Baptist men to honor their first ladies at banquet
BY DONNA WALKER, Correspondent
Pastors' wives preach, teach and minister at the same time they raise families and hold jobs. But it's pastors who routinely receive recognition for fulfilling the duties of church leaders.
Not many understand what pastors' wives, called first ladies, do. But the Men's Day Committee of Bright Side Baptist Church is not among them.
"We know exactly what the first ladies are doing," says Kevin Lupton, committee chairperson. "It's a lot of work behind the scenes and they don't get the glory … for the job they do."
The committee will sponsor a banquet to honor the first ladies of seven area Baptist churches on April 6 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the Bright Side Opportunities Center. The committee wants each first lady to be recognized as the woman beside her husband, not behind him.
As pastors' wives, the myriad tasks that fall to them are quietly accomplished.
"My main role is trustee," says Pristilla Houston with the First Baptist Church of Temple, but she also sings, serves as deaconess, helps with committees and more.
Houston and others find it disconcerting to list their duties. Some jobs, like preacher, come with specific duties and occur at regular times. Others fall to them when those responsible don't show up. Being available to do any job that would otherwise go undone means they are trained to do it all.
"Whatever needs to be done, I fill in," says Houston, whose husband, Pastor Lawrence F. Houston Sr., leads the church. "We're in the midst of it all."
Sharon Kay, of New Life Christian Fellowship in Lancaster, says finding a balance requires planning and being blessed with an understanding congregation.
"I don't co-pastor with him," Kay says of her husband, Pastor Preston G. Kay III. "The congregation allows me to be me."
She says it benefits the congregation when pastors' wives do what they're passionate about.
Likewise, Lisa Jackson, of Goodwin Memorial Baptist Church in Harrisburg, says she accepts she can't do it all, so she puts her energy where it makes the biggest contribution. She is married to Pastor James D. Jackson.
Both Lisa Jackson and Kay were married many years before their husbands professed their call to the ministry. Kay was the daughter of a minister. Jackson had grown up in the church and had a close relationship with her first lady. Kay's intimate knowledge of the role led her to think she would never marry a pastor, but she and Jackson knew what to expect.
"I saw what (my first lady) went through," Jackson says. "I knew the Lord would prepare me to go through it, and actually he had already prepared me because he allowed me to be close to her."
She and Kay had the same requirement when their husbands told them they would be preachers.
"If this is what the Lord wants you to do, I'm there with you, but … I'm not wearing a hat every Sunday, because that's not me," Jackson says.
The tradition of wearing hats goes back to the years when people dressed for church in their finest clothes and women covered their heads. The pastor's wife wore the biggest hat, Kay says, and coordinated her dress, shoes and purse to match.
Many pastors' wives still choose to wear hats to Sunday service. Katie Butcher of Bright Side Baptist is one of them, but she appreciates that times have changed.
"They have a lot more freedom now … and it's good that freedom has come and we can be more comfortable with the position and the title," Butcher says. "Still, you have to have the foundation and be who you are as a pastor's wife."
She, too, was reluctant to be a first lady.
"When he said to me that he felt the call, I knew it was for real, because you know your man," Butcher says of her husband, Pastor Louis Butcher Jr. "And I knew I was going to support him no matter what. Because that's what you do. It's a husband-wife thing."
"I do what I do because I like it, not because it's a role," says Sandra Forbes of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Lancaster. "When I'm in a shelter I'm there because I want to be. … It's not because I'm trying to promote the church; I'm trying to promote God, to let them know somebody loves them. Just because of your circumstances, God does not stop loving you."
Forbes is married to Pastor Roland P. Forbes Jr.
While she embraces her outreach ministry, Forbes admits there is an expectation of preachers' wives.
"There is an expectation of perfection," Butcher says, but the ladies know that's impossible.
"You share a lot of what you go through so they can see you're normal, like them," says April Belton, of the Church of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost in Lancaster. Her husband is Pastor Albert Belton.
"They look to you to be their example of what a holy woman is supposed to be, those that are striving to be Christlike," she says. "But when we get in our women's meetings, we can let down a little bit and … give them examples, and it's always Jesus. You have to be like Jesus."
Eloise Godwin, of Mount Calvary Baptist Church in York, says even with all the functions pastors' wives assume, "a lot of times you are not looked at, you are looked over." Godwin, who is married to Pastor Thaddeus L. Godwin Sr., guides a fellowship ministry for women going through personal issues in their lives.
"Even when your whole family is going through its own tragedy, people still call," Godwin says.
And that's OK.
"It's our love of Christ that allows us to support our husbands, support all the ministries and to take that phone call at 3 o'clock in the morning," Kay says.
"I do what I do because I like it, not because it's a role. When I'm in a shelter I'm there because I want to be. … It's not because I'm trying to promote the church; I'm trying to promote God, to let them know somebody loves them. Just because of your circumstances, God does not stop loving you."
First lady at Ebenezer Baptist Church