First UMC Member Feature: Allan Walker

(written by Jamie Kolnes)

Allan Walker has been a treasured member of First UMC Santa Monica since 1947, where he was first drawn in as a teen by our music program. He spent several summers as the Director of the Youth Choir, and loved it. Walker has since stayed with the church for the community and spirit we share. We were so incredibly blessed to have had Allan Walker as our main church photographer for over 20 years.

Walker’s love of photography began in high school, when he and his friends joined the camera club. Walker loved the field trips and taking photographs of nearby scenery. He had been interested in science during high school, and began his college career studying pharmacy sciences. However, after his first year at USC, Walker was drafted into the army, where he served as a rifleman in Korea. Thanks to his typing skills, Walker was able to secure a job as the regimental headquarters clerk, where he started to help work on the local military newspaper.

When he left the army after two years of service, Walker was able to use his G.I. bill to obtain his degree in photography from the Art Center School in Los Angeles. His first job out of college was the Corporate Photographer for System Development Corporation (SDC), in Santa Monica. This was a very competitive position. SDC had computerized our air defense system for the US Air Force. At the time, they ran 95% of the computer systems in the United States. Walker had worked to illustrate articles written by the SDC magazine with photography. He stayed with them until the company was bought out by Sperry Rand Corporation.

Walker’s next step was to create his own freelance business. Allan and his wife, Caprice, whom he met and married at First UMC Santa Monica, built their home in Santa Monica Canyon. They added spaces for photography and ballet respectively. Walker’s career picked up exponentially, doing a variety of different jobs for advertising agencies, public relations firms, magazines, and more. When asked, Walker’s favorite kind of pictures to take are raw, candid moments of real life.

Walker started officially taking photographs for the church when Rev. Farris had wanted to start putting out a monthly magazine to cover church events. Over his years as our photographer, Walker attended most events, and has taken thousands of photos. When asked about his favorite aspect of photography, Walker answered “experimenting to get new ideas.” As an artist, Walker has worked a variety of jobs, and experimented with many different mediums. During our interview, where Walker’s wife Caprice was present, she recalled a question that Walker was asked on one of their vacations in the North Shore. A man had asked Walker, “How do you think photography has changed art?” Walker replied with “Photography freed the artist.” Walker believes that photography has opened up the opportunity for so much of the diversity in art. Artists are no longer limited with what they can draw, paint, or sculpt.

As photography has evolved, so have Walker’s skills. He became a “Jack of all trades,” learning digital photography as it had been invented, and working with all subjects during his time as a freelance photographer.

Now that he is retired, Walker enjoys his time with Caprice, his wife of 57 years, and family. Allan and Caprice love to feed the hummingbirds in their yard and look after their grandchildren’s two Guinea pigs. They regularly attend worship, and look forward to attending in person events.

We treasure both the photographs we have that were taken by Allan Walker and his strong presence in our community. He has captured so many special memories of our beautiful church and its members.

Advice to Our Students by First UMC member Mira Pak.

1. For every hour you spend in a class, you need to plan on two-three hours of independent study time.

2. Do not schedule classes, work, and practices back-to-back. Schedule time in between so that you can process the first class before you rush off to the next.

3. Learn about the services available for students. Know where to find help when you need it – financial, psychological, social, academic.

4. Find a good, quiet place to study: use that space only for academic work – don’t use it to nap or play video games.

5. Make lots of new friends, join clubs, find small-sized study groups.

6. Do NOT neglect your church-going. Going to Sunday services can keep you grounded no matter how far away from home you feel. Most important of all: Wherever you go or don’t go, First UMC is always home for you. You are welcome here no matter what.

This article first appeared in the June/July 2011 Sentinel.

Inspired by Saints: Larry Wilson Honors Fallen FBI Agents – By Shalimar Carducci


Larry Wilson, 2016

Church member Larry Wilson worked in the Los Angeles Field Office of the FBI for 15 of his 25 years as an FBI Agent. Needless to say, he and his colleagues have had some interesting experiences and seen some things, many of which he isn’t at liberty to share.

Back in 1986, as a result of his position as a Supervisory Special Agent, he recognized that there was a morale problem with the employees of the Los Angeles Field Office. Something had to be done, but what? After some thought, he realized that no one had ever formally recognized the fallen agents, their dear friends, who were killed in the line of duty.

During this time, Larry had been a regular visitor at First UMC Santa Monica for about 4 years. He would pray for his fallen colleagues and, in 1986, prayed for an inspiration on how to honor them. His prayers were answered while attending the All Saints service held in November each year.

All Saints is a very special service when thanks is given for members of the church who have died during the past year. Larry was especially moved by the bell ringing after each name was read out loud, echoing through the sanctuary. It was then he decided a similar memorial for the fallen agents was what was needed.

