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Deaconesses in Europe and their Lessons for Americ

She went to Kaiserswerth at two different times


Whether

the "ancient widow" with the little "birchen rod" had any followers in the early Puritan communities of the Plymouth Colony we cannot say, as there are no records that throw light on the subject; but the history of early New England Congregationalism gives us one indication that the office was recognized in the New World. In the Cambridge Platform, a system of Church discipline agreed upon by the elders and messengers of the New England churches assembled in synod at Cambridge, in 1648, the seventh chapter enumerates the duties of elder and deacons, and then adds, "The Lord hath appointed _ancient widdows_, where they may be had, to minister in the Church, in giving attendance to the sick, and to give succor unto them and others in the like necessities." The same confusion of thought concerning the Church widow and the deaconess is here seen, but there is evident the recognition of the services that women were officially to render the Church.

In the early part of the present century Southey voiced the complaint, long reiterated, that Protestantism had no missionaries. We who live in the closing years of the same century, surrounded by the multiplied evidences of the extent of missions, when the Protestants of the world are expending nearly ten millions of dollars annually, and employing nearly six thousand men and women as missionaries, cannot realize the change that has taken place. In 1830 Southey again wrote: "Thirty years hence another reproach

may also be effaced, and England may have her Sisters of Charity." He had learned to know their value when serving as a volunteer in Wellington's army, and a year after the battle of Waterloo he had visited the Beguines at Ghent, and what he saw deeply impressed him. "We should have such women among us," he said. "It is a great loss to England that we have no Sisters of Charity. There is nothing Romish, nothing unevangelical in such communities; nothing but what is right and holy; nothing but what belongs to that religion which the apostle James has described as 'pure and undefiled before God the Father.'"[54]

Southey's prophecy has come true. England to-day in her deaconesses possesses her Sisters of Charity. How has this change been brought about? The acquaintance of Mrs. Fry with Fliedner, and her visit to Kaiserswerth, led her to introduce into England the practical training of nurses for the sick. The Nursing Sisters' Institution in Devonshire Square, Bishop's Gate, was founded through her efforts in 1840, and still exists "to train nurses for private families, and to provide pensions for aged nurses."[55]

In 1842, Fliedner came to London, accompanied by four sisters, at the invitation of the German Hospital at Dalston. These deaconesses won golden opinions from the hospital authorities for their quiet, efficient manner, and their trained skill. The hospital continues to be served by them, but the Sisters now come from the mother house at Darmstadt.

Kaiserswerth and its deaconesses became more widely known through the life and inestimable services of Florence Nightingale. When a child, one of Fliedner's reports fell into her hands. Its perusal marked an era in her life. It made clear to her what she should do. She would go to Kaiserswerth, and fit herself for a nurse. Her childish resolve never wavered. "Happy is the man who holds fast to the ideals of his youth." Florence Nightingale held fast to hers. She went to Kaiserswerth at two different times, and through her deeds and her writings the care of the sick in England has been completely transformed. She has won a nation's gratitude, and now is living in honored old age in one of the London institutions founded mainly by the money that she contributed, and which she obtained by selling some valuable gifts given her by a foreign government in acknowledgment of her care of its wounded soldiers during the Crimean war.


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