Dear GMH Members,

This Sunday, our dear sisters Anna Fu and Shapri LoMaglio will be commissioned for service as Shepherdesses at Grace Meridian Hill. It’s with joyful anticipation of this special occasion that we, your Elders, want to remind you of the meaning and significance of this new role. Please read on!

What’s a Shepherdess? The Shepherdesses are a group of women who will nurture, counsel, and pray for members of the Grace Meridian Hill community, with a particular focus on the women of the church. They are publicly recognized — in order that people across the church community, rather than a select few, can have access to their ministry. They are trained and examined (faith/character, theology, giftedness), in order to give our members greater confidence in the soundness of their counsel and leadership. They are accountable, working alongside the Elders and under their authority, assisting them in the care of our members.

(This role has been modeled after a few biblical and historical precedents — specifically, the “order of widows” described in 1 Timothy 5:9-10, as well as the “older women” referenced in 1 Timothy 5:2 and Titus 2:3. The title “Shepherdess” does not appear in Scripture explicitly, but we feel it aptly captures the basic nature of this role—nurturing, equipping, leading—without confusing it with the office of Elder/Pastor or the role of Deaconess.)

We are thrilled to see Shapri and Anna fill this new Shepherdess role! They have been valued members of our church, sisters of tested character and faith with proven track records of servanthood and faithfulness. We’re grateful for this “first generation” of Shepherdesses and are eager to work with them. Please remember to pray for Anna and Shapri! 

This is also an important step in our church’s growth. It is our biblical commitment to celebrate and safeguard the God-given value of women in our church’s relationships and ministries. Indeed, we believe that the service and leadership of women in the church are not optional or preferable, but rather, essential to the flourishing of Christ’s Body. The Shepherdess is not an ordained role, but it is a crucial role, one that we pray will accomplish the following: First, provide leadership opportunities for women who are specially gifted in discipleship and care ministries; second, supplement and complement the shepherding ministry of the Elders, particularly in areas and cases in which men are limited; third, enable our ordained leadership to receive regular input and insight from the perspective of women; and fourth, increase the access of female members to trained and publicly accountable leaders in our church. Please join us in praying that God will bless these endeavors and keep us aligned with his Word and will.

On Sunday, we will pray over these servant-leaders, ask for their commitment to serve faithfully, and commission them (i.e., “send” for service) to labor for our good and for the glory of Jesus. What an honor! What a joy! We’re looking forward to celebrating with you on this special occasion.

If you have additional questions about this role, please read this overview which we provided last spring. It includes more on the biblical/historical basis for the role, along with some practical FAQs. And, as always, please feel welcome to ask the three of us any questions in person.

Your brothers and Elders,
Duke, Steve, and Yancie