Imperfect but Impactful

Written by Cecelia Walker, Chair, ACPE Board of Directors

I’ve been to the mountaintop, and I’m so grateful! When I arrived at my office at Princeton Baptist Medical Center almost 13 years ago, I stood at the window and vocalized my thank you to as many people as I could think of and acknowledged the Spirits of those whose names I don’t know, who's shoulders I stood on and stand on. I am aware that their sacrifices and courage have paved the way for me to serve as ACPE Chair of the Board of Directors. Last week, at the Chair Banquet, I experienced a great cloud of witnesses leaning over heaven’s balcony cheering me on. At the front, my son, Jeffery shouting “do your thang Momma!” and my daughter, Gabrielle in her sweet voice saying: “I’m so proud of you Mommy!” The memory of my colleagues standing, clapping and cheering for me is etched in my heart and mind. My gratitude is boundless. I don’t know whether you are familiar with the book, The Five Love Languages, but my love language is affirmation. A genuine thank you can get me to work my bottom off! I’ve loved ACPE for almost 30 years, and I pledge anew to give our beloved Association my very best.

What follows is my installation address. CPE helped me to be okay with being vulnerable and taking risks. Because I want you to know me better, I share the following:


Imperfect but Impactful


I have a loving and devoted family, a supportive faith community and engaged supportive colleagues at my place of work.

Like most people I know, I have gone through some difficult times, but my testimony is this- through it all I thank God for my life and His presence in it, and because of the challenges I have faced, there have been times that I was disappointed and angry because of what He allowed. CPE and therapy helped me to understand that if I have a relationship with someone and fear losing the relationship because I am honest about my feelings, we don’t have much of a relationship. Learning to be authentic with my Creator has become part of the significant work in my faith journey and our relationship is deeper than it has ever been; we now have a very real relationship.

I am the eldest daughter of Annie Laura Richardson Walker and Walter Cecil Walker. I have four siblings, three brothers Charles, Thomas, and Cecil, and one sister -Debra. Our family has been blessed and enlarged by the addition of my two children, Jeffery and Gabrielle; nephews -Thomas, Michael and William; nieces – Eboni, Mahogani, Destini and Celisa; grandnieces Imani and soon Journi; and grandnephews - Warren and soon Ace.  We are a small family, but we are a strong and supportive family. When we were growing up everyone wanted to be a part of our family and our spouses all commented that they had never felt so welcomed, accepted and loved by anyone. We are imperfect, but impactful.

I have part of my father‘s name and part of my mother ‘s name and that’s important to me. You will see my name written: Cecelia Ann Walker. Our parents were brilliant but denied not just opportunities, but basic human rights. Signing up to vote was as simple as completing a short form for me; I’ve been privileged to walk in the front doors of places, to eat in restaurants, and to stay in hotels, that my parents were not allowed. So, when Cecelia Ann Walker shows up, so do they.

They expected excellence (not perfection), loved us deeply and never wasted time or energy playing the victim but modeled doing the best they could with what they had. They gave me many gifts, but the gifts of grit, grace and gratitude are daily reminders to me of what Dr. King called “Somebodiness” …  I am Somebody. I don’t really have words that adequately convey how they prepared me to face the good and bad things that I have encountered throughout my life. They were imperfect but oh, so impactful.

As I stand here today, I am just as surprised as some of you may be. I marvel at how I got here myself. For most of my life, apart from my family, I have been overlooked and underestimated. I have always been a hard worker and occasionally my hard work would pull me out of obscurity, and for a moment I would be exposed for being the talented person I am. So, one of the things I’d like to share with you is this: stay focused on your work… not just literal work, but your essence, who you are and who you are created to be and less focused on what others are saying and doing. I recently got to hear a close friend’s son play the piano. I was overwhelmed and got goosebumps. Later, as my friend and I were talking about how amazing his son’s gift is, he said, “that boy would practice all day, and when I say all day that’s what I mean, 8 – 9 hours a day!” This conversation reminded me that the investment we make in our personhood, our skills, etc. out of the eyesight of others, in our hidden seasons prepares us for the moments when what we say and do makes a difference in meaningful and significant ways in the places we were ordained to fill.   

