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Deaconesses in Europe and their Lessons for Americ

The Forms for Setting Apart Deaconesses


There

are at present thirty-two deaconesses at the Philadelphia Mother-house, twenty of whom are probationers. The house was admitted to the Kaiserswerth Association, and will henceforth be represented at the Conferences. The direction is vested in a rector and head deaconess, neither of whom can be removed except on just cause of complaint. The distinctive dress is black, with blue or white aprons, white caps and collars. There is one addition to their garb which Fliedner would have looked upon with disfavor, and that is a cross--worn by the sisters from the time they are fully accepted as deaconesses.

The first consecration took place in the beautiful chapel of the Home, January 13, 1889, when three deaconesses were accepted as members of the order.

For those who desire to form a good conception of the deaconess institutions as they are conducted in Germany, a visit to the Philadelphia Mother-house of Deaconesses will be fruitful of valuable suggestions.[79]

In July, 1887, a Swedish Lutheran pastor in Omaha sent a probationer to Philadelphia to be trained as a sister for a deaconess house to be established in that central city of the United States. In 1888 four others joined her, and the building of a hospital and deaconess home is now progressing by the generous support of all classes of philanthropists in Omaha. A deaconess home has also recently been founded by Norwegian Lutherans

in South Brooklyn, L. I.

In the German Reformed Church a layman endeavored in 1866 to arouse interest in the deaconess office. The Hon. J. Dixon Roman, of Hagerstown, Md., at Christmas gave five thousand dollars to the congregation, and with it sent a proposition to the consistory that three ladies of the congregation should be chosen and ordained to the order of deaconesses, with absolute control of the income of said fund for the purposes and duties as practiced in the early days of the Church.[80] This, and the action of the Lebanon Classis in 1867, requesting the synod "to take into consideration the propriety of restoring the apostolic society of deaconesses," seem to have been the only steps taken by those connected with this denomination.

In the Protestant Episcopal Church of America the bishop of Maryland first instituted an order of deaconesses in connection with St. Andrew's Parish, Baltimore, Md. Two ladies gave themselves to ministering to the poor, and, with the sanction and approval of the bishop, a house was obtained and given the name of St. Andrew's Infirmary. In 1873 there were four resident deaconesses and four associates.[81] An early report of the infirmary says: "The deaconesses look to no organization of persons to furnish the pecuniary aid required by the demands of their position. Their first efforts have been for the destitute and sick. At the home they minister daily to the suffering and destitute sick wherever found; some requiring only temporary medical aid and nursing; others, whom God has chastened with more continuous suffering, requiring, in their penury, constant care and continual ministration." There is also under their charge a church school for vagrant children, and one also for the children of those comfortably situated in life.

The "Forms for Setting Apart Deaconesses," the "Rules for Self-Examination," and the "Rules of Discipline" in the order of deaconesses in Maryland are largely patterned after the Kaiserswerth rules. In truth, the general questions for self-examination in regard to external duties, spiritual duties to the sick, the conduct of the deaconesses or sisters to those whom they meet, and the means for improving in the duties of the office are in many cases selected, and but slightly altered, from the series prepared by Pastor Fliedner.[82] The influence of the devout German pastor is indelibly stamped upon the deaconess cause in whatever denomination it has developed during the nineteenth century.


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