Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Meet Rev. Walter Johnson

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Meet Rev. Walter Johnson

Article excerpt

The Rev. Walter Johnson can often be as thoughtful and analytical as the next guy.

But not when it comes to discussing what led him to the ministry and landed him in Jacksonville 25 years ago.

"I was led to the ministry by a calling from the Holy Spirit," he said. "That's how I think of it-- simply 'a calling.' And as far as my church here in Jacksonville, that, too, was a calling. I've had lots of offers over the past few years to become pastor of other churches around the country. But this is my assignment -- an assignment from on high. And my work is not yet done here. In fact, it never will be."

For 14 years, Johnson has been pastor of Christ Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church at Ninth and Davis streets just north of downtown Jacksonville.

One of his biggest challenges, he said, is to help improve the confidence and self-esteem of many of the people he sees in the community surrounding his church.

"People settle into this kind of negative thinking, and it's just so hard for them to look outside themselves," he said. "But we work on that repeatedly. We talk and preach and shout about it all the time. That's why one of my main goals is to get people to improve their sense of self-worth -- because any kind of growth starts from there."

Last summer, Johnson's enthusiasm for his congregation and the surrounding community led the United Way of Northeast Florida to build a large playground and park behind Johnson's church, a site that was originally part of Jacksonville's first black school, the Isiah Blocker School.

Hundreds of volunteers helped the United Way build the park in just one week. Johnson kept calling it a "Dream Park," and the name stuck.

Connie Hodges, president of the United Way of Northeast Florida, said she was inspired by Johnson to choose the Davis Street site.

Johnson "is a man who just sort of stepped forward full of inspiration and spirit," Hodges said. "He's a man who's full of heart and a strong passion to reach out to the community. …

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