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"What a pretty red suit," he sneered. Then he grabbed her breast.
Furious and shaking, Saundra raised her fist to punch him. But Allen Chapel's pastor grabbed her and pulled her back, shouting, "Sis! Sis!"
"I can't take anymore." Saundra spat the words.
"Hey, sis, calm down. Let's just go over to Winstead's and talk," Cousins said. (Other pastors learned of the incident from Finney, Saundra says, but he denied any recollection of it when her lawyer deposed him. The Pitch could not reach him or Cousins for comment.)
According to Saundra's later testimony in court, the three drove to the restaurant, leaving Prince Albert Williams in the lobby. They ate hamburgers and drank malts while the two men tried to calm Saundra. She asked Finney whether he could take over as her supervisor, and he said they would have to talk to the new bishop who had just replaced Anderson as Prince Albert Williams' boss. They talked about Prince Albert Williams' behavior.
"You've got to rise above his level," she remembers one of them telling her, over the clatter of plates and clinking forks of the dinner crowd.
A few weeks later, Saundra went to Bishop Vernon Byrd. He had taken over supervision of the district months before but had just opened his office in Kansas City a few days earlier. Saundra told him everything, gave him a formal written complaint and asked to be moved from under Prince Albert Williams' supervision. The bishop looked at her intently.
"I know you ain't lyin'" she remembers him saying. "See that girl out there in the hallway? That's my secretary. We've only been here two days, and already P. Albert's been over here tryin' to hit on her."
But he wasn't going to fire Prince Albert Williams. And he wasn't going to move Saundra to a different district.
"Daughter, I can't move your church," she remembers him saying. "I can't move you from under his supervision. But I'm going to pray for you. I want you to continue your outreach ministry. I want you to run for office again, and I'm gonna pray that you win. I want you to go back to that church and do the best that you can. Give me a chance to correct these problems."
Disappointed, she left his office. She didn't know what else she could do.
Meanwhile, rumors were circulating around the church about the breast-grabbing incident and Prince Albert Williams' fondness for alcohol. A small group of people who had been attending Mariah Walker and who had formed an outreach ministry to help the poor under Saundra's direction decided they wanted to form their own church. They started meeting at the E.R. Morris Funeral Home, persuading Saundra to preach there while they searched for a pastor. They even offered her the pastorship, but according to minutes from one of their meetings, she refused, saying, "I am a pastor at Mariah Walker AME Church."
She became more rooted in the AME denomination. Her sermons played on the radio, and she billed herself as the "Community Shepherd." As Christmas 1996 approached, Saundra and her son, who was ten at the time, decided to make a special sacrifice. The Mariah Walker Church wanted to buy a used van, and the family decided to contribute $500. Finances were tight already because Saundra had a rule that she would not take her pay as pastor until all of the church's bills were paid, so it meant they might have to skimp on Christmas presents that year. But Rickey Jr. didn't mind.