He contacted FBI Headquarters, in Washington, D.C., to identify any organizational policies regarding such an event and whether there was already a program he could follow to create the Los Angeles Field Office Memorial Service. He was advised that such events were left up to the discretion of each Field Office, that they could use their own initiative to create their own program. That is just what he and the employees of the Los Angeles Field Office did.

He began an inquiry with his entire staff, encouraging ideas and input from support personnel and Special Agents, to create a memorial for the Los Angeles Office. He took their suggestions, and, building on his own knowledge of ceremonies from his time in the Marines, the planning for the inaugural FBI Memorial Service began. This was achieved without FBI Headquarters involvement, so, Larry and his office persisted and organized and sponsored the ceremony on their own. It has been held every year since then and has even been recognized by FBI Headquarters as the standard for all other Field Offices. Three different FBI Directors have participated as the keynote speakers for the event.

Many of the First UMC congregation and clergy have attended. The Rev. Patricia Farris has given the Invocation and Benediction. Church members Mary Crawford and Robert Hedges have repeatedly volunteered as the bell ringers. Thirty-two years later, Larry continues to spearhead the event, continuously performing the duties of the “Master of Ceremonies” even though he retired from the Bureau in 1995. His mission to honor fallen FBI agents and to give glory to God for their lives continues.

All are welcome to attend the 32nd Annual FBI Memorial Service. This year’s keynote speaker is actor Joe Mantegna.

32nd Annual FBI Memorial Service Tuesday, May 8, 11 a.m. Westwood Federal Building, Los Angeles, 90024

This article first appeared in the May 2018 Sentinel


African American Spirituals by Jack Fry

Jack and Marj Fry

Did you know that there are 27 African-American spirituals in The United Methodist Hymnal, and that there are 13 in The Faith We Sing? Many African-American spirituals are familiar to us, as we have sung them in school, church and Sunday school and have listened as they were sung by famous musicians. Sometimes one inexplicably keeps repeating itself over and over in our minds as we go about our daily routines. They are melodic, rhythmic and each one tells a story, a story that we once heard in Sunday school or one that came to us from the Bible, or, in some cases, one with hidden meaning.

These spirituals go back to a rather dark time in American history, a time during which several hundred thousand human beings were captured in their native Africa, separated from their family members, crammed into the bowels of sailing ships and forced to suffer long sea voyages terminating in the United States where they were sold as slaves. They were forced to live under poor conditions, work long hours, receive no wages and were subjected to cruel treatment if they failed to please their owners or attempted to escape.

Forbidden to pursue their own religious beliefs, they were exposed to Christianity in the hopes of their owners that by following the teachings of the Bible, they would be less likely to attempt escape. Many of the slaves accepted these Christian teachings and expressed them in styles and rhythms that were familiar to them from their African heritage. Often the spirituals followed a format that reflected an African tradition of responses to a leader’s sung phrases, e.g. (TFWS: Rise Up Shepherd and Follow #2096; Over My Head #2148; Oh Freedom #2194; and several others as well as Swing Low, Sweet Chariot – UMH #703).

But African-American spirituals express more than Christian messages. Some, such as Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen (UMH #520) tell of the misery of lives torn from native homes only to be spent in slavery. Others, e.g. My Lord What a Mornin’ (UMH #719) and I’m Gonna Sing When the Spirit Says Sing (UMH #333) express joy and hope for a better life, and All Of God’s Chillun Got Shoes tells of the hope that shoes, which in many cases slaves didn’t have, would be available in Heaven (or freedom) as well as robes and harps.

In lamenting that the people of Israel were rejecting the word of God, the prophet Jeremiah referred to a resinous substance found in Gilead that was rubbed into wounds to promote healing and asked, “is there no balm in Gilead?” As the African slaves were exposed to and began to accept the teachings of Christianity, they saw Jesus as the answer to Jeremiah’s question, and they sang, There Is a Balm in Gilead.

In addition to Christian lessons, some of these songs are believed to have hidden messages. The words of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot (UMH #703) are believed to refer to escape to freedom, or if not escape, freedom from the miseries of slavery through death and Heaven. “A band of angels comin’ after me, comin’ for to carry me home” in which the word home may refer to freedom or Heaven; “If you get there before I do … tell all my friends I’m comin’ too.” Other songs that are believed to have encouraged escape attempts are Go Down Moses (UMH #448) and Steal Away to Jesus (UMH #704). Wade in the Water (TFWS #2107) was sung as a reminder that when attempting an escape, one should walk in water so that the dogs that were used to track fleeing slaves would not be able to follow the scent of the escapees.

Today as we listen to these songs or, better yet as we sing them ourselves, we can learn from the stories they tell, we can enjoy their rich melodies and rhythms, we can be thankful for the progress and understanding that has evolved, and we can anticipate enlightenment yet to come as we celebrate the music and culture of African-American History.

Jack and Marj Fry are First UMC Church members. This article first appeared in the February 2018 Sentinel.