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Anchor for his soul

Lester Holt reflects on faith and journalism.

NEW YORK — For the longest time, Lester Holt would finish the Sunday edition of NBC’s “Today” show at 9 a.m., just when services began at the Manhattan Church of Christ.

When the elders moved the start time to 9:30, no one was happier than Holt.

“I don’t know if it was a personal favor to me, but it really has helped,” a chuckling Holt told The Christian Chronicle in an interview at the “Today” studios. “For a long time, I’d get off at 9, and then I’d have to bugaloo over there and get there about the third or fourth song before communion.

“I was the guy kind of sneaking in. Now, I have a little more time.”

For Holt, 50, who also is weekend anchor of “NBC Nightly News,” Sunday worship has been a part of his life as long as he can recall.

“Lester is a humble and loving Christian — a faithful member of our congregation who doesn’t seek attention to himself,” said Dave Swearingen, an elder at the 400-member Manhattan church. “He often helps to lead our worship, and his remarks are always an inspiration to us.”

The youngest of four children, Holt grew up in Alaska and California as the son of a career Air Force noncommissioned officer.

His mother, June Holt, a member of the Cordova Church of Christ in Rancho Cordova, Calif., near Sacramento, said the family always attended services together.

“We discussed the sermons and Bible class topics following services, so Lester is well-grounded in the Word,” June Holt said.

“I have heard him mention on more than one occasion on Sunday ‘Today’ that he would be attending church when he gets off the air,” she added. “That shows me he is not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.”The newsman’s father, Lester Holt Sr., has served as an elder at the Cordova church and the Carmichael Church of Christ, also in California.

“It might also be noted that Lester’s grandfather and great-grandfather were also elders of congregations in the Detroit area,” Les Sr. told the Chronicle.

The younger Holt was baptized at age 9 in Anchorage. But at age 14, he asked to be baptized again at the Carmichael church.

“I remember coming to my dad and saying, ‘I think I was baptized for the wrong reasons. I think I was just swept up in everyone doing it,’” the anchor said. “Maybe I didn’t need to be baptized again. But I just felt like I did.”

Later, as an adult, the inquisitive journalist stepped back and re-examined his faith.

“I did a lot of reading and a lot of my own study,” he said. “I wanted to make sure my faith was my own and not something I simply inherited. It’s not a matter of really questioning your faith, but questioning what you believe and why you believe.”

Les Sr. said: “Lester’s faith is his faith — not a faith inherited by osmosis. This is proven by the fact that although he left home at an early age, he has continued to be a faithful Christian.”

Asked how he tries to make his faith a priority in his life, the younger Holt replied: “Little things. It’s hard for me to articulate them. You know, read the Bible and pray and all the things we like to do. I think all of us in life always come up short. I’m certainly no different. I just try to keep my compass pointed in the direction I feel it needs to be pointed at.”

Often, Holt is asked whether it’s hard to be a person of faith in his profession.

Whenever that question is posed, he said, the implication seems to be that “this business is not for people of faith.”

“I think there’s a connotation that we’re the liberal, atheist media,” Holt said. “And I know a lot of people in this business who are people of faith — maybe not this specific faith that I share, but people who believe in God and follow their faith. So I don’t find it hard.

“In fact, I find in many ways that this job is a blessing, in that as a journalist, I really get to see life in all its permutations. … I see death. I see people going through the depth of tragedy, and I see people going through the highest of things. It just reminds you of how short life is … and I think it’s the kind of thing that in many ways is faith-affirming.”

The difficulty in terms of faith is not his profession but the time it requires, said Holt, who married his wife, Carol, in 1982, and has two adult sons.

But that stress is no different than if he were a doctor or a stockbroker, he said.

“One of the hard things for people to wrap their arms around — because they flip around the channels and hear all the opinionated liberal hosts and conservative hosts — is what I do working for the mainstream network,” Holt said. “I don’t bring an opinion to the table. In fact, I jealously guard my personal opinion.

“My job is to take people to the news of the day, and sometimes, there are going to be stories that are going to offend them, stories in which they’re going to hear a side that doesn’t particularly gel with their political and moral beliefs. But as journalists, we’ve got to report on this.

“I always feel like when I’m being hit from both sides, then I must be doing something right.”

