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Deaconesses in Europe and their Lessons for Americ

Address commending the deaconesses for acceptance


When

a probationer becomes a deaconess she is consecrated to her work by a service the main features of which it may be well to indicate. They are as follows:

Singing. Address commending the deaconesses for acceptance. Address to the deaconesses, recalling the ever-repeated thought, "You are servants in a threefold sense: servants of the Lord Jesus; servants of the needy for Jesus' sake; servants one of another." Then, having answered the question, "Are you determined to fulfill these duties truly in the fear of the Lord, and according to his holy will?" the candidate kneels and receives the benediction: "May the Triune God, God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, bless you; may he give you fidelity unto death, and then the crown of life." After this is repeated the prayer of the _Apostolical Constitutions_, that beautiful prayer which has been said on similar occasions in many lands and in many tongues.[38] The service ends with the communion.

A similar consecration service is used by nearly all the German deaconess houses. The features of those that meet together in the triennial Conferences at Kaiserswerth are strikingly similar; the spirit of the original founder pervades them all.

The first of the Conferences was held in 1861, just twenty-five years after the founding of the first deaconess house at Kaiserswerth. It was celebrated as a Thanksgiving festival for the restoration

of the diaconate of women to the Church. The representatives of twenty-seven distinct mother-houses met together to exchange their experiences, and to deliberate on matters touching the further usefulness of the order.

Since then the Conferences have been continued at intervals of three and four years. The last General Conference assembled at Fliedner's old home in September, 1888.

Just before it convened, as is the custom, statistics were obtained from the different mother-houses represented in the association, and pains were taken to verify their correctness. The results so obtained are given in the following table:[39]

Mother- Fields of Conferences. houses. Sisters. Work. 1861 27 1,197 ? 1864 30 1,592 386 1868 40 2,106 526 1872 48 2,657 648 1875 50 3,239 866 1878 51 3,901 1,093 1881 53 4,748 1,436 1884 54 5,653 1,742 1888 57 7,129 2,263

Five additional houses had made application for entrance at the time the table was made, and were received at the ensuing Conference, among which was the Philadelphia mother-house of deaconesses in connection with the Mary J. Drexel Home.

Over sixty mother-houses now belong to the association, and notwithstanding the necessary loss of deaconesses from death or removal from work since the preceding Conference, there are 1,476 more in number now than then. Surely the deaconess cause is striking deep root in the religious life of Protestant Europe. During Fliedner's life-time occasions arose which called the deaconesses outside their accustomed fields of work, and proved their value in the exceptional emergencies that so often arise. Here is an instance that occurred during the early days of the establishment:[40]


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