The Pastor's Wife

The Pastor's Wife

by ReShonda Tate Billingsley
The Pastor's Wife

The Pastor's Wife

by ReShonda Tate Billingsley


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Bestselling author ReShonda Tate Billingsley evokes laughter, tears, and stunningly dramatic revelations in this uplifting novel about the power of love and forgiveness.

The rising pastor of Houston’s Lily Grove church, Terrance Ellis needs to find a wife. And not just any wife, but the right young woman to stand beside him as First Lady of Lily Grove at the fast-approaching one-hundredth-year Christmas service. That is according to Eva, Dorothy Mae, and Mamie, Terrance's three endlessly argumentative aunts, the strong, outspoken ladies who lovingly raised him and got the once-troubled boy on the right path after his grandmother Essie died in a tragic accident. They know the perfect mate is out there for their humble and handsome nephew. So why, of all women, is outrageous, flirtatious Savannah McKinney drawing him in? Seeing Terrance falling under her seductive spell has got his aunts frantically matchmaking since time is running out and gossip is flying. Who will be the pastor’s wife? Only heaven knows for sure. . . .

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781416521662
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication date: 11/20/2007
Edition description: Original
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

ReShonda Tate Billingsley’s #1 nationally bestselling novels include Let the Church Say Amen, I Know I’ve Been Changed, and Say Amen, Again, winner of the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work. Her collaboration with Victoria Christopher Murray has produced four hit novels, Sinners & Saints, Friends & Foes, A Blessing & a Curse, and Fortune & Fame. BET released a movie in 2013 based on ReShonda’s book Let the Church Say Amen in which she had a minor role. She also had a role in the made-for-TV movie The Secret She Kept based on her book of the same title. Visit, meet the author on Facebook at ReShondaTateBillingsley, or follow her on Twitter @ReShondaT.

Read an Excerpt

chapter 1

"Boy, you sho' can preach!" Chester Edwards let out a hearty laugh as he slammed his oversize palm on Terrance's back.

Even though he stood a good four inches taller than Chester's small, five-feet- eight frame, Terrance had to catch himself from falling over. He forced a smile and nodded at Chester. "Thank you, Brother Edwards. I try my best."

"Hmph, try? My handsome nephew just got a natural talent," Eva said as she brushed a piece of lint off Terrance's robe. She smiled, admiring his strong features, his smooth, coffee brown skin and cheekbones that could cut glass.

Mamie walked to the other side of Terrance and draped her arm through his. "And what else would you expect, Chester, when he was raised by four of the most wonderful women in the world?"

Terrance blushed. His aunts were so proud of him now. After his grandmother's death, they had stepped up their mothering roles. He'd worked hard to turn his life around. He had stood at his grandmother's funeral and promised God that he would make his grandmother proud.

Terrance dumped his friends, buckled down in school, and shocked everyone when on the one-year anniversary of Essie's death he said he wanted to give his life to God. He went on to college at Clark Atlanta University, then seminary school at Arkansas Baptist College. Not too long after moving back to Houston, he became pastor of Lily Grove Missionary Baptist Church.

Terrance couldn't help the warm feeling that filled his heart when he thought of how happy his grandmother would be to see him as a preacher, of all things, especially at Lily Grove, the church he'd grown up in.

Chester let out a grunt, bringing Terrance out of his thoughts. "It's a wonder that boy know how to do anything the way y'all old hens are fawning over him all the time like he's the Second Coming." Chester quickly looked at Terrance. "No disrespect, Pastor."

"None taken, Brother Edwards." Terrance chuckled. Both men stopped talking as a tall, older woman in a short, tiger-print miniskirt and satin-fringed shawl sauntered out of the sanctuary.

"Afternoon, Pastor," she said, trying to sound sexy. "That was a wonderful sermon you preached today."

"Thank you, Sister Florence." Terrance turned to the beautiful, young woman standing behind her. "Sister Savannah, did you enjoy the service today?"

Savannah nodded. "I did."

"Then why did you sleep through half of it?" Florence cackled as she tossed the strands from her honey blond wig out of her face.

Savannah looked uncomfortable, but quickly replied, "Grandma, you know I was not asleep."

"I don't know nothing but what I saw, and I saw your eyes closed."

Terrance smiled. "I'm sure Sister Savannah was just deep in prayer."

Savannah returned his smile. "That's exactly what I was doing, Pastor." Her eyes lit up as she looked him up and down.

