Whether you have watched an episode or two of the Sisterhood or the whole season, it is pretty easy to distinguish the characters. Tara and Brian Lewis are the fitness pastors who were terminated within weeks from a ministry upon their arrival in Atlanta. They are the couple who uses weaponized scripture to set themselves apart. You can find the articles written on them here and here.
Domonique is the character who is most talked about on the show who had a difficult childhood as a foster child and victim of child sexual abuse. She eventually became addicted to drugs, and lived a life of prostitution before kicking the lifestyle that was kicking her, and choosing to co-pastor a church with her husband Brian. You can find her article here.
I’m not the one who has to be seen in the pulpit. I like meeting people in the hallways. Sometimes people are a lot more important than policy. – Christina Murray
Anthony and Christina Murray are absolutely gorgeous together. They are the pastors of Oasis Church in Atlanta. Christina took the time to talk to me amid church construction, running church operations, and being one of the reality stars of The Sisterhood on TLC.
Christina and her husband are best friends who met in high school when Christina was moved to Anthony’s school in the middle of the school year. The only elective available to this petite Dominican sister was Weightlifting where Anthony was the consummate showman of his brawn. So, why did a couple with an established ministry with so much to lose choose to be a part of the Sisterhood reality show?
Christina is the church administrator. She is actually a pastor’s wife, not a co-pastor. Later in this article we’ll learn more about the real duties of a pastor’s wife, and the support that she offers him as an administrator. She was called to participate in the Sisterhood five times before saying yes. The initial call came at the funeral of Pastor Zachary Tims, who was found dead in a New York hotel room.
Anthony and Christina prayed about it, and without real deep conviction she decided to go through with being featured on the show because it would be something that focused on her heart for God and women.
The two-hour season finale was February 12, 2013, and while TLC has not uttered a word about the possibility of a season 2, apparently True Entertainment is ready to reel. When I talked to Christina Murray she expressed a bit of sadness that the season is ending so quickly and said:
I walk away with my head up high. I learn from every experience. I had a wonderful time doing the show. I really want people to not hold grudges and walk away in forgiveness. I knew that three things that would happen: Someone would have to apologize to someone, It would be an eye-opening look at ourselves, and we would learn, uunderstanding how to approach something better.
Christina’s motivation for participating in the reality show was personal. She says, “I am a behind-the-scenes kind-of-girl. I am a great supporter and friend. I’m good at being there for people. I’ve never really taken the time to get out there to do my dreams. I feel like God was telling me to get out there. I’ve always been his [Anthony’s’] right hand. God was going to use us to reach the world.”
Christina had aspirations to become a physical therapist before choosing to partner with her husband in ministry. While she knew she’d get a lot of critics; hate, she was concerned about having her fate, life and reputation in someone else’s hands.
Christina Murray and her husband Anthony are clearly comfortable in their skin, they are funny and their connection is undeniable. Even during one of the shows where Tara featured her “Phenomenal Life Today” broadcast as a roundtable with the other cast members, we saw Anthony congratulating something that Christina said during that taping. So, I had to ask her questions about how to keep your relationship hot when you add ministry, business, parenthood and the dynamics of them all into one experience.
I am literally married to my best friend. We have a lot of respect for each other and have a lot of fun. We’ve grown up together. I keep a file of all these little notes that he leaves me. Cherish the notes. – Christina Murray
She said, “For couples in ministry and business you have to make time. At least once a week we go out together or with a couple of friends. We’re at the job [church] and he’s always flirting; affectionate.” She went on to describe how they are celebrating Valentine’s day in their church office. At times, they will have the office staff put an index card on their back. People can write something positive about you, and at a designated time they come together so that each person can read something from their card that someone has written about them.
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When it was Pastor Anthony’s turn he was vocal in speaking about his admiration and desire for his wife, and repeating her sentiments that were written on the card. He’ll say something like, “My wife is sexy.” He’ll talk openly about his love for her, and while she admits that she is not as affectionate we can see that his love permeates through her and has a lasting effect.
Pastor Anthony’s PDA = Public Displays of Affection are not left at the office, Christina reports that this is his way, even at home in front of the children.
The kids think it is so hilarious. He’ll come home and hold me down and kiss all over my face. – Christina Murray
What I see from Anthony and Christina is a liberty to love. I believe you see this even in their connections with the other cast members of the Sisterhood. They are people who walk in love. After 18 years of marriage, they have mastered how to make time for each other but it wasn’t so easy in the beginning. Christina Murray remembers how they had to be proactive about their dating and quality time saying,
We struggled in the beginning of marriage, financially. We used to sign up for Timeshare tours, attend six or seven a day so that we could spend time together. Never let anything get in the way of that. You have to be creative. When the job and work is gone, you can’t lose them [spouse/family] over a paycheck.
The Sex Talk
The sex talk was a source of outrage in the Christian community among conservatives. Many viewed Anthony’s decision as a parent to have the sex talk, demonstrating how to wear a condom on one of the episodes as a promotion of sex before marriage. Christina however says that there was a conversation that took place for about 30 minute before the demonstration which made very clear to their daughters, their stance on sex before marriage. They encouraged the girls to wait until they are married, and mentioned supporting scriptures so that they understood God’s desire for them to remain pure.
However, in the editing process, Christina mentions that all the church scenes that were taped were removed, and so were the moments that were filled with Godly wisdom and scriptures.