From the archives
A Conversation with Lester Holt
Lester Holt brings NBC News to Pepperdine

  • Feedback
    I was so impressed with Lester playing the bass on NBC nightly news, that I had to look him up on-line I used to play the cello in high school for 8 yrs, so I have a special affection for stringed instruments
    And by the way, my Mother turns 86 tomorrow,1/13/2013
    She will be in church in the AM, and I’m gonna try to be there too, but I have been sick lately and I can’t commit
    So if it would be possible, and I understand if it can’t be, cuz you all are rich and famous,and I’m not,sing her Happy Birthday wishes tomorrow in the church service My Mama raised me right and I don’t know how many years she will be around She’s in good health now, as well as my step-dad, but only the Good Lord knows our time of passing
    Martha Halter
    Lower Marsh Creek Presbyterian
    Gettysburg, PA
    January, 12 2013
    Like many others we felt “that connection” with Lester. Keep up the great work God Bless!
    Carl Nelson
    sunrise, fl
    November, 24 2012
    My views on Lester has always been enligntening on the way he presents himself. I always felt that he was a Christian man. I listen to the weekend today show every morning. My you blessings continue to be rich for you and your family. Thanks and continue the good work in your faith.
    Emma Green
    Rock of Faith Baptist Church
    Mobile, Alabama
    October, 29 2012
    I wish there were more of us like Lester, that would stand up for their faith. This should be front page news!
    Julie Richbourg
    White Knoll Church of Christ
    Gaston, SC
    August, 11 2012
    I have always admired Lester Holt for his professionalism. His faith has kept him strong in an arena of huge egos. The Today Show would do well to replace Matt Lauer with him. We do not see enought of Lester.
    Robin Gorman
    Columbia, South Carolina
    United States
    August, 5 2012
    Lester is my favorite! With all the rumors and upheaval at NBC it is refreshing to know there’s someone like him in the media. Without knowing he was a believer until now, it is evident that he has the attributes of Christ with his gentle behavior. We should all who profess hope that people see a difference in us as we have Lester! May God bless you.
    Sharon Seay
    Clearview Baptist
    Greenville, Sc
    July, 15 2012
    Lester, both my wife and I admire your style, we look forward to your Sunday morning show as well as the time when you fill in for Brian. You do a great job, we feel we can trust your word, in today’s world that is a real complement.
    Bob & Jane Hoare
    St. Marys, Penna.
    July, 8 2012
    We always look forward to the broadcasts where Lester is reporting the news. We were so glad to read this article about his faith and the fact that he is faithful in attending his church after his broadcasts. His personality is so gentle and kind which reflects his faith. We always knew that there was something special about him, and now we know why.
    Tom and Jane Wills
    Church of the Brethren
    Greeenville, Ohio
    May, 21 2012
    I have always liked Lester, and now I have another reason. Makes perfect sense now-his way of reporting and mannerisms, etc. Thank you Lester for sharing your faith.
    Margaret Street Church of Christ
    April, 28 2012
    I can truly say it is a blessing to see someone ground in the faith who can easily represent Chirst on TV
    Elizabeth Coleman
    Symcamore Church Of Chirst
    Cordova, Tennessee 38016
    United States
    April, 10 2012
    Beautiful person, beautiful story. I love hearing about well- known members of the body of Christ who are able to remain grounded.
    Westside Church of Christ
    Baltimore, Maryland
    February, 6 2012
    I love Lester Holt, I miss seeing him walking on Michigan Ave thru the little park on Lunch and talking with a colleague in Chicago. Got to see him in New York twice and I was happy to see his Son join us in
    Good Luck and God Bless
    Jeanne Ohr
    Our Lady of Perpetual Help
    Glenview, Illinois
    February, 4 2012
    I have always loved to watch Lester Holt on the news. He seems so nice and genuine. Thrilled to know that he is a member of the Lord’s church. Thanks for the great article on him. To the baptist lady from Georgia, the thieves on the cross were not part of the church. It was not established until the day of Pentecost which came later. They were still under the law of Moses and therefore not in need of baptism yet.
    Jane Miller
    Moss Church of Christ
    Moss, TN
    July, 23 2011
    Lester, I’ve always admired you from a-far for your flawless and unbiased delivery of the news. What a great commentary on an all-around great guy. Thanks and continue to make the Lord’s case wherever you go.