Florence looked at her granddaughter strangely. "Girl, are you openly flirtin' with the pastor?" She laughed. "Please. Tell her, Reverend. As if she stood a snowball's chance of being with a man like you." Florence continued laughing, ignoring the hurt look across Savannah's face. "Come on here, gal. I done told you 'bout them pipe dreams. Like Reverend Ellis would even be caught dead with somebody like you," she mumbled as she made her way down the steps.

Savannah couldn't mask the hurt as she looked at Terrance. She seemed like she wanted to say something, but just clutched her purse tighter and took off after her grandmother.

"That's a doggone shame the way that woman does that child," Chester said as he watched them walk down the sidewalk.

"I guess we just invisible? She didn't even acknowledge us and we're standing right next to you," Eva snapped to Terrance. She turned up her nose. "And look at her." Florence had stopped and was wiggling to pull down her skirt, which had risen up her thighs. "What is that woman, sixty-five? And still trying to dress like she's twenty-one?"

Mamie echoed her sister's disgust. "She's looking like a broke-down Eartha Kitt. And got the nerve to think she's still sexy. Hussy. I don't know why she even bother coming to church. Like she even knows God."

"How do you know what's in her heart?" Terrance admonished.

"Whatever," Mamie said, blowing his question off. "What self-respecting, decent Christian woman, especially someone her age, comes to church in a tiger-print miniskirt?"

"I don't know," Chester replied, licking his lips as he watched Florence walk down the street. "I think she is nice-looking, and that body, Lord, have mercy."

"Don't you have to get home and feed your chickens, Chester?" Dorothy Mae snapped, her face suddenly becoming flush with anger.

"Pigeons. I got pigeons!" he snapped back.

"They're all the same," Dorothy Mae nonchalantly replied.

"They is not! You ever heard of Kentucky Fried Pigeon?" Chester stomped down the steps of Lily Grove. Dorothy Mae had hit a sore spot.

"And if you ever need to communicate with somebody and yo' telephone don't work, don't come asking to use my pigeons!" he called out as he stomped off.

"I promise you ain't got to ever worry about that!" Dorothy Mae yelled after him.

"Now, Dorothy Mae, why you agitating Chester like that?" Eva said, a smile forming across her wrinkle-free face. Eva was almost seventy, but could easily pass for fifty. Years of a careful regime of Dove soap and water had proved to be good to her.

"Cuz ever since he dumped her, she got to give him a hard time," Mamie cackled, her hefty frame jiggling as she teased her petite sister.

"He didn't dump me," Dorothy Mae protested. "It was the other way around and you know it. After Ernest died, God rest his soul, I couldn't keep Chester from sniffing around me. He wanted me, not the other way around."

"Excuse me, ladies, but as much as I would love to hear you all stand around and go at it all afternoon, I need to get going. Brother Edwards was the last one out of the church, I believe, and I, umm, I have some business I need to take care of."

All three pairs of eyes focused on Terrance. He got a temporary reprieve when his secretary, Raquel Mason, stuck her head out the sanctuary door.

"Pastor, I've wrapped everything up," she said, smiling when she saw the three women. "Hello, ladies." They all smiled back as they spoke.

"Will you be needing anything else?" Raquel asked.

"No, thank you," Terrance responded.

"Okay, I have to get home and fix dinner for Dolan."

"When are you gonna get that fiancé of yours to come to church?" Terrance asked.

"When hell freezes over," Mamie mumbled. Eva pushed her arm to get her to shut up.

Raquel either didn't hear her or chose to ignore her. "I'm working on it, Pastor. But you know how it is."

Terrance didn't press the issue because he knew that it was a sore spot with his faithful secretary. It hurt his heart to see the pain in her eyes when she talked about the man she was set to marry in less than five months. But she would never really open up to Terrance about it, so there wasn't much he could do.

"Well, you all have a blessed day. I parked out back." Raquel waved as she walked back inside the church.

She had barely closed the door when Eva turned back to her nephew. "Now, back to you. What kind of business do you have on a Sunday afternoon other than dinner with us?" Eva was trying not to let her attitude show.

Terrance normally spent Sunday afternoons having dinner and visiting with his aunts. It had broken Eva's heart that he'd gotten his own place when he moved back to Houston. The only thing that soothed her was that it wasn't far from her.

"I just have something I need to take care of," Terrance softly responded. Even though he was twenty-nine years old and an esteemed pastor, his aunts still had a way of making him feel like a little boy.

"I know you ain't got a date you haven't told us about," Mamie said.

Terrance bit his lip. He knew at some point in his life he was going to have to cut the apron strings his aunts had tied firmly around his neck. "For your information, I do."

