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Deaconesses in Europe and their Lessons for Americ

Phebe belonged to the order of deaconesses


When Fliedner went on his second tour to England he extended his journey to Scotland, and ventured to Edinburgh at a time when the cholera was sweeping with fearful ravages through the city in order to become acquainted with Dr. Chalmers. The great Scotch divine and his good deeds, that were connected with all kinds of charitable endeavor, moved the German pastor to admiration and stirred him to holy emulation. On the other hand, that Chalmers was profoundly touched by the work that Fliedner had accomplished in Germany there can be no doubt; we have his own words to testify to the importance he attached to the diaconate of women. In his lectures on Romans, he says: "Here, too, we are presented with a most useful indication, the employment of female agency, under the eye and with the sanction of an apostle, in the business of the Church. It is well to have inspired authority for a practice too little known, and too little preached on in modern times. Phebe belonged to the order of deaconesses, in which capacity she had been the helper of many, including Paul himself. In what respect she served them is not particularly specified. Like the women in the gospels who waited on our Saviour, she may have ministered to them of her substance, though there can be little doubt that, as the holder of an official station in the Church, she ministered to them by her services also." It is but recently, however, that deaconesses have become incorporated into the religious life of Scotland, and,
so far, they do not exist in connection with the Free Church, of which Chalmers was the able and heroic leader, but only in connection with the national Church--the old historic Church of Scotland. Within this Church the question has assumed the form, not alone of the revival of the apostolic order of deaconesses, but also of the organization of all the manifold activities of women within the Church into one whole, which is put under the authority and direction of the officers of the Church.

Isolated attempts in this direction had previously been made, but in 1885 the first definite steps were taken when the Committee on Christian Life and Work, of which Dr. Charteris was the Convener, presented to the General Assembly a report on "The need of an organization of women's work in the Church," part of which is as follows: "The organization of women's work in the Church has become a subject of pressing interest. The Assembly has already sanctioned and regulated the organization of women's work in collecting for foreign missions, and in sending out and superintending missionaries. The great and growing strength of the movement thus recognized is one of the most gratifying things in our mission; ... but of still older date, and not less powerful, is the part taken by women in the home work of the parish church. Lady visitors are carrying messages of divine truth and of human sympathy into the dwellings of the poor both in town and country. Many have been trained as nurses that they may be skilled ministrants to the suffering and sick; and there can be little doubt that the greater part of the actual personal help which ministers receive in parishes is from the women of the congregations. But those who have done most of the good work are most instant in asking from the Church some means of doing still more. From ministers and from their female helpers have come many requests to the committee for some provision for training; some recognition and organization of those who are trained.... In the Church of England are many homes for nurses and deaconesses; training institutions for female mission work of every kind; and the rapidity with which they are multiplying proves of itself how much they are needed; also non-conformist institutions of the kind, and some separate from all Churches. Your committee believe that the time has fully come for our Church's taking steps to supply her own wants in this important department of mission work."[75]


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