We have an interesting secret to reveal to our shepherdesses. To use an apt figure of speech, the Ministerial Association has adopted a new baby. With this number of THE MINISTRY we are beginning a series of lessons that may later become a shepherdess manual or guidebook. Judging from the many requests received at our office during the past year, it is now time to give the new baby enthusiastic publicity. And certainly this long-awaited event will be warmly welcomed by our shepherdesses.
This series begins under "Organizing Shepherdess Groups," (page 38). Subsequent issues of the journal will present information on the leadership of shepherdess groups, the conducting of programs, suggestions for study courses, as well as for hobby projects. Our shepherdess groups at educational centers change leadership more frequently than do the groups in our conferences. New leadership will want to be informed on the duties of officers. Kindly file this material for future use.
The History of Shepherdess Groups
Naturally we are always interested in finding out how things had their beginning, for women have an inborn curiosity. Shall we start at the headquarters of our work? We are conscious that previously there have been intermittent efforts to form shepherdess groups. The Theological Seminary at Takoma Park deserves recognition for paying attention to the educational needs of ministers' wives while their husbands are doing graduate work in the nation's capital. Seminariannes were conducting regular gatherings early in the history of this institution; our nearby Washington Missionary College had capable leadership before their group meetings were fostered by the Evangelennes. Emmanuel Missionary College, Union College, and our Western colleges were also in line. Some Priscilia groups were heard from a little later. But as far as real organized effort is concerned, the last decade tells the story.
War conditions necessitated furthering the education of both young men and women. In this predicament marriage may have taken place when either the husband or the wife had not yet completed his education. Few young mothers are able to pursue their education when babies and toddlers claim first attention. But unless younger women with ministerial ambitions catch the true spirit of the Advent ministry, this lack will seriously affect the work in our churches. We may point to this war emergency as accentuating the need for profitable shepherdess instruction. Today this particular problem is still claiming the attention of our college Bible departments and the Seminary.
During the past decade a veritable flood of literature has been produced by publishers who have become conscious of the needs of ministerial women. Many journals have featured articles, guidebooks, or manuals, as well as works of fiction produced by gifted women writers of other denominations. These have revealed the fish-bowl problems of the mistress of the manse, and Mrs. Minister has become a conspicuous personage. Interesting, and in some cases helpful, as these books have been, Seventh-day Adventist ministerial women have had more specific problems to discuss.
THE MINISTRY has recognized this need and has been guiding the work of the shepherdess during this decade. From time to time we have published lists of profitable books for our ministers' wives. And around a few of them we have built a series of lessons for our shepherdesses to use in their meetings. Now we are about to provide more detailed instruction on how to organize our meetings and what to provide for profitable discussion. It is timely for a pattern to be set, slanted toward Adventism.
Lesson 1 of the series
Organizing Shepherdess Groups
Beginning with the minister's wife, who shares her husband's profession, every woman employed by the Seventh-day Adventist Church should be guided by our denominational ideals and objectives. Education, culture, dignity, meekness of spirit, balanced judgment, kindness of manner, and loving sacrifice are necessary qualifications for every type of gospel service. Our women should be good mothers and homemakers, whether in their own families or in the role of "mothers in Israel." Shepherdess meetings are to foster the work of women in gospel service.
The Adventist Shepherdess
Who is the Adventist shepherdess? Primarily she is the minister's wife, his life companion, the first assistant in his work. Her husband wooed her to help him in shepherding the sheep and lambs of the flocks he would be pastoring. She is the responsible shepherdess of the community, and her interest will ever be the welfare of the flock. The ministerial household represents more than merely a profession; it is a service.
The minister's next assistant is the Bible instructor, a shepherdess of a different type. As a reliable personal worker she must share many of the details of the shepherd-evangelist's work. If he oversees a large church, he may also be sharing clerical details with a church secretary. Both the Bible instructor and the church secretary are employed by the organization; they minister among holy things.
Our doctors' wives and the women serving in our health institutions are called to a medical ministry. They, too, should have heard the call —the call of the Great Physician. This vision of medical service must never become dimmed; it is our medical ministry.
The organization should be simple. In most shepherdess groups a good leader, with an assistant, an alert secretary-treasurer, and a few women as helpers will be sufficient leadership. Small committees to look after class and hobby instruction are helpful when the need arises.
While at our educational and medical centers our women represent various departments of educational work, the local pastor and his wife carry the responsibility of shepherding them all. This would not suggest that the pastor's wife is the only eligible leader, but her ability in leadership might be given consideration when the whole picture is studied.
We are not anxious to add clubs, for the true purpose of a women's organization should be to unify our objectives. We are each working for the Great Shepherd, the Great Physician, the Master Teacher. From the church school to the college, our women teachers are recognized shepherdesses. And doctors' wives, wives of directors, supervisors, and nurs6s belong to such a group. Bible instructors and church secretaries also should be included. Too often the last-mentioned women sacrifice their hearth-andhome interests for the work of God, and the inspiration the fellowship of shepherdesses provides means much to them. Good leadership may be drawn from this group whether evangelistic, medical, or educational.
Nature of Meetings
The meetings of the group should be varied, with a strong emphasis on developing the less experienced. Short courses of a month's duration, in teaching the Bible to non-Adventists, in training teachers for the children and youth of the church, and for studying community health and civil defense, homemaking, diet, and nutrition, should be held in balance. Where there is a special financial need an occasional shepherdess project might also be in order. Homemaking hobbies may be included, but these are not to eclipse the spiritual interests of the group. The spiritual life of the women employed in our work is of paramount importance. Free discussion in the group should be encouraged. Prepared counselors will be able to handle the questions that come before the group. In this way the spontaneous, overtalkative advisers will receive broader guidance from experienced women. Usually a monthly meeting is stimulating and not burdensome.
Early in the year the shepherdess program committee should outline plans for the entire year's gatherings. Without this planning ahead it will be easy to ride hobbies, for hobby leaders are usually enthusiasts. If the topics presented at the meetings fail to capture the interest of the majority, the group will suffer the loss of its more active members. The telephone as well as the mail should be used to announce the meetings, and the church bulletin should also remind the shepherdesses of these important gatherings. Try to have a set time of the month for your meeting, and do not overlook the many advantages of meeting on a Saturday or Sunday evening.
Conference Shepherdess Meetings
The conference workers' meeting and the annual camp meeting suggest other opportunities for our workers' wives to hold inspirational and spiritual get-togethers. Usually the wife of the conference president, or someone appointed by the conference, is in leadership. Often the women attend long workers' meetings that are slanted toward their husbands' needs. But opportunity should be provided for them to discuss their own specific problems. For many years this has been a recognized need, and in some conferences a good work has been accomplished. A number of our presidents' wives have become skillful leaders of shepherdesses. Their sisterly interest in the younger women has greatly strengthened the work in fields where shepherdess groups have been organized.
Although such gatherings may be irregular, they need to be planned for. The services of a group of assistants should be enlisted to help carry out plans. A health supper, a family outing, or some other function may be a pleasurable event. Our workers do not have much opportunity to gather together, and anticipating a shepherdess meeting adds to the joy of fellowship. Preceding the meal an instructional hour should be enjoyed. Let us remember that serving meals is an everyday chore for women and that their greatest need is the part which Mary chose. The Great Shepherd commended her ministry rather than Martha's. "The king's daughter is all glorious within," is the psalmist's evaluation (Ps. 45:13). A too-elaborate display of culinary skill may defeat the objectives of the group; so let the meal be the occasional treat. (Next month Lesson H will suggest ways of making your shepherdess meetings inspirational.)