"First ladies, in most instances, are the backbone of the Black church. They run ministries, they counsel, they run conferences, they travel, speak, coach and own businesses of their own," writes Nelson.
If you've had an opportunity to watch the first two episodes of TLC's new show The Sisterhood, you are likely scratching your head wondering, "Really, is this the way my first lady and Pastor live outside of church"?
Based on my almost six months of investigate reporting for a feature on first ladies of the church in the current issue of ESSENCE, I can tell you that the new TLC reality show seems to miss the mark.
The new series, which debuted on New Year's day 2013, has caused quite a stir on social media and in the sacred, secretive, often isolated community of first ladies. The term first lady is one of deep respect and affection which originates out of the Black southern churches and dates back to Baptist church tradition as old as slavery. In modern times the term has come to symbolize much more relative to "first ladies."
First ladies, in most instances, are the backbone of the Black church. They run ministries, they counsel, they run conferences, they travel, speak, coach and own businesses of their own. Some work outside of the church as well as raise their own families, travel with their Pastor husbands, and help build the church within their respective communities. These women are not your mother or grandmother's traditional first lady. They are younger, educated, accomplished, chic, fit, assertive, but also consumed with their image in the church and public's eye. An issue which causes many of them to fall prey to "masking" their personal pain and challenges that they experience just as any other woman does in her marriage, family, and relationships.
In the February issue of Essence, we take a look at Pastor's wives in a first ever behind the scenes interview with some of America's most beloved present and past first ladies. What you will find is that these women are seasoned veterans, with grace, class and dignity. They have all been through a great deal, but they have all remained vibrant and resilient.
The TLC reality show The Sisterhood has so far missed the mark of "the sisterhood" that first ladies share one with another in churches throughout America and around the globe. It focuses more on personal drama and the newly-minted ministries of unknown Pastors and first ladies in Atlanta, Georgia. It lacks the foundation many of us had hoped for in actually having an insider's look into the lives of these amazing women.
Without a doubt, the life of a First Lady, though at times challenging and not without struggle, inherently has in it much gratification and admiration for those who choose to take on the title and wear it with pride. Lady Sherretta M. West of the Church Without Walls in Houston, Texas lovingly calls first ladies “Mosaic Women.” She says the notion came to her as she was in Rome at St. Peter’s Basilica where, as she marveled at the paintings, she realized they many were, in fact, mosaics. “The colors were so vibrant. The blues were blue, the reds were red, even though these murals where centuries old, the colors had not lost their vibrancy. It is the same with a woman of God. No matter what you have experienced, you can still give off light, you can still be vibrant. You can endure and remain beautiful. Regardless of your season of life, it is our variation of victories, defeats, successes, failures, trials and triumphs that makes the Mosaic woman of God so very powerful.” Amen
Sophia A. Nelson is an Essence.com contributor, an award winning author, and inspirational/motivational speaker for Fortune 500 corporations, colleges, churches and national organizations. Her newly re-released, revised Trade Paperback book Black Woman Redefined is available in stores now.