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Deaconesses in Europe and their Lessons for Americ

William Pennefather was rector of Christ's Church at Barnet

style="text-align: justify;"> CHAPTER XI.


Valuable suggestions will be obtained from the study of every successful deaconess institution, and none will perhaps furnish more practical models for American Methodism than does the establishment at Mildmay Park in North London. Its methods of work are flexible, and allow place for a diversity of talent among the workers, while a wide variety of charitable and evangelistic effort is undertaken. These two causes give a breadth and vigor to the work at Mildmay that impress every one who has knowledge of it.

Whenever we find a good cause carried on successfully and prosperously, we know that behind it there must be a strong man or woman who has "thought and wrought" to good purpose. So the first question that arises in the mind of the visitor who for the first time forms one of the audience in the great Conference Hall, or looks about in the adjoining building to see the deaconess home, is, "Who first thought this out? Who was the founder of this wonderful mission?" And the answer tells us that Mildmay originated, as did Kaiserswerth, in the prayerful determination of a Christian minister and his wife to reach out to every good end that God's spirit of enlightenment could suggest to them. Rev. William Pennefather was rector of Christ's Church at Barnet, and while devoted to his ministerial duties his sympathies

did not end with his own people, nor his own denomination. His home was sometimes called the "Missing Link," for it was a meeting-place for noblemen and farmers, bishops and clergymen of all churches; a place "where nationalities and denominations were easily merged in the broad sunshine of Christian love."[65] He carried his principle of Christian fellowship further, for, after mature deliberation, in 1856, he issued a call for a conference to be held at Barnet whose object was "to bring into closer social communion the members of various Churches, as children of the one Father, animated by the same life, and heirs together of the same glory."[66] These conferences have been continued from then to the present time, and are known and prized in many lands. I was present at the conference of 1888, and representatives were there from nearly every Protestant country, while on the platform were leaders of nearly every Protestant denomination, furnishing a wonderful illustration of the union of the Christian Church in Christ; a spiritual union so real and eternal that the minor differences of faith were swallowed up in the great fact that in Christ Jesus all are one.

Gradually a variety of missionary and evangelistic agencies grew up about the conferences. In 1860 the little Home was opened at Barnet which subsequently developed into the deaconess house at Mildmay Park. The question of calling into more active exercise the energies of educated Christian women, as we have seen in the preceding chapter, was one that was attracting attention at the time in England. Mr. and Mrs. Pennefather had long desired to do something in this direction, and their desire took this practical form. In its beginning it had to battle with all the "definite and indefinite objections" that could be advanced against any attempt at organizing woman's work. But those days of latent suspicion or more open antagonism are long past. The institution has justified its right to be by doing a work that otherwise would have remained undone.

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