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The Indianapolis Recorder celebrates Women’s History Month

Angelique Walker-Smith: building bridges

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Posted: Thursday, March 24, 2011 11:37 am

During the month of March, the Indianapolis Recorder will highlight a smart, savvy and magnificent woman in our community, and at the Recorder, who is going beyond female stereotypes by engaging in her community and subsequently enriching her own life.

 

 

As a senior in high school, Angelique Walker wanted to get as far away from Cedarville and Springfield, Ohio, as she could manage. She went away to college at Kent State University, located 162 miles across the state.

It was not that the preacher's kid was trying to ditch her beloved parents, Rev. Roosevelt and Geneva Walker, but the teenager was ready to make her own mark.

Having given her life to Christ at age 9, Walker started to feel a calling to the ministry while she was an undergraduate student at Kent State, but did not know that calling was toward the pulpit. Still, after graduating she was convinced that she should pursue graduate study at Yale University Divinity School, (YDS) where she earned a master's of divinity degree. This also allowed her to join her future husband at Yale, R. Drew Smith, whom she met at Blessed Hope Baptist Church in Indianapolis as a youth during a visit from her home church in Springfield.

After graduating from YDS, Walker-Smith served as a full-time associate pastor in a Baptist church in Hartford, Conn. "I realized that I really like to work with different types of people and also got involved in the interdenominational ministerial alliance, where I served as their chaplain, and the local council of churches," Walker-Smith said. She left there to serve as executive director and minister of the Trenton Ecumenical Area Ministry in Trenton, N.J., for five years.

"I found through the ministry in Trenton that I liked working with different churches and bringing Christians together," she said. "I also engaged in mission work in Africa almost every summer." During that time she met the renowned Bishop Desmond Tutu. This also included traveling to Africa frequently in serving with Operation Crossroads Africa, a community development initiative.

Walker-Smith then decided to pursue doctoral studies at Princeton Theological Seminary. "I wanted to figure out how to reconcile the ecumenical and evangelical perspectives of ministry and theology," said Walker-Smith whose studies at Princeton included work on the theology of hospitality. "I also wanted to have an applied dimension to my scholarly work."

Her persistence paid off and she made history: in 1995 Walker-Smith became the first African-American woman to earn a Doctor of Ministry from Princeton Theological Seminary. When her husband took a teaching job at Indiana University, she became a volunteer chaplain at the Indiana Women's Prison and a consultant in Lilly Endowment's urban ministry department. That same year, she became executive director of The Church Federation of Greater Indianapolis, where she serves today.

Under her leadership the Church Federation has started a nationally-recognized prayer vigil ministry, which brings together several clergy and community leaders to pray at the site of Indianapolis homicides or their survivors' residences and has made other strides in the community.

The most exciting project in which Walker-Smith is currently involved is the development of Centennial Village in partnership with Habitat for Humanity and the Martindale-Brightwood Community Development Corp. The village will consist of 10 new homes that are planned during the centennial year of the Church Federation in 2012. Centennial Village will be built near James Russell Lowell School #51, 3426 Roosevelt Ave.

Things will get under way on June 20 with a Mission Day of Clean Up and Mobilization in the Martindale-Brightwood area, in partnership with the National Congress of Christian Education meeting of the National Baptist Convention Inc., which will convene in Indianapolis this summer. Walker-Smith invites contributions and volunteers to support these worthy causes and learn more about the Church Federation at www.IndyFaith.org.

Walker-Smith is also busy working on the research and writing of a forthcoming book that will be titled Ahead of Her Time: Pan African Women and Their Quest for Christian Unity and Mission, which she plans to complete by the spring of 2013.

During the month of March, the Indianapolis Recorder will highlight a smart, savvy and magnificent woman in our community, and at the Recorder, who is going beyond female stereotypes by engaging in her community and subsequently enriching her own life.

 

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