"With who?" all three women asked in unison.

"I don't know why you all feel like my dates need your stamp of approval," Terrance said, trying not to let his frustrations show.

He didn't date much and had never brought anyone home to meet his family. It's not that he couldn't get women. On the contrary, he never had a hard time attracting women. Truthfully, he just had a lot of demons he was dealing with, so a serious relationship wasn't on his radar. And the few women he met that he did like could never measure up to the "Lily Grove" standard anyway.

"Now, Terrance, that is so unfair of you to act like we don't want you to find a woman," Eva said. "Remember, I tried to set you up with Sister Eloise's daughter."

Terrance caught himself from rolling his eyes. "Yeah, the girl with the stuttering problem. Look, I don't want to have this conversation again. If and when it looks like this date is going anywhere, I'll bring her home to meet you all. Until then" -- he leaned in and kissed each woman gently on the cheek -- "get you some business and stay out of mine." He smiled widely, while they narrowed their eyes in disapproval.

"I know, I know" -- he laughed as he walked off -- "as if that would ever happen."

Copyright © 2007 by ReShonda Tate Billingsley

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Say Amen, Again includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author ReShonda Tate Billingsley. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Rachel Adams is trying to find a way to forgive her husband, Pastor Lester Adams, for having an affair. Her task is made all the more difficult by the reappearance of his former mistress, Mary Richardson, in their family’s church. Now pregnant, Mary claims that Lester is the child’s father and is intent on seducing him away from Rachel. Meanwhile, a tragedy rocks the foundation of the Adams family and everyone involved is confronted with an ultimate decision of forgiveness.

Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. What does Rachel’s dream in the novel’s opening chapter reveal about her fears? How is she able to overcome these fears by the end of the book?

2. Despite Lester’s continual refusal of her affections, Mary protests that the love she feels for him is real. Do you think this is true?

3. Rachel fears that her anger is interfering with her growth as a Christian. Do you agree with her decision to leave the church until Mary is removed? Likewise, do you think Mary should be removed from the church—or do you agree with Deacon Jacobs’s assessment that “if they kicked one transgressor out, they had to kick them all out” (p. 14)?

4. Mary’s visit from her mother, Margaret, is unwelcome and reinforces why Mary removed Margaret from her life in the first place. How does Mary feel when she sees her mother? How do you think Mary’s relationship with her mother has influenced her as a person?

5. Mary’s dealing ex-boyfriend, Craig, is another unwelcome visitor who brings “nothing but trouble” when he comes around. Is there anything Mary could have done to rid Craig from her life and leave her past behind? Or do you think her past was always destined to follow her?

6. Fed up with Aunt Minnie’s constant judgment of his family, Simon reveals a few of her deepest secrets to prove that she’s not as perfect as she pretends to be. As Simon says, do you think she “had that coming”?

7. Although Bobby never makes an appearance in this novel, Rachel can’t help but think about him from time to time. She wonders if chasing after him in the past influenced Lester’s affair with Mary. Do you feel that Rachel is right to take on part of the blame for Lester’s affair?

8. After Rachel’s interaction with Pastor Terrance Ellis at Lily Grove Church, she felt humiliated for having misunderstood the pastor’s intentions. Did you also think Pastor Ellis was coming on to Rachel? How did you react to her reasoning that having an affair of her own would help her recover from Lester’s affair? Have you ever felt a similar urge to seek some kind of revenge?

9. Did Roderick’s suicide take you by surprise? Teenage bullying due to sexual orientation is a prominent topic in the media today. How does Roderick’s story echo other tragedies you’ve read or heard about?

10. Rachel’s father offers words of advice after Lester is arrested: “Baby girl, God is in the blessing business. He’s not in the punishing business. . . . Just know that God doesn’t give us more than we can bear” (p. 197). Do you agree? Has there ever been a time in your life that you felt you were being tested beyond what you could bear?

11. What did you think of Rachel’s decision to keep Mary’s son, despite him being a constant reminder of Lester’s indiscretion? Would you have made the same decision? Similarly, how would Rachel’s decision have been different if it had turned out that Lester was, in fact, the boy’s father?

12. How did your opinion of Mary change as you read the book? By the end of the novel, did you find yourself sympathizing with her situation? Or did you think she got what she deserved?

