Destiny’s Child Michelle Williams engaged Pastor Chad Johnson

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The “Independent Woman” is off the market: Michelle Williams is engaged to pastor Chad Johnson!

Michelle Williams

 After a year together, Johnson recently proposed to the Destiny’s Child singer — and the pair can’t wait to walk down the aisle. Nearly one month into their secret engagement, the couple opened up to PEOPLE exclusively about their love story.

“We could not contain this any longer!” Williams says of finally sharing the happy news.

The Pastor and the Pop Star Williams met her husband-to-be in March of 2017, when she attended a spiritual retreat in Arizona run by Johnson, a pastor and life coach who has also worked as a chaplain for pro sports teams including the Pittsburgh Steelers and L.A. Dodgers.

“I was in a horrible, dark place,” says Williams, 37, who had recently ended a relationship and opened up about a cheating ex on The Real. “I just needed to go somewhere where I could get a message of hope and restoration, rejuvenation — get connected to God.”

Johnson, 40, could relate.

“When we met, both of us were in very similar places on a personal level,” says Johnson, who at the time had all but given up dating. “Michelle was coming off the heels of a really bad relationship, and I was just in a place of despair as well.”

Though Williams and Johnson hit it off immediately, both remained focused on the purpose of the Elevate International retreat. “I mean, he was cute,” the singer admits, “but I did not go to flirt with the pastor!” When they parted ways, they kept in touch, and a friend of Johnson encouraged him to pursue Williams.

“I tried to roll in with some mac daddy game — and I tried to flirt a little bit and said something like, ‘How about you and I connect sometime?’ And right away, she texted right back with one word and six question marks behind it: ‘Connect??????’” recalls Johnson. “I thought she had dissed me. So I was embarrassed, and I didn’t reach back out to her because I thought I’d ruined the friendship.”

Alas, that text exchange was just the beginning of their modern romance. About a week later, Johnson was on vacation with his 15- and 16-year-old nephews, whom he’s helped raise, and Williams slid into his DMs, responding to Johnson’s Instagram Story.

In July — while on their first actual date at a wedding in the Dominican Republic — the pair shared their first kiss and took their relationship to the next level. “I told her, ‘I’ve been looking. I don’t want to look anymore. I’m done. My search is over,’” Johnson recalls of the moment they decided to date officially.

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