(For the backstory, check out Part 1 first.)
Transition to the Pulpit
Since Denise was already a member of the church where she became first lady, there was quite an adjustment from being a college girl to becoming the first lady. “I made a lot of friends at Emmanuel from my years at Buff State, so my friends had to learn how to respect me in a different light,” she says.
I’ve been told I don’t act like a pastor’s wife,” Sharon says, “but I take it as a complement to say that I’m down to earth. I’ve been told by people that they are waiting to see what I have on in the pulpit and I just take it that I’m a role model which can be a positive tool to use to minister to young ladies. I have never heard any negative things about me directly, but I learned to evaluate what is being said. If it’s true, I try to be mindful of it and grow and develop in the area, but if it is not true, I pray that the individual who said it would grow and mature in that area.”
“Being a pastor’s wife is rewarding, but you can also feel isolated,” Denise admits. Another first lady advised Denise to be mindful of how she behaves—to never let people see her cry or get upset. Denise said she felt like she had to be perfect. She also had to deal with people’s expectations of how she should act and dress. “Some people wanted me to wear hats like their previous first lady.”
Iris says she wasn’t a kind of first lady who could sit around and look cute wearing a big hat. “Ladies have to see that you’re a person,” she says. “Sometimes you like to have fun, but sometimes you cry and you go through things.” Similar to Denise, when Iris became the first lady, well-meaning, mature people in ministry advised her not to be friends with the other women in the church, but to just be friends with other ministers and keep to herself otherwise. But Iris rejected that notion. “I like to hang out with the other ladies, I invite them to my house, and I teach them. I tell people that we do things not because the pastor says so, but because the Bible says so.”