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Say Amen, Again

About The Book

The spirited Houston congregation featured in ReShonda Tate Billingsley’s Let the Church Say Amen and Everybody Say Amen has a major scandal unfolding—and, as always, the outspoken Rachel Jackson Adams is at the heart of the drama.

As the First Lady of Zion Hill, Rachel is not only Pastor Lester Adams’ wife—she’s currently his eight-months-pregnant wife, who’s going toe-to-toe with Lester’s onetime mistress, congregant Mary Richardson, who is also pregnant. Her baby may or may not be Lester’s, but Mary’s doing all she can to win sympathy and turn her fellow churchgoers against Rachel—even threatening to blackmail Pastor Adams with a paternity agreement. After all, where can an unmarried mother-to-be go but to the Lord?

Rachel has a few choice answers for exactly where Mary can go, but as these expectant moms do battle, hostilities erupt into a drama unlike anything Zion Hill has ever seen! Something has to give, and while Rachel contemplates everything from transferring her lifelong church membership to packing up and leaving Lester, she knows deep down God is calling her to forgiveness. Will the arrival of the new babies bring a new understanding? Or harden forever the anger that’s dividing them?


Say Amen Again Chapter 1
“Get. It. Out!”

The scream started in Rachel’s gut and felt like it traveled up her lungs and out her mouth, piercing the whole room.

“It hurts so bad!” Rachel yelled. Granted, this was her third child, but the pain was like nothing she’d ever experienced. She’d had an epidural on her other two kids. This baby had come too fast for a spinal, and Rachel needed something, because the pain was unbearable.

“Breathe, baby, breathe,” Lester—her husband of seven years—said as he leaned over and kissed her forehead.

“Lester, I am breathing,” Rachel snapped, pushing him away.

“You can do this,” he said soothingly.

“Shut up and get this baby out of me!” she yelled again. He was the reason she was in this position. She’d had her first child at fifteen. Her second at seventeen. But now, eleven years later, her body wasn’t cut out to deliver a baby with the same ease.

Another scream filled the room. Rachel narrowed her eyes in suspicion. That one hadn’t come from her. “Lester,” she said, reaching for her husband’s hand. But he had vanished. She looked over to the other bed in the hospital room.

“Breathe, baby, breathe,” Lester said sweetly.

Rachel peered closer. This time Lester wasn’t talking to her.

“Come on, Mary, you can do this.” He was gently coaxing the woman in the bed next to hers. Unlike Rachel, Mary didn’t shoo him away.

“Lester?” Rachel cried. She couldn’t believe she was delivering this baby in the bed next to her, of all people. Suddenly, Rachel forgot all about the pain shooting through her body. She jumped up and lunged at her husband.

“Hey, let me go! Rachel, what are you doing?”

That was coming from somewhere else, someplace more real. Rachel’s eyes shot open. She was in their king-size bed, big belly and all, sitting on top of her husband, her hands gripped firmly around his neck.

Lester scooted back against the headboard, his hands grabbing her wrists. “Why are you trying to choke me?” he panted.

Rachel shook her head, trying to come out of the daze she was in. She looked around. She wasn’t in a hospital room. She was in her oversize, Africa-themed bedroom. And she wasn’t anywhere near labor.

“Oh, wow,” Rachel said, pulling herself up off Lester and leaning back against the headboard. “I was having a nightmare.”

“Again?” Lester said, his voice softening. “Was it the …” He stopped, knowing he didn’t dare utter the name of the woman that Rachel hated most in the world.

“Yes, it was,” Rachel snapped. This was becoming a regular occurrence. It was bad enough that home-wrecking tramp had invaded her marriage. Now Mary Richardson was invading her dreams as well.

“I’m going to make me some hot tea,” Rachel said, throwing the covers back.

“Rachel,” Lester said, trying to stop her. “Can we talk about this?”

“What is there to talk about?” she said, stepping out of the bed. “It is what it is.” She grabbed her robe and wrapped it around her protruding belly. “I’m sure I’m not the only woman in America having nightmares that she’s delivering her baby in the same room as her husband’s mistress.”

Lester groaned. Rachel knew he didn’t want to have that argument again, but there was no statute of limitations on her pain. And Lester and that tramp Mary had given her enough pain to last a lifetime.

“Well, at least let me make your tea,” he said, climbing out of the bed.

“I got it,” she replied, heading toward the door.

“Are you mad at me?” he gently asked.

She gritted her teeth as she stopped in the doorway with her back to him. After seven years of marriage, Lester should have known when to leave well enough alone. She’d needed a whole lot of praying not to revert to her old cut-a-fool ways after Mary had made her stunning announcement—in church, no less—that after a brief affair with Lester, she was pregnant with his child.

That had been the absolute worst, humiliating moment of Rachel’s life. Mary, looking like Kim from The Real Housewives of Atlanta, standing up in front of the Zion Hill congregation and telling everyone that not only had Pastor Adams been unfaithful but he’d also knocked her up at the same time he’d gotten his wife pregnant. This was the same man who had pursued Rachel relentlessly in high school, who had professed his love for her on a daily basis. She’d finally broken down and given him a chance. She’d cleaned him up, putting him on Proactiv to clear up that horrible acne problem, cutting off that red mop on top of his head, and changing his whole wardrobe from nerdish to stylish. He had shocked her by announcing he’d been called to preach, but then he’d gotten really full of himself and gotten a mistress! The only reason she’d taken him back was that she had some dirt of her own.

