AS A PASTOR’S WIFE, HIGH SCHOOL GUIDANCE COUNSELOR, MINISTRY LEADER AND MOTHER OF THREE, TAJA MCRAE WEARS MANY HATS, BUT APPLIES AND ENCOURAGES FELLOW MINISTER’S WIVES TO APPLY THEIR MINDS TO MARRIAGE AND MINISTRY.
When the idea for the formation of The Experience Christian Center fell on then Youth Minister Derrick L. McRae, it was his wife Taja, that fasted with him, prayed with him and discovered areas of her own prayer life as well.
“Lady Taja,” as she’s called by members of her church, was reared in a religious household and spent her formative years in church. When she reached college age, McRae said she’d decided she wouldn’t go to church again, but a higher calling called her back through the sanctuary doors.
“I said over and over that I wouldn’t go back--that only went so far,” she said in an interview with RYSE Magazine, conducted in her office. The campus where she works as a guidance counselor was once the place where she and her husband hosted church in their ministry’s infancy.
The Virginia native graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in counseling and later acquired her Masters in counseling and psychology from Troy University. She moved to the Orlando area in 1997 where she met a young minister, Derrick L. McRae, who was involved with the New Life Church, under Pastor Derrick Hutchins. “He was just starting in ministry when we met.” She said.
“Lady Taja” immediately took notice of McRae’s ambition and the pair wed in that church. The couple moved their membership to Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church in Eatonville, FL under the leadership of Pastor Willie C Barnes where her husband worked in ministry on a fulltime basis. It was also there that she accumulated knowledge of the challenges associated with being a minister’s spouse.
McRae says she observed the instances and behaviors of Pastor’s spouses long before her husband received the call to pastor. “One of the challenges was the amount of time he had to put into his ministry.” McRae said. “I had to get used to sharing him with others and knew it was going to take a lot more time, because he had the ministry, and three kids as well.”
At The Experience Christian Center, a non-denominational, non-traditional church body, McRae says she was supportive, excited and scared at the time of its formation.
Through prayer and a relationship with God, she learned to overcome shyness, overseeing the women’s ministry and using abilities she didn’t believe existed.
As a Minister’s Wife
They hosted services at Jones High school for three months in the beginning, before moving to their current location on 26th street in Downtown Orlando, blocks away from the historic Orlando high school. Lady Taja remembers their ministry’s time at Jones, “Some of the trials we had at Jones were a humbling experience. We had to get up early and set up the church. At times it was tough hearing comments concerning the development of this ministry from outside sources, but my husband told me in time, God would prove what was prophesied! And today I’m a witness that He did just that!”
Pastor Derrick L. McRae said they started the venture with no funds, no seed money, and his wife’s income was forced to supplement the needs of the family while sowing into the work of the ministry. Pastor McRae learned firsthand that “God will instruct you as you go. We lived off less money and did better than we did when we had two incomes.” He later said in the interview. “When it’s a God thing, you surely can follow it. He never lets us down.”
Two of McRae’s administrative colleagues are also members of her church.
The senior pastor stated that even the name of the church was controversial at the outset, however, he, along with his wife decided to press forward. “I believe that God was calling us to be different.” He said. “The Experience Christian Center currently has 26 active ministries. Nobody but God can pull this off.”
Lady Taja has grown and is yet growing use to the public platform associated with being a pastor’s wife.“A lot of things that I do are in the forefront now.” She said. She has a solid role with the members, and her prior friendships with Pastor’s wives prepared her for her current role as a pastor’s wife. “I think she does a great job of balancing family, assisting me in ministry and maintaining her role as my wife.” Pastor McRae said.
The Experience Christian Center, and Lady Taja says the members would also attest, that this church is a great place for ministry, a place where the congregation is free to worship in a non-traditional manner.
As a Messenger
In the two years since the ministry’s inception, McRae has learned and when given the opportunity, provides advice to young Minister’s mates. “I learned not to put my opinion of what I think should happen with God and my husband.”
Pastor McRae stated that the women’s ministry, that his wife leads, is the largest ministry in the church. “We had attempted to open up a ministry in a different zip code, but I felt lead to come to this area.” The Central Florida minister said of the beginnings. The ministry started with twenty-two people but has blossomed to a little over five hundred in nearly two years.
The largest advice that she developed was for young couples entering ministry, specifically young women, to support their husband’s through prayer, giving and dedication.
As a Mentor
With a background in counseling, and a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Lady Taja’s been a guidance counselor in Orange County Public Schools for nine years. She spent six years at the Middle School level, before moving to high school.
Through this occupation, she’s able to connect with students in much the same way that she connects with the members of The Experience Christian Center.
In her experiences with The Experience Christian Center, as a school guidance counselor and with parenthood, Taja McRae extends the same effort with the same mentality. “Just be yourself. Allow God to stretch you. Forget about the negativity often spoken over your destiny and focus on the destination He’s directed you!” In the words of my husband, barking dogs never chase parked cars! If they are talking you must be moving.”