Jamaica Union Shepherdesses Empowered to Thrive in Spite of Challenges

Mandeville, Jamaica...Lawrie Henry

Pastors’ wives seem to some to lead privileged lives and the role is often coveted. However behind the polished veneer lie unspoken hardships.These women often feel oppressed by weighty expectations, feel inadequate and struggle with loneliness and isolation.

Speaking at the Jamaica Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists' Shepherdess Convention held on Sunday April 9, 2017 at Northern Caribbean University, motivational speaker and minister's wife Patrice Williams-Gordon, said some of the frustration with being a shepherdess stems from making comparisons.

"Why many of us are frustrated as ministers' wives is that (we) look at other wives and try to be that shepherdess...God has blessed you with just what you need for the role that you are in...We need to walk in our own shoes and establish and appreciate our own talents," she said.

Williams-Gordon encouraged the ministers' wives to pray for a revelation of their spiritual gifts which they should then use to edify their families and the church. She acknowledged that being a shepherdess can be isolating for reasons such as unrealistic expectations of members, the demands of their husband's ministry and a difficulty making and maintaining sincere friendships in the Church.

Quoting from a recent survey conducted by the Global Pastors' Wives Network, Williams-Gordon noted that 80% of pastors wives feel left out and under-appreciated by church members, 56% say they have no close friends in the Church, 85% feel unqualified and discouraged in their roles, 80% feel pressured to be things in church that they are not, 60% expressed the need to further their training so they could serve better, 80% believe their spouse is overworked, and 80% wish their spouse could choose another profession.From the pastor's perspective, 80% say they have insufficient time with their spouse.

She advised pastors' wives to take active steps to help themselves cope with the pressures of being a ministerial spouse. "Honour your full being: spiritual, emotional, mental, physical and sexual. Nurture meaningful relationships. Celebrate your successes and grow through your failures. Participate in church, be a church member", Williams-Gordon said. She also advised that pastors' wives struggling to cope with the stress of the role should not be ashamed to seek professional help from a counselor.

Other presenter's at the Convention included Psychologist, Dr. Charmaine Garwood; Life Coach, Audrey Watson; and minister's wife and VP of University Relations at NCU, Yvonne Bignall.

The Shepherdesses’ Convention was held under the theme "Lord Transform Me through Empowerment, Bringing out My Best".Topics included the Shepherdess' Role and Function, How to Handle Emotional Neglect, and How to Dress for the Role.

The Convention was planned by the Jamaica Union Shepherdess Association, led by Lana Brown, Shepherdess Coordinator and wife of the Jamaica Union President. Brown said the event was meant to bring ministers' wives together to learn, pray, fellowship and strengthen each other. “We need the support and strength of someone who has been there and can provide guidance. Only another pastor's wife can truly understand”, she said.

Roxanne McKoy Chambers, a shepherdess of 10 years and attendee at the Convention said she found the event informative and relevant. “It was enriching and real. You felt comfortable because the presenters' shared real life, personal experiences with which you could identify. It really addressed issues and we left feeling empowered”, she said.

The event was supported by president of the Jamaica Union of Seventh-day Adventists, Pastor Everett Brown and Stewardship and Ministerial Secretary of the Union, Pastor Astor Bowers. Both brought greetings and stayed for a portion of the event in solidarity with the Shepherdesses.

The Jamaica Union Shepherdess Mentorship Progamme was also launched at the Convention.

Upcoming activities of the JAMU Shepherdess Association include a Pastors' Kids (PK) Retreat in 2018 and a Shepherdess Retreat in 2019.