13. How does the role of forgiveness impact both the characters and the events in the novel? Is Rachel truly able to forgive Lester for his indiscretion by the end of the book? Do you think Jonathan will ever be able to forgive himself for what happened to Roderick?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Let the Church Say Amen, the first in ReShonda Tate Billingsley’s Say Amen series, is currently being produced as a feature film. If you were in charge of casting, who would you cast as Rachel? Lester? Mary?

2. Roderick’s suicide, like many other teenage suicides committed by those who do not feel accepted by their families and/or communities, came as a saddening shock to those who loved him. If you’d like to help troubled teens in your area, consider taking part in one of the following campaigns:

• The It Gets Better Project, a worldwide movement of hope for LGBT youth:

To Write Love on Her Arms, a movement dedicated to helping those who struggle with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide:

The Trevor Project, a campaign for a future where all youth have the same opportunities, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity:

3. Say Amen, Again is the third book in ReShonda Tate Billingsley’s series about Rachel and her family. If your book group hasn’t yet read the first two books in the series, consider Let the Church Say Amen or Everybody Say Amen for your next discussion.

4. You can learn more about ReShonda Tate Billingsley and her books on her official website ( You can also follow her on Twitter (

A Conversation with ReShonda Tate Billingsley

Say Amen, Again is the third book in the Say Amen series. Which character do you think has grown the most since Let the Church Say Amen, the first in the series?

It would definitely have to be Rachel. I mean, did you ever imagine the Rachel we first met would be capable of adopting the child of her husband’s mistress?

Do you have any plans to write another book about Rachel and her family? What’s next for the Jacksons and the Adamses?

Rachel is one of those characters that won’t let me tuck her away. I never planned to write the first sequel, and she demanded that her story continue. Next up, she’ll meet up with Jasmine Larson Bush, the main character from author Victoria Christopher Murray’s Jasmine series. The two women are so much alike and so different and they’ll clash as both try to get their husbands elected to a prestigious position in a national organization. That book is called Saints and Sinners and comes out in 2012.

Before you began writing Say Amen, Again, did you know how it would end? Was Rachel always going to accept Mary’s baby into her life?

Oh, I never know how my books are going to end. That’s why it’s so hard for me to write an outline. My characters take over and they tell me the direction in which they want to go. So, I had no idea if the baby was going to even be Lester’s, let alone Rachel’s plan for the child.

Roderick’s suicide is undoubtedly one of the novel’s saddest moments. Why did you feel this was important to include?

I just wanted to show the tragic side of what can happen when our young people feel like they can’t talk to anyone. I don’t even know whether Roderick was gay, but the simple fact that he was conflicted was cause for concern. Yet, for various reasons, he had nowhere to turn.

When it comes to writing, what would you say is your greatest challenge?

Whew, I guess it would be I can’t write fast enough, and I write pretty fast! There are so many unchartered territories I’d like to venture into, but my plate is pretty full. Some people would think that time might be a challenge, but I believe that you find time for your passion and writing is my passion, so time has never been an issue for me.

In its starred review of Let the Church Say Amen, Library Journal raves about your ability to infuse your text with “just the right dose of humor to balance the novel’s serious events.” Do you find it difficult to strike this balance in your writing?

I don’t. At all. People are always telling me how funny I am and I just don’t see it. I guess it’s because I’m not trying to be. It’s just a part of me; so naturally it’s reflected in my writing.

When you write, do you craft your novels with a mostly Christian audience in mind? Or do you aim to reach a wider readership?

Well, I’m a Christian who writes fiction, but that’s about the scope of my target. I mean, of course I want Christians to enjoy my book, but I also want nonbelievers, people of other religions, anyone and everyone to be able to pick up my book and enjoy it. And more than anything, get a message out of the book. In fact, my greatest joy in writing comes from those who found themselves growing closer to God, stronger in their faith, because of something I wrote. But at the end of the day, my message is for the masses. I believe that’s what God has called me to do.

What most inspires you to write?

A pure, simple passion for telling stories.

If one of your readers wanted to write a novel of his or her own, what would be the first piece of advice you would offer?

Don’t just talk about writing, write. And every minute you spend talking about what you don’t have time to do could be spent doing it. So many people don’t get their book finished because they let that get in the way. Something will always get in the way. The road to success is paved with tempting parking spaces. Don’t take a detour in trying to reach your dream. And finally, set small, attainable goals. I started with three pages a day, five days a week. No matter what, I committed to that. Well, before I knew it, three turned to thirty and I was able to finish my book.

What would you say is the most important thing for your readers to take away from Say Amen, Again?

The power of forgiveness and moving past your anger. I also hope that the book helps people reflect on how judging someone is something that should be left up to God.