Rachel grimaced as she thought back to that horrible day at church. The old Rachel would have snatched Mary’s blond wig off, then made her way over to start in on Lester. She’d become a stronger woman, a better First Lady, grown in her walk with God. But Mary seemed determined to make her take a detour with the devil.

It had taken the support of her father, Rev. Simon Jackson, and her brothers, David and Jonathan—who both had drama of their own—to help her get through this ordeal.

At first she’d told Lester to get out, but her father had asked her to pray about it, which she had. And some voice kept telling her to stay with Lester—at least until Mary’s baby came and they could have a DNA test. Rachel’s pregnancy had been complicated because she had high blood pressure, and Lester had kept wearing her down until she’d finally given in.

“Babe, I can’t say it enough. I’m so sorry you’re going through this.” Lester came up behind her and placed his hands on her waist. She cringed as she felt his fingers. Some days were better than others; she could feel things were as they had been before Mary had come crashing into their worlds. But other days—most days—were like today, when she couldn’t stand Lester touching her.

“I know you are,” she said without turning around. “Look, I’m going down. I need to be by myself.”


She held up her hand to cut him off. “Not now, Lester.”

Rachel walked out of the room before he could say another word. She had to go spend some time by herself, some time in prayer, because as hard as she prayed for God to remove the hate from her heart, He just didn’t seem to be working fast enough for her.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Say Amen, Again includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author ReShonda Tate Billingsley. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Rachel Adams is trying to find a way to forgive her husband, Pastor Lester Adams, for having an affair. Her task is made all the more difficult by the reappearance of his former mistress, Mary Richardson, in their family’s church. Now pregnant, Mary claims that Lester is the child’s father and is intent on seducing him away from Rachel. Meanwhile, a tragedy rocks the foundation of the Adams family and everyone involved is confronted with an ultimate decision of forgiveness.

Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. What does Rachel’s dream in the novel’s opening chapter reveal about her fears? How is she able to overcome these fears by the end of the book?

2. Despite Lester’s continual refusal of her affections, Mary protests that the love she feels for him is real. Do you think this is true?

3. Rachel fears that her anger is interfering with her growth as a Christian. Do you agree with her decision to leave the church until Mary is removed? Likewise, do you think Mary should be removed from the church—or do you agree with Deacon Jacobs’s assessment that “if they kicked one transgressor out, they had to kick them all out” (p. 14)?

4. Mary’s visit from her mother, Margaret, is unwelcome and reinforces why Mary removed Margaret from her life in the first place. How does Mary feel when she sees her mother? How do you think Mary’s relationship with her mother has influenced her as a person?

5. Mary’s dealing ex-boyfriend, Craig, is another unwelcome visitor who brings “nothing but trouble” when he comes around. Is there anything Mary could have done to rid Craig from her life and leave her past behind? Or do you think her past was always destined to follow her?

6. Fed up with Aunt Minnie’s constant judgment of his family, Simon reveals a few of her deepest secrets to prove that she’s not as perfect as she pretends to be. As Simon says, do you think she “had that coming”?

7. Although Bobby never makes an appearance in this novel, Rachel can’t help but think about him from time to time.  She wonders if chasing after him in the past influenced Lester’s affair with Mary. Do you feel that Rachel is right to take on part of the blame for Lester’s affair?

8. After Rachel’s interaction with Pastor Terrance Ellis at Lily Grove Church, she felt humiliated for having misunderstood the pastor’s intentions. Did you also think Pastor Ellis was coming on to Rachel? How did you react to her reasoning that having an affair of her own would help her recover from Lester’s affair? Have you ever felt a similar urge to seek some kind of revenge?

9. Did Roderick’s suicide take you by surprise? Teenage bullying due to sexual orientation is a prominent topic in the media today. How does Roderick’s story echo other tragedies you’ve read or heard about?

10. Rachel’s father offers words of advice after Lester is arrested: “Baby girl, God is in the blessing business. He’s not in the punishing business. . . . Just know that God doesn’t give us more than we can bear” (p. 197). Do you agree? Has there ever been a time in your life that you felt you were being tested beyond what you could bear?

11. What did you think of Rachel’s decision to keep Mary’s son, despite him being a constant reminder of Lester’s indiscretion? Would you have made the same decision? Similarly, how would Rachel’s decision have been different if it had turned out that Lester was, in fact, the boy’s father?

12. How did your opinion of Mary change as you read the book? By the end of the novel, did you find yourself sympathizing with her situation? Or did you think she got what she deserved?

13. How does the role of forgiveness impact both the characters and the events in the novel? Is Rachel truly able to forgive Lester for his indiscretion by the end of the book? Do you think Jonathan will ever be able to forgive himself for what happened to Roderick?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Let the Church Say Amen, the first in ReShonda Tate Billingsley’s Say Amen series, is currently being produced as a feature film. If you were in charge of casting, who would you cast as Rachel? Lester? Mary?

