Pastor Jewett Walker
2014 saw a new face preaching from behind the pulpit at New Shady Grove Missionary Baptist Church on Manchester Avenue in South Los Angeles.
After going without a pastor for three years and then undergoing an exhaustive search that lasted through the summer of 2013, thechurch formerly known simply as Shady Grove Missionary Baptist Church had chosen a leader, Jewett Walker---now Pastor Jewett Walker.
The current president of 100 Black Men of Los Angeles, Walker is probably best known as a formidable challenger in local and statepolitics. As a political consultant, Walker has been behind the victories of many well-known Black politicians, including the state assembly races for Herb Wesson, Wilma Amina Carter, and the late Mervyn Dymally. In addition, he was instrumental in catapulting Marguerite LaMotte onto the Los Angeles UnifiedSchool District Board, a seat that the she held until her recent passing.
But politics had nothing to do with Walker’s most recent promotion or his call to ministry---a call he says he received at the age of 16.
Born in San Francisco and raised in Los Angeles, as a young boy, Walker recalls being discouraged by his father to follow his call in ministry. So he went on to graduate from Crenshaw High School and Cal StateUniversity, Long Beach before embarking on a fifteen-year career as an insurance executive.
During the mid-80s, the superintendent of the Inglewood Unified School District, Dr. Rex Fortune, a personal friend and fellow member of Jewett’s fraternity Omega Psi Phi, was fired. It was at that moment that Jewett jumped into the political arena after being called upon by members of the community to help with a re-election campaign of a local board member.
Jewett recalls that single campaign inspired him to jumpinto the political arena full time.
Sometime later Walker threw is own hat into the ring and ran for Inglewood’s school board. He lost.
“I remember losing and losing bad,” Walker reflected. “It was at that moment that I realized that there’s got to be a better method to winning political campaigns.”
So Jewett enrolled in Campaigns & Elections political school in Washington D.C. where he says that he learned everything from A to Z on how to run a campaign.
For the next 25 years Jewett Walker would go onto win powerful victories for the who’s who in politics in Southern California.
He became so well known that Black politicians took note, some even commenting, “you came out of nowhere.”
Now at the age of 63, Jewett is finally realizing what he feels is his true calling in life, and that’s to preach the word of God.
An 8-year member of Inglewood’s True Vine Baptist Church, Jewett took the steps needed to move forward in ministry in his 50s when heobtained a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree from the Ministerial TrainingInstitute, an International Accredited Bible College of higher learning, accredited by the Accrediting Commission International (ACI).
In addition, he currently serves as the treasurer of the Inglewood Area Minister’s Association, a group that he’s been associated with for seven years.
When he was initially approached and invited by members of Shady Grove Baptist Church to throw his name into the ring as a possible pastoral candidate, he wasn’t sure of his chances of actually being chosen.
After a lengthy vetting process, it was announced just before Thanksgiving that Jewett had been chosen as the church’s new leader.
Since then, Jewett has been busy rebuilding and re-branding the church.
One of the first changes that he made was to add the word “New” to the name of the church.
In addition to the name change, Jewett has plans for updating the sound system, extending the church’s community outreach, as well as continuing the church’s weekly food bank program.
He’s also started working on a website for the church, a first for the church which will feature audio of his Sunday sermons for download.
One of his greatest passions in his new role is going to be the resurgence of the church’s Men’s Ministry and mentoring program, the latter of which he plans to model after 100 Black Men’s See Your Future mentoring program.
The Men’s Ministry will help men with issues of support, education, custody, visitation, and employment—all issues near and dear to the new Pastor’s heart.
On his preaching style, Jewett says that he’s not a “whooper.”
“I don’t want anything to get in the way of the message or to be a distraction,” he says.
More educational in tone, Walker says that he does not dance or sing in the pulpit but gets the message across just the same.
Currently, New Shady Grove Baptist church offers an 11 a.m. Sunday service that lasts just about an hour—a bit longer on first Sundays. Walker refers to the services as a “blended service” that offers elements of a traditional Black Baptist church, but is also adapted to meet the needs of the people today.
The church plans to add additional Sunday services at 8 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.
While not entirely out of politics, having been tapped to run the campaign for George McKenna for L.A.U.S.D. school board in the upcomingJune special election, Jewett says that he’s definitely focused on growing his new ministry over the next year.
“This is a new chapter in my life and I’m excited about the work and the people.”
Walker is married to Sandra Black Walker, a retired administrator with the Inglewood Unified School District and is the father of three.
Founded in 1971 by Pastor William A. Loftin, New Shady Grove Baptist Church is located at 1509 West Manchester Avenue in Los Angeles and online at shadygrove.com. Sunday services are at 11 a.m. and all are welcome.