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Deaconesses in Europe and their Lessons for Americ

And continued to use it for the same purposes at Mildmay


In 1864 Mr. Pennefather was called to St. Jude's, Mildmay Park, and the philanthropic and religious undertakings which he had begun were transferred to his new home. He took with him the "iron room" that had been erected for the conferences at Barnet, and continued to use it for the same purposes at Mildmay; while the missionary training-school and home were accommodated in a house which he hired for the purpose.

His new parish was in a part of London where poverty and want abounded. There was no adequate provision for the education of the poor and neglected children, so he erected a building where elementary instruction could be given at a very low price. A soup-kitchen was started at the iron room: clubs of various kinds were formed, and other agencies were set at work, both for the temporal and spiritual welfare of the people. The degraded and miserable neighborhood gradually underwent a transformation, and the police testified that there was a manifest restraint on the lawless locality. "To many of the waifs of life no human hand was stretched in kindness until he came to the district and taught them what Christianity was."[67]

A small legacy coming to him, he bought a house with a large garden attached, and made it a mission center for the needs of the infirm and aged; while the ignorant and careless, who would not enter a church, were often induced to attend meetings here.

The training-school had been started at Barnet for the purpose of training foreign missionaries; but Mr. Pennefather now saw that there was as great a demand for home mission workers in the sorrowful and benighted portions of the vast metropolis, so, after much deliberation and consultation between himself and his wife, he decided to initiate the ministry of Christian women as deaconesses. He hesitated about the name to be given to the women whom he employed as Christian workers, but no other was suggested conveying the same idea of service to Christ among his suffering and needy ones, and, as the appellation had already won respect through the good reports of the deaconess houses on the Continent, he decided to adopt the same name. They continued to work in his parish only until the terrible visitation of the cholera in 1866. Then when men were swept into eternity by hundreds, and hundreds more were in dire distress, the deaconesses were invited by the minister of another parish to come to his assistance. In this way the bounds of the work began to enlarge. A small hospital was added to the home and a medical-school mission was begun.

It now became necessary to build a large hall; the iron room was too small for the conferences, the church too small for the congregation, and the missions had outgrown the capacity of the mission room. When the plan for a new building was made known money came in unsolicited from various sources. The undertaking was pushed rapidly forward, and in October, 1870, the hall was opened. It will seat 2,500 people, having a platform at the west end, and a gallery running around the sides and east end.

Thanksgiving and prayer were built into the walls from the very foundation; and before the basement rooms were cleared of rubbish, or the floor laid, a prayer-meeting was held to ask for a blessing upon the future undertakings of the mission. The basement was divided into five rooms, to be used for night-schools and other agencies for the benefit of the poor.


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