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Deaconesses in Europe and their Lessons for Americ

Laseron and his wife lost their only child


is very different from the way in which Fliedner regarded the dress and adornment of the deaconesses for whom he was responsible. The king of Prussia desired to present them with a small silver cross as their badge of service, but the simple-hearted German pastor dissuaded him, saying that the deaconesses needed no ornament save a meek and quiet spirit, and they must avoid symbols which would suggest Romish imitations.

The Strasburg deaconesses also at first wore a small cross, but Pastor Haerter discontinued it when he found that the wearing of it gave occasion for complaint.

Yet however we may differ in the lesser details, of garb, of rules, and of ceremonies, from those accepted by some of the Church of England deaconess institutions, we can give unstinted admiration to the lives of self-denial, and active, unceasing efforts in behalf of others, that we see among their numbers. Take, for instance, the little publication _The Deaconess_, issued by the East London Home, and notice the undertakings carried on by the members--district-visiting, nursing of the sick, mothers' meetings, Sunday-school teaching, Bible classes, and all the multitudinous ways of meeting the squalor, poverty, ignorance, sickness, and sin of the poor of the east of London. There is no poetic enthusiasm that strengthens one for such work, the dirt, the degradation, the forlorn condition are so trying. The little children so precociously

wicked, so preternaturally cunning, that the natural charm and attraction of childhood have wholly disappeared; the sights and sounds that assail the senses; the dulled, hopeless faces, the apathy, the stunted intellectual growth--these are the depressing influences that continually beset the deaconesses, and nothing short of God-given strength and Christ-like enthusiasm can enable these women to devote six, eight, and ten years of service to this worst city district, and to come forth with sunshiny, peaceful faces, and sympathetic, loving hearts.

Taking the total number of deaconess institutions under the Church of England, there are eighty one deaconesses, thirty-four probationers, and two hundred and twenty-nine associates.[62]

So far, sisterhoods have proved more attractive to the women of the Church of England than have deaconess establishments. The latter do not seem to increase largely in numbers. Vexing questions have arisen as to how the deaconess should be set apart to her work. Should she be consecrated by the imposition of the bishop's hands? What relation should she have to the Church? These questions have been partially settled by the principles and rules that were drawn up in 1871 and were signed by the two archbishops and eighteen bishops. They define a deaconess as "a woman set apart by a bishop, under that title, for service in the Church;"[63] placing her under the authority of the bishop of the diocese. These recommendations have not been formally adopted by the Church of England; they hold good only so far as they are accepted.

But there are other institutions, lying outside of the boundaries of the State Church, which have developed more fully and prosperously than those within it. Of these we must speak first of the institution of Dr. Laseron, which is more closely connected with Kaiserswerth than any other in England. In 1855 Dr. Laseron and his wife lost their only child; and as Mrs. Laseron walked through the streets with burdened

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