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Deaconesses in Europe and their Lessons for Americ

Kaiserswerth rules were adopted as far as possible


Doubtless

it was the activity and great usefulness of the continental deaconess houses that provided the stimulating examples which acted on the Church of England and led to the rise of sisterhoods and deaconess institutions. But the two opposing tendencies within the Episcopal Church--namely, that which desires to approach the Church of Rome, with which it feels itself in sympathy on many points, and that which views with disfavor any conformity to it, and strives to keep to the landmarks set at the great Reformation--these two distinct tendencies are closely reflected in the woman's work of the Anglican Church.[57] The sisterhoods are distinctly under the fostering care of the former element, the deaconesses are manifestly favored by the latter. Sisterhoods, again, differ among themselves, some being strongly conventual in their life and practice, adopting the three vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and a few even advocating penance and confession. The vows are taken for life, and, in connection with the view of the sacred obligation to life-long service, great stress is laid upon the position of the sister as the "bride of Christ"--the same thought of the mysterious union with the heavenly Bridegroom that is so dwelt upon in the nunneries of the Catholic Church. With such views Protestants, distinctly such, can have no sympathy. Those who look upon the deaconess as a valuable member of the Church economy do so because they regard her as a Christian woman, strengthened and disciplined
by special training to do better service for Christ in the world. This is the recognized difference: "The sisterhood exists primarily for the sake of forming a religious community, but deaconesses live together for the sake of the work itself, attracted to deaconess work by the want which in most populous towns is calling loudly for assistance; and with a view of being trained, therefore, for spiritual and temporal usefulness among the poor."[58]

There are now seven deaconess establishments in the Church of England, each having a larger or smaller number of branches, with diocesan sanction and under the supervision of clergymen.[59]

The first of these was founded in 1861, and is now known as the London Diocesan Deaconess Institution. At that time Kaiserswerth was accepted as its model; deaconesses were sent there to be trained; Kaiserswerth rules were adopted as far as possible, and a modification of the Kaiserswerth dress for the sisters. The house was then represented at the triennial Conferences in Germany, and in the list of mother houses published at Kaiserswerth[60] the name still appears. It would seem, however, that now the Kaiserswerth connection is entirely set aside by the London house, for in an historical sketch of the revival of deaconesses in the Church, that is found in the organ of the institution, called _Ancilla Domini_, for March, 1887, there is no mention made of any of the continental houses. The Anglican Church apparently dates the entire work from the setting apart of its first deaconess, Elizabeth C. Ferard, in 1861, as she was the first to receive consecration through the touch of a bishop's hand. The former connection with Kaiserswerth and the great work carried on in Germany from 1836 to the present time are quite ignored.


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