In the Spring of 1999 as I was nearing the end of my first year of Residency, my CPE Supervisors invited me to go to a business meeting of the ACPE Southeast Region. It was held in a church in Georgia. I am not sure of the city. But I remember that I was the youngest person there, one of three women and the only African American in the place. The rest were older white men. To this day, I remember thinking: “What the heck?!!!”

Now, let me give you context: when I was a little girl, after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, I won a contest by writing an essay about what his life meant to me. We went downtown Birmingham to the Boutwell Auditorium where I was to read my piece; my parents were only allowed to stand backstage and watch. When I stepped on stage, and I looked out to the audience and saw what seemed like a sea of white faces; I fainted- not figuratively, but literally.

Our Church was near the expressway and except for the few white people who came to ask for help to buy food, I had rarely seen anyone who was not African American but I had heard stories and warnings. This was a turbulent time in Birmingham, Alabama. I was very aware of how dangerous the times were. My Church hosted mass meetings; Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth’s home and the 16th Street Baptist Church had been bombed, and my best friend’s father was killed by a white policeman- shot in the back.

Now, decades later I found myself in a city that from the optics seemed to be populated predominantly if not 100%, with white people, attending a CPE event with people I had never met. I was nervous, and except for the fact that I trusted my Educators, I would have been scared if not terrified. We were there for two days, and when I returned to Birmingham, I had a deeper understanding of the call to Supervision and began to think that maybe this was a way that I could live out my calling as a woman minister. I knew that was who I was called to be.

I was already aware, that significant people in my life had been impressed with how I was growing because of my CPE experience, my own children commented, “Mommy you listen differently”; I was certainly finding my voice; pushing against what was expected and moving toward more authenticity; I was becoming more accepting of myself and others and more courageous.

I wish that I could tell you that my Center supported that Call but once again I was pushed aside and someone else, a male, was chosen to fill that space. Remembering conversations I had had with my supervisors leading up to the interview, I felt betrayed and rejected. I had felt the Call so strong, but I began to doubt if I heard God clearly. So, I accepted another year of residency and worked hard to develop my skills without a clue to what would be next.

I had never gone to a REM Invitational, but it was offered by our Center, so I decided to go. It was invigorating, but I had made my mind up: after the Residency for that year was complete, I was going back to work at the library. I was heartbroken and had almost convinced myself that I had “missed” God. At the end of the Invitational, we gathered to pray and sing the closing song, and I was weeping when I felt a gentle touch on my shoulder. A person whom I had never met introduced himself as Carlos Bell. He generously spent more than an hour with me and declared and affirmed that God had indeed called me and spoke words that have come true time and time again for more than 20 years. “I am here to help you in whatever way I can.” This chance encounter with Carlos is what I refer to as a collateral blessing: unanticipated good that occurs alongside or in response to pain, loss, or tragedy. It was the beginning of what has turned out to be nothing short of an amazing ride!

Time is too short to tell you all that happened to get me to this point, but what I need you to understand is that I left a job that I loved, taking a huge cut in pay, while in a bad marriage raising two children headed to a place that I didn’t know. Since that time God has graced me with people who saw the gifts that had been developing in my “hidden years” and I have come out of the shadows… imperfect but impactful.

From my first days attending regional meetings I have been included, starting to serve ACPE at the Regional level before becoming a candidate and as I continued every round went higher and higher. And so with a heart overflowing with gratitude, I stand here probably more surprised than any of you. This is not an easy role; there is a lot of work that needs to be done. I need and covet your support. To whom much is given much is required, so I have accepted this honor and burden because of all that I have been given by ACPE our imperfect but impactful Association. 


Blessings Always,

Cecelia Ann Walker
ACPE Board Chair


Rev.Dr.Cecelia Walker is a Certified Educator at The Ingalls Center of Pastoral Ministries in the Baptist Health System. She is currently serving as Chair of the ACPE Board of Directors and can be reached at