During Women’s History Month, I’ve launched a new interview series featuring First Ladies! In thinking about my mother who was the First Lady of Central Christian Church in Atlanta, Georgia for 38 years before my father retired in 2017 and after reading Kimberla Lawson Roby’s final Rev. Curtis Black book “Better Late Than Never” which explored Charlotte’s desire to not be a typical First Lady, it dawned on me that I should feature First Ladies, which are revered positions particularly in the black church. Everyone is always talking about what the pastor of this church and that church is doing, but First Ladies are equally as important as the pastors to whom they are married! So once per month, on a Friday of course, I am featuring a First Lady. So if you know of a First Lady who should be featured, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org because I’m looking for notable First Ladies to feature!
So with that being said, let me present to some and introduce to others the First Lady of Strong Tower Bible Church, Dorena Williamson…
Below is her biography followed by my interview with her. Read, enjoy and share!
Dorena Williamson is a Preacher’s Kid, First Lady, and veteran of cross-cultural ministry. In 1995, she and her husband Dr. Chris Williamson planted Strong Tower Bible Church, a faith community in Nashville that celebrates the beauty of God’s diverse kingdom. Dorena has written ColorFull, ThoughtFull and GraceFull, a series of children’s books that feature diverse ethnicity and helps shape perspective on race, disability and homelessness. A frequent podcast guest and speaker, Dorena co-leads Nashville’s Be the Bridge group, part of an international collective focused on building bridges of reconciliation. She is a featured writer for LifeWay Voices, and has written for Crosswalk, Parent Life, Home Life, and the ERLC. She works as a stylist with Evereve, a fashion brand that empowers woman. She and Chris have four teenage and young adult children.
1. How do you feel about the term “First Lady” and is Strong Tower Bible Church the first church where you have served as First Lady?
I became the First Lady of Strong Tower Bible Church when Chris & I planted it in 1995. I was 23, pregnant with my second child, and didn’t wear suits and hats like most “older” First Ladies I knew! Within our diverse church, not all congregants even knew what that title meant, since it is a black church tradition for honoring the wife of the pastor. In these recent years, I’ve come to love it it – after 24 years in, I guess I’m old enough now! And it’s particularly sweet when our white members introduce me to someone as their First Lady!
2. What is the “job description” of a First Lady? Has being a “Preacher’s Kid” helped you to step into your role as a First Lady?
I believe my role is to be a servant leader alongside my husband. I am a part of the church family, not above them. I also preach, provide direction, counsel, support, and am my husband’s key confidant, advisor, and companion.
Being a PK certainly helped me; I saw the ups and downs of ministry life, and knew that God was faithful to those He called. I’m so grateful for my parent’s steadfast faith and leadership; my dad never put church above his family, and my mom is a pillar of strength. I hope their legacy of loving people well is one that Chris and I continue with our congregation.
3. What is the best part and what is the worst part about being a First Lady?
There are sweet times when our body shows up to serve powerfully and loves one another beautifully. And then there are times when misunderstanding and attack from the enemy can wear on my soul! But that’s ALL a part of being a family – we are a household of faith! And in the house, we’re not perfect, but at the end of the day, we are all precious children of our Father.
4. What are some misconceptions that people have about being a First Lady?
That I have it all together, and am always eager to help meet the needs of others. I am human, and I bring my struggles with me to church and must lay them down before the Lord just like everyone else. And I need trustworthy friendships that pour into me as I diligently pour out to others.
5. You are the author of ColorFull, ThoughtFull and GraceFull, a series of children books that feature diverse ethnicity and helps shape perspective on race, disability and homelessness. How and why did you become an author? And how did you come up with focus of these books as you focus on race, disability and homelessness?
I’ve been a lifelong reader and love to journal. As I’ve walked with diverse families and seen the disheartening lack of justice that still prevails, I began feeling a call to contribute children’s books to the conversation from my years of ministry. It was hard to find books for my four kids that reinforced our faith AND featured representation they could relate to. The first seeds of thought went into my journal and then as I saw it forming into a story, I began the new adventure of educating myself on publishing, crafting, and querying. In God’s time, I published my first book ColorFull, April 2018. I am grateful for B&H Publishing opening the door for these stories to be out in the world and impacting so many.
I want to help parents, grandparents, and church leaders have relevant conversations and shape kingdom perspective for the children in their lives. We don’t need “taboo” topics; our kids need to have tools and understanding to see people of every race, ability, and background as fellow image bearers of God .
6. You are a co-leader for Nashville’s Be the Bridge group, part of an international collective focused on building bridges of reconciliation. Why have you chosen to be a part of this organization?
I found Be the Bridge during a particularly weary season. Being a bridge builder across racial, economic, denominational and political lines, is a unique calling that comes with great cost. You get hit from every direction! I was blessed to learn of LaTasha Morrison’s brave work, seeing white people begin to unpack systemic racism and white supremacy, and seeing POC strengthened for the journey. I loved the power of listening and learning conversations that this organization teaches. I met another sister who felt called to help form a group in our area, and we’re headed into our third year of bringing people together to learn and grow.
7. Aside from being a First Lady, author, community leader and mother, you are also a stylist for Evereve. What is the most glamorous thing about being involved in the fashion industry and what is the one thing that a fashionable woman must have in her closet?
Evereve is all about helping women find joy as they find their personal style! It may not sound typically glamorous, but focusing on body type is helpful for all women; it has been a tool to help me become more confident in my season of life at 48. I don’t want to look like my teen and adult daughters, but I do want to be stylish and confident. As a bonus, I am now well equipped in my wardrobe for the growing speaking and travel opportunities that have come from my publishing.
It’s hard to just list ONE thing a fashionable woman should have in her closet! But a great fitting pair of jeans is a staple. Many workplaces have instituted “dress down Fridays” so even for professional women, a quality denim piece is a smart choice!
Real talk: often we women are used to our husbands investing in quality pieces for their wardrobe. We get that nice suits, shirts and shoes necessitate more than “bargain basement” finds for them. But often we don’t give ourselves the same deserving investment. At Evereve, you can find comfortable, quality shoes; tops that vibrantly enhance your look, dresses that take you from work to church; and accessories that elevate any outfit. We deserve to put our best self forward and walk in confidence. It’s a great example for our daughters and sons, and I love partnering with Evereve to do that for every woman that comes into our store.
I’d encourage women to know that they are beautiful, and not to compare their body to anyone else, but seek to be whole, healthy and caring. Life is a treasure and we can make a difference in this world using the gifts God has given to each of us!
Again, if you know of a First Lady who should be featured, please e-mail me at email@example.com because I’m looking for notable First Ladies to feature! And if you would like to have conversations about faith, relationship, pop culture and more, please click on this link to subscribe to my blog ! Finally, if you missed the third post of First Lady Friday, please click on It’s First Lady Friday Featuring…Denedriane Dean, First Lady of Word Ministries Christian Outreach Church in Harrisonburg,Virginia!