Pastor Ken Walden and Rev. Dr. Henry Masters. (Courtesy photo)


Editor’s note: The author, who served more than 10 years as the senior pastor of Holman United Methodist Church, penned the following message for the Sentinel. Dr. Masters will preach on Sunday, July 31, at 11 a.m., at Holman UMC, 3320 W. Adams Blvd., in Los Angeles.  The public is invited to attend.

In a flashpoint scene in the iconic Disney classic, “The Lion King,” Simba is gazing into a lake of water as he grapples with a tough decision.

He now lives in a distant land where he has retreated because of his situation at home. Simba’s father was killed in a tragic accident caused by his uncle. But the uncle accused young Simba of causing his father’s death.

“What must I do,” he asks his uncle. “Run away and never come back,” his uncle demanded. Simba runs away to a distant land.

One day, a friend from home shows up and confronts Simba and says, “You must come back home and assume your rightful place as king. Your uncle has gained control and has become a ruthless dictator and put the hyenas in charge.”

Simba says, “No,” but goes to a nearby lake to think things over. As he looks into the water he sees a reflection of himself and hears the voice of his father bellow out, “Simba, Simba, remember who you are – remember who you are.”

Homecoming is a time to “remember who you are” and be grateful for the foundation, formation and nurturing that home provided. I am excited to join those returning to Holman United Methodist Church (UMC) on Sunday, July 31, for Homecoming.

Holman has been a spiritual home for many and it was my home as their pastor for over a decade. Nostalgia has its place as it fulfills a longing to be connected to roots that help us “remember who we are.”

Many will be returning to see people who helped to shape them via the multitude of ministries for which Holman is known – music and the arts through various choirs, Sunday School, Disciple Bible Study, children and youth programs, social justice initiatives, community engagement through activities such as Jobs for Kids, Storehouse, non violence workshops, and more.

Some will be coming to hear me preach (because for some people, it’s been 10 years) and some will want to know what I am doing in retirement.

Actually, three things occupy much of my time in retirement: (1) taking care my exponentially increased “Honey Do List; (2) publishing By Faith magazine’s bimonthly issue that addresses the needs and shares the ministries of the 2,500 Black UMCs in the U.S., and (3) writing, producing and directing a musical on Simon of Cyrene, the only African eyewitness to the crucifixion of Jesus.

This production was done in April 2022 and will be now be featured in many churches, seminaries and educational institutions.

Many of my efforts bring me into contact with pastors and leaders. Some of my advice, drawn from 47 years of ministry, includes:

Be Creative – COVID and the rapid pace of technology has been game changers for pastors and leaders. Jesus told parables to help people learn new ways of understanding and doing God’s work. We too must find new ways of doing church “from the offering plate to the pearly gates.”

Be Relevant – Every industry and organization have to find ways to “reinvent “ themselves to stay in the game and keep the doors open. If your product or service no longer meet the needs

others, the result is – arrivederci (Italian), au revior (French), adios (Spanish) or see you later alligator (Ebonics) !

Be Committed – One of the pastors in the city where I live (Dallas, Texas) has as a campaign theme for his congregation “ALL IN.” Here, the congregation is challenged to be committed to do what it takes to do the work of the church.

Jesus insisted that His disciples “take up their cross, and deny themselves” to do whatever it takes to do God’s work. Nehemiah said to his crew, “We are doing a great work and will not/cannot come down.” If people have no skin in the game, success is just an illusion.

There are many challenges in the city of Los Angeles. I will pray that God will send you answers – beginning with electing Karen Bass as your new mayor.

Join the Rev. Dr. Ken Walden, senior pastor at Holman, this Sunday for a great Homecoming Celebration as we “remember who we are” and be challenged to continue God’s transformative work in the city of Angels.