston. She recognized in herself the global issues of perception versus reality and us versus them.
 
“When I started working in Roxbury and got over myself, and got over my judgement of other people, my promise was that I was going to try to really get to know people beyond my perception.”
 
Walker also discussed the feeling of crisis reverberating around the state and the country. Part of the responsibility of leaders moving forward, Walker said, is to restore the people’s trust in institutions.
 
“The work you are doing is more important than ever,” she said.
 
Recognizing that her community stands to be hard hit in the coming years, Walker said her role as a community leader, like municipal officials, is to “reach out to the people and support them.”
 
“Somebody’s got to speak up for hope, somebody’s got to speak up for support,” she said. “That’s what you have to do in your municipality.”