    Mike Wilson
    From The Heart Church Ministries
    Washington , DC
    July, 23 2011
    I want to know if Mr. Holt had accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. I went to a Church of Christ school in Temple Terrace, FL. They believed in baptism for salvation using Acts 2:38 as proof. When asked about the thieves on the cross, C of C people said that they had been baptized at some earlier time. I pray Mr. Holt has accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior. I am praying to this end.
    Thank you so much for allowing me to comment on this.
    First Baptist Church, Cartersville, GA
    Cartersville, GA
    August, 26 2010
    So very happy to learn that Lester Holt is a member of the Lord’s church. Very uplifting. Speaks well of someone so well known.
    Don & Faye Buckelew
    East Huntsville congregation
    Huntsville, Alabama
    Faye Buckelew
    East Huntsville Church of Christ
    Huntsville, Alabama
    July, 12 2010
    I have listened to Lester for years. Have always appreciated his delivery of the news. Was not aware that he is a member of the Lord’s church. Of course, I am delighted to learn of this.
    Michael Hughes
    Marion, AR
    Marion, Arkansas
    March, 4 2010
    Great article. My husband and I have watched you on TV for years. A couple who attends our congregation sometimes, looks a lot like you. It’s your parents! God has truly blessed you with faithful parents and a dynamic career. We thank God for Christians like you. You are an excellent example for our youth. In Christ,
    Doris Grabski
    Central Church of Christ ~ Sacramento
    Sacramento, California
    United States
    February, 5 2010
    Super neat bio piece on a brother in Christ. Journalists are supposed to be unbiased, without prejudice. On the air Lester fills the bill and “ain’t it great” that he’s one of us.
    Jim Hollingsworth
    Timberlane Road
    Tallahassee, FL
    February, 1 2010
    Fantastic article on Bro. Lester Holt!! What great news to know that he is my brother in Christ. I have watched him for years when he was in Chicago and was glad when he got promoted to the Today Show and NBC Nightly News. He really is a professional anchorman. May God Bless you Bro. Holt and family.
    Elvin Golden, Sr.
    Midtown Church of Christ
    Racine, WI
    January, 20 2010
    The media need more people like Lester reporting. May God bless and keep him in His care.
    Carolyn Corria
    Oxon Hill CoC
    Ft. Washington, MD
    January, 8 2010
    What a treat to read of Lester’s faith. He has an advantage over people in Britain though. Here in this country anyone in the public eye would soon be demoted or sacked if they dared to talk about believing the Bible message.
    Peter Hodge
    Upholland, Lancashire
    United Kingdom
    January, 5 2010
    Excellent article! We have always enjoyed and respected Mr. Holt’s work since he started at the Today Show. God Bless him and his family and all of you. You have an informative and honest website.
    Randy Smith
    First Baptist Church of West Palm Beach
    West Palm Beach, Florida
    United States
    January, 5 2010
    I have worked in the news industry all of my adult life, and I believe that my faith has grown as a result. For me, it would have been difficult to survive without faith, what with all the negativity that the world spews out. These last few years have been particularly painful for me as a newspaper journalist, because my profession has truly taken a beating. My faith has sustained me, as I know it has sustained Lester. My hat’s off to him for his forthrightness.
    Denise Bridges
    Calvary Chapel Newport News
    Williamsburg, VA
    January, 4 2010
    I knew there was a reason I liked lester holt. I have looked forward to seeing and hearing him on the weekend for a number of years. His reports and entertaining dialogues on the todat show and NBC News have always struck me a balance and fair, not agressive or rude to those he is interviewing. Now knowing his faith, adn believing it will make a difference in his reporting, I will enjoy him even more.
    Much success to you Lester Holt.
    Douglas Bagwell
    Warrington Church of Chris,t Warrington PA
    Churchville, pa
    January, 3 2010
    That was a great article, and we were thrilled to hear that Lester Holt was a Christian. We have always thought he was a very nice man. Heart warming article. Thanks!
    Dean and Linda Bingham
    Hillcrest Church of Christ
    Gainesville, TX
    January, 2 2010
    Blessings for 2010.
    Very encouraged.
    A beacon of Light and Hope at NBC.
    John Barhydt
    Cardinal Drive
    Elgin, IL
    January, 2 2010

Filed under: Lester Holt National

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