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But soon trouble started again. This time, it came from the presiding elder, who was then in his sixties. When Prince Albert Williams would come every couple of months to visit the church in Marshall, he would corner Saundra in the tiny church office as she was preparing to preach. One day, he pushed her up against the desk, stuck his slimy tongue in her ear and kissed her. His breath reeked of liquor.
"I don't know how it's gonna get out, unless I tell it," he leered, making an obvious reference to the lurid sexual details she had shared.
She took that as a threat that she'd better comply with his demands or he would ruin her ministerial career. Sometimes he'd publicly repeat that sentence as he was introducing her to speak at events. The congregation would think he was referring to the word of God, but Saundra knew better. When she heard that phrase, it was a trigger. She would shake, get clammy and not hear another word he said until applause signaled it was time for her to speak.
It sickened her, but she sometimes let him paw and kiss her. She let him fondle and grope her or just do "whatever nasty he could get done" with the congregation filing in to hear her preach and sitting on pews just a few feet outside the thin office door. If she yelled at him or put up a struggle, the congregation might hear the altercation, and she didn't want the humiliating conflict to become public.
When Prince Albert Williams would come to the church to make his quarterly review and collect his salary, Saundra tried to avoid going into the office, where ministers usually pray and put on robes before a service. She would arrive late to meetings and do anything she could to avoid him.
During the three years Saundra was in Marshall, the congregation grew to ninety members, and Prince Albert Williams appointed her to pastor the Mariah Walker AME Church in Kansas City. The church had no regular pastor, so Prince Albert Williams had been preaching there. Membership had dwindled to 23 people, and the church was dirty and in debt and had a pitiful choir of only four members. It needed a charismatic pastor who could grow the congregation and get the church in shape.
By 1993, the denomination's upper leadership had noticed Saundra and made her an ordained AME minister -- but only after other AME ministers groused because an unordained pastor had received a coveted metropolitan church post. The bishop in charge of the district -- Prince Albert Williams' boss -- examined and ordained Saundra himself.
Some members of the Mariah Walker congregation soon became dissatisfied with goings-on at the church. Yolanda Perry, who as church trustee dealt with bills, resented paying the church's share of Williams' salary and handing over special offerings when he complained about financial troubles, all while the church couldn't even scrape together money to fix the leaky roof and faulty electrical wiring. She didn't like Prince Albert Williams and remembers that he came off as being arrogant. "Every time he came around, we'd have to give him a little love -- you know, give him some money!" she says.