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Deaconesses in Europe and their Lessons for Americ

And for six years a Mildmay deaconess


General Assembly then directed the committee to inquire into the subject of women's work in the Church, and to bring up a definite report to the next assembly. The committee accepted the task, sent out requests to every parish for suggestions as to the forms of Christian work to be carried on by women, and the best means of making preparation for their special training, and prepared themselves by personal inspection of the leading institutions for training women workers in England to be able to answer intelligently the same questions. A scheme was reported in 1886 which should incorporate all existing parish organizations, such as Sabbath-school teachers' and women's societies of all kinds, and should aim at increasing their number and working power. In 1887 regulations were perfected for working this scheme, and the approval of this by the Assembly of 1887 made the new plan a part of the organized work of the Church.

The comprehensive character of the new departure in the Church of Scotland is plainly seen from a view of the organization as it now exists. The three grades into which the Christian women workers are divided embrace every kind of work done in connection with the Church. The first grade is general in its character, and forms an association called the Women's Guild. In each parish the members of Bible-classes, of Young Women's Congregational Associations, of mission working parties, of Dorcas societies, as well as tract distributers,

Sabbath-school teachers, members of the Church choir, and any who are engaged in the service of Christ in the Church are all to be accepted as members of the guild. The next higher grade is the Women Workers' Guild, for which a certain age is required, and an experience of at least three years, with the approval of the kirk session which enrolls them. In connection with this guild are associates, who have a similar relation to the members of the Women Workers' Guild that the associates have to deaconesses in the English deaconess houses. They are not pledged to regular or constant service, but engage to do some work or contribute some money every year. They can go to the deaconess house, put on the garb of the deaconess while there, and as long as they remain can assume the responsibilities and enjoy the privileges belonging to deaconesses. The third higher grade is that of the deaconesses. Any one desiring to become a deaconess "must purpose to devote herself, so long as she shall occupy the position of a deaconess, especially to Christian work in connection with the Church, as the chief object of her life."[76] Provision was also made for a training-school and home where deaconesses could be prepared for their duties.

There are a great many ladies who for a long time have been engaged in doing the practical work of a deaconess without being clothed in the garb, or invested with the office. The Church of Scotland recognized these workers by providing two classes of deaconesses, who should be equal in position, but have different spheres of activity. Those who for seven years had been known as active workers, and who have given their lives largely to Christian service, are accepted as deaconesses of the first class, and are free to work wherever they find themselves most useful within the limits of the Church. The second class embraces those who shall have received training in the deaconess institution, or have been in connection with it for at least two years.

When the measure was finally passed by the General Assembly there was no delay in carrying into execution the details indicated by the plan of work. The Deaconess Institution and Training Home was at once started. It was located at Edinburgh, as the most central and convenient place for the institution, and as furnishing the most available advantages for the instruction and training of the deaconesses. From here as a center the work is expected to penetrate into every part of Scotland by means of the trained workers whose services will be available for all parts of the country when desired by the ministers and kirk sessions. With true Scotch prudence and wisdom it was arranged that the lady who was chosen to be the superintendent should fit herself thoroughly for the duties of her responsible place by becoming familiar with the workings of similar institutions in England. She was accordingly given six months' leave of absence, which she spent among the great London Homes, and only assumed the duties of her position May 1, 1888. Meanwhile the Home had opened under the temporary care of a lady who had been a worker in Mrs. Meredith's Prison Mission, and for six years a Mildmay deaconess. It had from the beginning the warm co-operation of sympathizing, influential friends. Regular courses of lectures were arranged on subjects connected with Christian work, and as similar courses will be demanded of like institutions in America it may be interesting to give the syllabus in full:

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