2. Roderick’s suicide, like many other teenage suicides committed by those who do not feel accepted by their families and/or communities, came as a saddening shock to those who loved him. If you’d like to help troubled teens in your area, consider taking part in one of the following campaigns:

• The It Gets Better Project, a worldwide movement of hope for LGBT youth:

To Write Love on Her Arms, a movement dedicated to helping those who struggle with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide:

The Trevor Project, a campaign for a future where all youth have the same opportunities, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity:

3. Say Amen, Again is the third book in ReShonda Tate Billingsley’s series about Rachel and her family. If your book group hasn’t yet read the first two books in the series, consider Let the Church Say Amen or Everybody Say Amen for your next discussion.

4. You can learn more about ReShonda Tate Billingsley and her books on her official website ( You can also follow her on Twitter (

A Conversation with ReShonda Tate Billingsley

Say Amen, Again is the third book in the Say Amen series.  Which character do you think has grown the most since Let the Church Say Amen, the first in the series?

It would definitely have to be Rachel. I mean, did you ever imagine the Rachel we first met would be capable of adopting the child of her husband’s mistress?

Do you have any plans to write another book about Rachel and her family? What’s next for the Jacksons and the Adamses?

Rachel is one of those characters that won’t let me tuck her away. I never planned to write the first sequel, and she demanded that her story continue. Next up, she’ll meet up with Jasmine Larson Bush, the main character from author Victoria Christopher Murray’s Jasmine series. The two women are so much alike and so different and they’ll clash as both try to get their husbands elected to a prestigious position in a national organization. That book is called Saints and Sinners and comes out in 2012.

Before you began writing Say Amen, Again, did you know how it would end? Was Rachel always going to accept Mary’s baby into her life?

Oh, I never know how my books are going to end. That’s why it’s so hard for me to write an outline. My characters take over and they tell me the direction in which they want to go. So, I had no idea if the baby was going to even be Lester’s, let alone Rachel’s plan for the child.

Roderick’s suicide is undoubtedly one of the novel’s saddest moments. Why did you feel this was important to include?

I just wanted to show the tragic side of what can happen when our young people feel like they can’t talk to anyone. I don’t even know whether Roderick was gay, but the simple fact that he was conflicted was cause for concern. Yet, for various reasons, he had nowhere to turn.

When it comes to writing, what would you say is your greatest challenge?

Whew, I guess it would be I can’t write fast enough, and I write pretty fast! There are so many unchartered territories I’d like to venture into, but my plate is pretty full. Some people would think that time might be a challenge, but I believe that you find time for your passion and writing is my passion, so time has never been an issue for me.

In its starred review of Let the Church Say Amen, Library Journal raves about your ability to infuse your text with “just the right dose of humor to balance the novel’s serious events.” Do you find it difficult to strike this balance in your writing?

I don’t. At all. People are always telling me how funny I am and I just don’t see it. I guess it’s because I’m not trying to be. It’s just a part of me; so naturally it’s reflected in my writing.

When you write, do you craft your novels with a mostly Christian audience in mind? Or do you aim to reach a wider readership?

Well, I’m a Christian who writes fiction, but that’s about the scope of my target. I mean, of course I want Christians to enjoy my book, but I also want nonbelievers, people of other religions, anyone and everyone to be able to pick up my book and enjoy it. And more than anything, get a message out of the book. In fact, my greatest joy in writing comes from those who found themselves growing closer to God, stronger in their faith, because of something I wrote. But at the end of the day, my message is for the masses. I believe that’s what God has called me to do.

What most inspires you to write?

A pure, simple passion for telling stories.

If one of your readers wanted to write a novel of his or her own, what would be the first piece of advice you would offer?

Don’t just talk about writing, write. And every minute you spend talking about what you don’t have time to do could be spent doing it. So many people don’t get their book finished because they let that get in the way. Something will always get in the way. The road to success is paved with tempting parking spaces. Don’t take a detour in trying to reach your dream. And finally, set small, attainable goals. I started with three pages a day, five days a week. No matter what, I committed to that. Well, before I knew it, three turned to thirty and I was able to finish my book.

What would you say is the most important thing for your readers to take away from Say Amen, Again?

The power of forgiveness and moving past your anger. I also hope that the book helps people reflect on how judging someone is something that should be left up to God.

About The Author

Photograph by Rochelle Scott

ReShonda Tate Billingsley’s #1 nationally bestselling novels include Let the Church Say AmenI Know I’ve Been Changed, and Say Amen, Again, winner of the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work. Her collaboration with Victoria Christopher Murray has produced four hit novels, Sinners & SaintsFriends & FoesA Blessing & a Curse, and Fortune & Fame. BET released a movie in 2013 based on ReShonda’s book Let the Church Say Amen in which she had a minor roleShe also had a role in the made-for-TV movie The Secret She Kept based on her book of the same title. Visit, meet the author on Facebook at ReShondaTateBillingsley, or follow her on Twitter @ReShondaT.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Gallery Books (July 5, 2011)
  • Length: 320 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781416578062

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