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Deaconesses in Europe and their Lessons for Americ

The common living room of the deaconesses


The

influence of this school is very great, and many pass on from it to the men's Bible-class, which is held on Sunday afternoons in the largest basement room.[70]

A servants' registry is attached to the deaconess house, and through its means about four hundred servants are annually provided with places.

Nearly fifty deaconesses make their home at this central house, many of them having work in the different parts of the city, perhaps at remote distances, but returning at night to the home-like surroundings and purer air of the central house. The large sitting-room, the common living-room of the deaconesses, is a charming place. It is of great size, but made cheerful and attractive by pictures, flowers, and bright and tasteful decorations that are restful to the eyes. Both Mr. and Mrs. Pennefather made it a principle of action to have the home life cheerful, pleasant, and attractive, so that when the sisters come in toward evening, tired physically, and mentally depressed and exhausted by the long strain of hearing tales of misery, and seeing sights of wretchedness and squalor the day through, they could be cheered not only by the words of sympathy and love of their associates, but by the silent, restful influences of their surroundings.

As I looked around the great room with deep-set windows, brightened by flowers, and still more by the happy faces of the deaconesses, some of

whom were young girls with the charms of happy girlhood set off by the plain, black dress and wide white collar of the deaconess garb, I could but think the founders wise in arranging such pleasant, home-like surroundings for their workers.

From the windows you look down into a beautiful garden, a rare luxury for a London dwelling. This garden was among the later accessions of Mr. Pennefather, being purchased by him shortly before his death. A train of circumstances led to its possession which he regarded as markedly providential; and the delightful uses to which "that blessed garden," as it has been called, has since been put, seem to justify the importance he attached to securing it. During the conference times great tents are reared here for the refreshments which the weary body needs. A fine old mulberry tree extends its branches, and under its ample shade meetings of one kind or another are held at all hours of the day. The lawn, with its quiet, shady walks, furnished with comfortable garden seats, provides a meeting place for friends, where, in the intervals between the services, those who perhaps never see each other during any of the other fifty-one weeks of the year may walk or sit together. "Here in more ordinary times may be seen the children of the Orphanage (where thirty-six girls form a happy, busy family) playing together, or the deaconesses in their becoming little white caps, who have run out for a breath of air. Here, too, during the summer, a succession of tea-parties is held for the different classes which have been reached by the deaconesses in the more densely populated parts of London, to whom the garden is a very paradise."[71]

Before leaving the Central Deaconess Home I must speak of one branch of work--the artistic illustration of Scripture texts--because it so illustrates the happy freedom and wisdom of the Mildmay methods, which seek to develop the strength of each sister in the line of her special aptitudes. Two of the deaconesses have marked ability as artists, and they devote their time to illuminating texts and adorning Christmas and Easter cards with rare and exquisite designs. From the sale of these illuminations over five thousand dollars were realized last year for the benefit of the institution.


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