Rhonda Willingham of Bristol United Methodist Church: Flint women of faith

Editor's note: This is part of a series of Flintside articles highlighting women religious leaders in Flint.

Rhonda Willingham is a third-Generation member of the United Methodist Church. Her Methodist roots stem back to her paternal grandparents who lived in Philadelphia, Mississippi. She was raised in Bethel United Methodist church where she participated in several youth ministries. As an adult she has served in several positions of leadership including as superintendent of Sunday School, choir director, and coordinator of multiple church events and programs. The roots of her own family began at Bethel and it was at Bethel that her husband Brian Willingham answered his calling into ministry. With the love and support of Bethel, Pastor Willingham received his first church appointment. The Willingham’s departed from their ‘forever’ Church family and Rhonda’s journey as a first lady began.

Following her husband into his third church appointment, Rhonda Willingham is currently first lady of Bristol United Methodist Church. She continues to take an active role in the ministry, serving as choir director and working with various committees and programs. She has a heart for children's and women’s ministry.

She developed and teaches a weekly women’s praise and worship exercise class set to Gospel music. This highly energetic class is called “PraiseRciZe.” All denominations and fitness levels attend this spirit filled class, complete with massages, healthy snacks and fellowship. Rhonda also teaches a unique mini-workshop at churches throughout the city designed for women based on the book “Daughters of The King.”
Rhonda’s commitment to the empowerment of women carries over into the world of entrepreneurship. She is the owner of Culturally Yours Inc. She designs her own line of products which includes the popular greeting card line “Sista Girl”.  These handcrafted framable works of art have sold around the world.  She has donated hundreds of cards to women of color in the armed forces. She has also co-authored a book titled "Inspired Entrepreneurs: Triumphs in Business and Life."

Rhonda has enjoyed a lengthy career in healthcare at Hurley Medical Center spanning over 30 years. She is a therapist in behavioral medicine. “I love what I do and I have the opportunity to bring light into the dark area of peoples lives,” she said. 

Throughout her career at Hurley, Rhonda has served on the African-American Heritage Committee, directed The United Voices of Hurley choir, and worked with various committees and student groups. “The positive energy I pour church ministry is the same positive energy I pour into my work environment. The light of Christ goes with me everywhere,” Rhonda said.
Born and raised in Flint, Rhonda is a product of Flint schools graduating from Flint Central. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky and a master’s degree from Central Michigan.

Rhonda enjoys spending time with her family. She enjoys volleyball and plays on both indoor and sand volleyball leagues. She has been married to Pastor Brian Willingham for 29 years. She is the proud mother of three; Dorian Willingham of Los Angeles, Minister Brittany Willingham of Dear Sis Ministries, and Minister Brandon Willingham of Duke University's School of Divinity.  

“I am grateful that God has blessed our family to serve Him in so many unique and creative ways. Only what you do for Christ will last," she said.

Throughout the month of March, Flintside will profile women in Flint’s religious community. If you are interested in participating or nominating a woman who should be profiled, please email [email protected].

Related story: Flint first ladies come together as united force

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