Parents are so scared because they are afraid of what the kids are going to find out. I never had those talks when I was younger. You don’t have to agree with how we do it. We wanted the conversation to happen. – Christina Murray
As a mom, it is a difficult decision to make, to talk about birth control pills and contraception, Murray continues.
Sex and sexuality was not as abundant in social media, entertainment and other plain sight areas. You need to understand your child. I didn’t want to make a decision based on my errors; my emotional feelings. I explained to my daughter about the abortion that I had. Are they prepared to understand how mistakes happen? Their life is at risk. – Christina Murray.
Balancing Business and Ministry
I didn’t necessarily grow up in church per se. I went through several religions. Born Catholic, became Mormons and always felt like something is wrong or something is missing. Now, what religion is going to accept us [my parents and I]? – Christina Murray
Christina’s experience with Catholicism and Mormonism I believe offer her an advantage to understanding people from a varying view-point. While I have never chosen to believe in any other religion, I have studied other faiths, and talked with others who believe something different from I do so that my heart is pliable and ready to support or serve someone who are in need of understanding – or a relatable conversation.
Anthony Murray on the other hand, was born to a pastor, and served as the youth minister for his father’s church for many years until the youth ministry outgrew the church and it was time to step into his own ministry. It was a life that Christina had to choose, knowing that this was her husband’s calling.
What I appreciate about Christina Murray is that she understands herself, and is aware of her own anointing. She is not aiming to be in the pulpit, she is not pressured or pressuring others to see her as co-pastor because of some internal feminist need to be equal. She is sturdy and aware of her gifts. This will continue to serve her, because her steps can be ordered precisely by the most high.
I don’t even really like the term ‘first lady,’ because people think that being a first lady is about being into fashion and wearing big hats. There is a lot more than glamour. You have to have genuine love for people to be a pastor’s wife. Your main goal is to be supportive of your husband. It’s an awesome responsibility, and there is a soberness that comes with it.” – Alice May Holness, who has been the first lady of Central Christian Church for over 30 years
Christina wanted to try to help us all understand the complexities of business and ministry. Growing up, when I (Ressurrection) thought of church I assumed that we all go together on Sunday morning, that my pastor/bishop without any preparation would share a word straight from heaven, we would all experience an encounter with God and go home. As a child, I did not understand what it took to make Sunday service look like that.
Christina says, “there is a business side to a church, the same as a corporate company has. If your office, books, accounting is not in order – if you cannot grow with your membership, keep marketing strategic, manage an office staff who is in their field, and in ministry…”
We are in a business, the business of winning souls. You don’t just turn on the light Sunday morning to preach, it is a mass production to have things in order – its hard and takes a lot of work. The ministry is the fulfilling part of it. When it’s time for work, we work because there’s someone depending on us. You’re always doing work and ministry as a pastor. You see it pay off at the altar. – Christina Murray, the Sisterhood
On the church’s website they are very serious about the business of ministry, and the ministry of business, even offering a way for business owners in the church to be found via their directory – with a disclaimer of course. I love it! I have wanted to start and head a business ministry, so I am delighted to see this effort from the Murray’s.
In watching the show, there were two things that I found to be clear about Christina Murray. She is loyal and she has a serious desire to see women live their dreams. I wanted to know where this passion for empowering women came from.
“My dad was very dominating in the [my parent’s] relationship, Christina says. We are now best friends. It always bothered me to see women like my mom struggle after divorce. I wanted to make sure I made it as a woman. My husband pushes me to go beyond my comfort zone. I love to see women succeed in life. Empowering women to do anything that they want to do.”
Christina wants all women to strive for their most radical dream. She is following her own dreams of making dresses and has started The Boss Lady Network. Women can overcome anything including fear and abuse. Christina realized that she has a “residue of nastiness” because she refused to let anyone tell her what to do.
We believe: God first, family second and ministry third. I didn’t realize that I needed to let my husband love me. – Christina Murray
One thing that Christina and I share is appreciation of Domonique’s story and her willingness to overcome the abuse that she suffered. Although the show does expose Domonique’s behavior which can be interpreted by some as broken, and others a less compassionate belief about her, I think that what Christina and I have in common is understanding that before you can heal, you must admit that you need healing. Before you can move forward, you have to be in a place where you can receive counsel and correction.
Domonique has been so open and allowed her [Domonique] to be our friend. She will accept correction and honesty so that they [Domonique and her husband Brian]can grow together. I love all the ladies. I told Tara, “I love you, and I’m praying for you.” Will I be there for her if she called, and wanted to talk, yeah, because that is who I am.” – Christina Murray
Whether Christina ever receives an apology from Tara, (who seems to enjoy provoking text messages as much as Twitter bullying) or the show returns for a second season remains a mystery. One thing that we can be confident in is our discomfort surrounding the idea of the church being condensed into a reality series. To that end, Pastor Anthony Murray offered the perfect words.
My husband and I sat down (for research) on this article, and watched one of Pastor Anthony Murray’s videos on their website from Oasis Family Live TV. He said:
We are supposed to judge between right and wrong. We’re just not supposed to be judgmental people sending people to heaven and hell.
Ressurrection Graves is a child sexual abuse expert and H.E.A.L.E.R.® who speaks on topics surrounding healthy relationships, overcoming homelessness, child sexual abuse prevention, adult healing, and awareness. Ressurrection is available for radio/television interviews, or ministry/conference/keynote speaking engagements nationwide by telephone at: 202.717.7377 (RESS) or please email: ressurrection dot wordpress at yahoo dot com.