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Deaconesses in Europe and their Lessons for Americ

They live with the deaconesses


Besides the London house already mentioned an East London deaconess home was opened in 1880, to provide deaconesses and church-workers for East London. Besides the deaconesses and probationers thirty-two associates are connected with this home. The associates are ladies who do not intend to become deaconesses, but give as much time as they can to the work. They live with the deaconesses, conform to the rules, and wear the garb, but pay their own expenses. These associates are a highly important part of the working force. They form a valuable tie connecting the sisters with sources of influence and aid that would otherwise be closed to them. Nearly always they are ladies of independent means, and come for longer or shorter periods to relieve the deaconesses, their zeal often being as great as that of the sisters whose places they take.

Besides these houses there are homes located at Maidstone, Chester, Bedford, Salisbury, and Portsmouth, in the respective dioceses of Canterbury, Chester, Ely, Salisbury, and Winchester.

In the home at Portsmouth sisters not only engage in nursing and parish work, but are also given special training for penitentiary and out-of-door rescue work. They also have a home for the rescue of neglected children.

The Salisbury Home is beautifully situated in the quiet cathedral city of the same name. The house is a picturesque and venerable mansion, covered with clinging green vines, opening out into a garden which in olden times belonged to the convent. There is in connection with the home an institution for training girls for domestic service, supported by the funds of a charity given for that purpose. The whole service of the house is done by the girls. They attend upon the deaconesses and the ladies who board there to receive training in the hospital. Each deaconess pays for board and lodging while training, and, if able to do so, when she returns for rest, or a visit to her old home.

In other houses the deaconess is expected to keep her own room in order, and may have some duties in the house, but servants do the rough work. The social status of the English deaconesses is, as a rule, markedly different from the German deaconesses. Here ladies of rank and inherited social traditions, of refinement, of accomplishments, and of education, many of them women of means, defraying their entire expenses and often those of their poorer sisters, are largely represented among the deaconesses. On the other hand, the German deaconesses, as we have seen, are largely of that station in life that furnishes many for domestic service. Although of course there are among them women of all ranks and all degrees of education, still such women form the larger number; and the conditions under which Fliedner began the work, as well as the difference of custom and habit in the two countries, incline the German houses to maintain the rules of service by which nearly every detail of domestic service in their institutions is cared for by the deaconesses. There is more of ceremony and formality in the English deaconess institutions which are under the direction of the Church of England. At Salisbury, for instance, the candidate must reside in the home for three months, that her ability and efficiency may be tested. If accepted, she then puts on a gray serge habit, a leathern girdle, white cap, black bonnet, the veil and cloak of a probationer, and is admitted to the "degree" of a probationer at a special service. The year of probation having come to an end, she is again presented to the bishop, and is set apart as a deaconess by the laying on of hands. This time the habit is changed from gray to blue, and a black ebony cross, with one of gold inlaid, is hung upon her neck.[61]


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