First Lady Files: Jennifer Payne

In the Baptist church where Jennifer Payne was raised, the pastor’s wife was never addressed as a first lady. The term wasn’t as prominent then as it is now.

Said Payne, “It’s not like she’s untouchable though at some churches, it might seem that way. But when I came to Bryant Temple, and everybody was addressing me as first lady, it really was different. I had to look over my shoulder and say are you talking to me.

“For me, I’m just Jennifer,” said the mother of four children including 7-month old twins, who has a passion for children’s and women’s ministry.


First Lady Files

First Lady Files

Newlyweds Kim Ervin and Bishop W. Todd Ervin were longtime members of a very traditional baptist church when they announced they were leaving to start a non-denominational church.

“My husband felt a different type of call on his life,” says Ervin, the Co-Pastor of Church One Ministries in Long Beach. “It was more to people who were ‘un-churched,’ people who didn't have church clothes and church etiquette, but were interested in going.

First Lady Files: Coco Jenkins

First Lady Files: Coco Jenkins

For Tonja Leray Jenkins, first lady and co-pastor of New Life LA, her introduction to the Baptist church came way of a big red bus driving through her hometown in Oceanside, CA.

“The bus would come through our neighborhood and pick up kids whose parents didn't go to church and take them to Sunday school,” said Jenkins affectionately known as Coco. “Looking back on it, I thank God that I got to know who He was at such a young age.”

First Lady Files: Natalie Owens

First Lady Files: Natalie Owens

Natalie Owens is not just the first lady of Faith Inspirational Missionary Baptist Church of Compton, she’s a preacher herself. The assistant pastor, and wife of Pastor Rafer Owens, has been preaching for 20 years and is a certified life coach and motivational speaker who teaches classes to empower people.

“Your purpose is the reason you exist and my purpose is to speak life to people and encourage them to be the best that they can be,” says the Carson, CA native.

First Lady Files: Norma Fisher

First Lady Files: Norma Fisher

First lady Norma Fisher came of age in an era when everybody wore suits, hats and gloves to church. So when she married the Rev. Jerome Fisher (who established Compton’s first black church back in 1954) and became first lady of Little Zion Baptist Church in 1986, she had to fit in.

“It was a completely different role. Everybody calls it first lady but I call it the lead lady, the lady that everybody watches,” said the Joplin Missouri native who grew up an active member in church. “My husband used to say that you really have to be called for that job. A real first lady has to be called.”

First Lady Files: First Lady Ronell Nichols

First Lady Files: First Lady Ronell Nichols

First Lady Ronell Nichols of Garden of Praise Christian Fellowship in Carson wants single mothers who are still looking for “the one” to have one thing above all: hope. The West Philadelphia native was a single mother of two children in her forties when she met her now husband Pastor Rodney Nichols.

First Ladies High Tea
November will mark the 20th Anniversary of our Annual First Ladies High Tea, honoring the contributions of female leaders and women of faith to the Los Angeles community. For more information, visit
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