Reader's Group Guide for The Pastor's Wife by ReShonda Tate Billingsley


Handsome and charismatic pastor Terrance Ellis is beloved by the Lily Grove Baptist Church community. Terrance's commitment to his work leaves little time for romance and, to the dismay of his congregation and his family, he is almost thirty and still a bachelor. While the church elders and his elderly aunts vow to find Terrance a wife before the church's upcoming hundredth anniversary Christmas celebration, Terrance tentatively begins dating Savannah, a woman with a checkered past and a provocative style. As he gets to know Savannah, however, his relationship with his secretary, Raquel, begins to change in unexpected ways. One way or another, Terrance seems on his way to settling down, but the long-buried secret Savannah uncovers threatens to destroy Terrance's career and his chance at love.

Questions for Discussion

1. The church elders are extremely concerned that Terrance isn't in a relationship, going so far as to suggest hiring an actress to portray his girlfriend. Aunt Mamie says, "They think if you're thirty and single, something's wrong." Why are the elders so focused on Terrance's marital status? How is their concern different from that of his aunts?

2. Terrance's friend Monty believes that Terrance can be a father to his child without marrying the mother. Do you think Terrance's decision to marry Savannah if she is pregnant is right? Why or why not?

3. Terrance's aunt Mamie tells Savannah, "People can change. We don't believe you can." Do you agree with Mamie that some people are incapable of change? Do you think that under the right circumstancesanyone can change?

4. In what ways do Terrance's shortcomings help him to be a better pastor and a better man?

5. Were Terrance's aunts right to interfere so much with his love life? Did your opinion of them change as events unfolded?

6. If you've read Billingsley's novels Everybody Say Amen and Let the Church Say Amen, you'll recognize Rachel Jackson Adams, the first lady of Zion Hill who gives a speech at Lily Grove's Christmas brunch. What parallels do you see between Savannah and Rachel? Why do you think Billingsley included Rachel in this novel?

7. What did you think about the relationship between Raquel and Dolan? Did it realistically portray the horror of domestic violence? How did you feel about the dramatic way their relationship finally ended?

8. When Terrance reveals his secret and ends his relationship with Savannah for good, Savannah says, "I just needed someone like Terrance in my life and people would stop putting me down so much....I know I try to act like it doesn't, but it hurts and I just wanted a different life." Do you have any sympathy for Savannah? Did she genuinely think a relationship with Terrance would transform her? Do you believe she will truly "find herself"?

9. How does Grandmother Florence's past influence Savannah's behavior? How is it ironic that at the end of the novel, Terrance's aunts are more forgiving than Florence?

10. What did you think about Terrance after learning the secret he'd kept for fourteen years? Do you agree that, as Eva says, "[T]his is worse than any prison [he] could've been in"? Do you believe that he has been punished enough?

11. What does this novel seem to say about the nature of forgiveness and acceptance?

Activities to Enhance Your Book Club

1. Host a cozy potluck Sunday brunch or dinner (with or without Savannah's notorious hot wings). Visit and prepare tasty dishes featured in the novel, such as chicken Alfredo and lasagna.

2. Tyler Perry's films contain many of the same themes found in Billingsley's books, such as spiritual awakening and humorous family drama. Host a movie night and watch the blockbusters Diary of a Mad Black Woman and Madea's Family Reunion. Cast The Pastor's Wife and discuss who you'd like to see play the characters from the novel.

3. Learn more about the author and her upcoming tours and projects at the comprehensive website www.reshondatate

ReShonda Tate Billingsley is the author of the nonfiction book Help!  I've Turned into My Mother and six previous adult novels: My Brother's Keeper, for which she received the prestigious Gold Pen Award for Best New Author from the Black Writer's Alliance and the Nova Lee Nation Award from the Greater Dallas Writing Association; the national bestseller and #1 Essence bestseller Let the Church Say Amen, chosen for Library Journal's Best of 2004 list for Christian fiction; I Know I've Been Changed, a main Selection of the Black Expressions Book Club and #1 Dallas Morning News bestseller; the sequel to Let the Church Say Amen and a USA Today 2007 ?Summer Sizzler? and Essence bestseller Everybody Say Amen; The Pastor's Wife, also an Essence bestseller and Can I Get A Witness.  Her previous teen novels are Friends 'Til The End, Fair-Weather Friends, Getting Even, With Friends Like These, Blessings in Disguise, and Nothing But Drama, all available from Pocket Books.  She is also a contributor to the anthology Have a Little Faith.  She welcomes readers to her websites at

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